PEI

Storm players share their love of reading with Island students

Leading up to Family Literacy Day on Saturday, players are spending time speaking to students about the importance of reading, writing and working hard in school.

'I just always had that natural ability to read and write and I got a joy from it'

Students at Eliot River Elementary in Cornwall listen attentively as Island Storm player Meshack Lufile reads them a story as part of a school visit to promote literacy. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

When you think of the Island Storm basketball team you might think of dribbling and dunking, not reading and writing.

But leading up to Family Literacy Day on Saturday, players are spending time speaking to students on P.E.I. about the importance of literacy and working hard in school.

"All these guys — to be able to play pro basketball — they had to get an education," said Mitch Robichaud, the club's director of public relations.

"They all have post-secondary education, so for them to come off the court and come talk to these students about how important it is to stay in school and the importance of literacy I think it really sends a strong message."

'I loved to read'

Players each take take turns reading to students and emphasizing the importance of a quality education.

"When I was in school I definitely paid a lot of attention to my teachers … but I just always had that natural ability to read and write and I got a joy from it," said Storm centre Meshack Lufile.

Storm players Du'Vaughn Maxwell, left, and Franklin Session read a book and share some valuable life lessons and experience with students at Eliot River Elementary. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"I was always a curious kid. I loved to read. … I was really big into history, so I know almost anything about ancient history. I got my passion from that and I just love to read and write."

Life lessons

The school visit program started because the Storm felt its players had valuable life lessons that they wanted to share with youth.  

Some were bullied and some struggled in school, while others have seen drugs and violence.

Not everyone gets these opportunities like this. I'm making a difference is someone else's life.— Meshack Lufile

They've pushed through it all to become a professional athletes.

Eliot River Elementary's librarian hopes the visit from the players will show young people that reading is fun and beneficial.

"Reading and writing is everything," Angela Arsenault said. 

"The students see that you can be successful and work hard if you keep reading and working at whatever you love to do. It doesn't have to be a sport. Whatever you enjoy doing, if you have the literacy background and the education, you can succeed at whatever you want to do."

Players with the Storm said the outreach program allows them the opportunity to be mentors to students and to learn and grow from the experience.

Besides reading, kids hung out with the players, asked questions and took photos with them. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"School wasn't always the most fun and meaningful thing to me, but you grow to appreciate it as time goes on," said Storm guard Tyler Scott.

"Hopefully with today with a couple of us being here, we can help them try and understand that a little bit sooner than later."

'Our words hold more weight'

Lufile said one of the greatest experiences for the children is that they're hearing these lessons from people they recognize in the community — not just "a random guy on the street."

"They're seeing a tall basketball player so automatically they're intrigued and interested," Lufile said. "Our words hold more weight when we are speaking to them.

"I think it's very important because, like I said, not everyone gets these opportunities like this. I'm making a difference is someone else's life."

Besides reading, kids hung out with the players, asked questions and took photos with them.

They also received tickets to an upcoming Storm game.