SBU Literacy Day: Bringing the Joy of Reading to the Soccer Pitch

BRONX, NY – Over 500 boys and girls attend South Bronx United’s Recreational Program at Macombs Dam Park and Mullaly Park each Saturday to play soccer.  On May 9th, they also had the opportunity to take home free books and experience the joy of reading as part of SBU’s annual Literacy Day.

In all, over 1,000 books were available to children and families to take home free.  This year’s donors included Scholastic, Penguin Random House, Better World Books, Candlewick Press, Abbeville PressThe Association of American Publishers, Kiwi Magazine, Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson Troop 1532, and several individuals.  The most sought after  items were books from the World Soccer Legends series, by Illugi Jökulsson, featuring superstars Lionel Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alex Morgan, and the U.S. Women’s National Team.  These books were raffled off every hour.

Every player also sat down in a reading circle with their team prior to playing soccer.  Reading circles were led by SBU Youth Council members and youth referees.  All participate in the SBU Academy program and compete on one of several SBU travel soccer teams.  The youngest children listened to Soccer Star, a story by Mina Javaherbin (Candlewick Press) about a Brazilian boy from the Favelas who dreams of becoming a soccer star and his sister who helps win the game.  Boys in the Under-10 and Under-13 divisions read chapters from D.C. Freedman‘s U.K. based soccer series, Jamie Johnson: Born To Play.  Both sets of books were generously donated to the organization by the publisher and author.   Girls teams also had to chance to read excerpts from the Andrea Montalbano’s Soccer Sisters series and Mia Hamm’s autobiography, Go for the Goal. The Under-16 boys engaged in a spirited debate after reading a provocative article from the New York Times on the merits and morals of diving on the soccer field.

As for the significance of Literacy Day, SBU Youth Council member Gnim Bazim, 17, says, “It is especially important for South Bronx kids to read more because reading will help them see the world differently and encourage them to explore and excel in school.”

South Bronx United thanks all the donors and volunteers who helped make the event possible.  Contact info@southbronxunited.org for information on how to support future events.

View more photos from the event on the SBU Facebook Page.

[Photo Credits: Amanda Berg, Tenzin Yeshay]

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