Atlanta leg of the Race for Reading agrees: Reading matters


     On the coldest morning of the season, a group of committed individuals braved the cold for the Atlanta leg of the Race for Reading journey to Super Bowl XLVI. Parents, older brothers and sisters, friends, college students, troop leaders, sports personalities, celebrities and community leaders gathered at Ousley United Methodist Church in Lithonia, to support and cheer on third, fourth and fifth graders from the metro Atlanta area. 
      Also present were Cyril J. Turner, president of Delta Atlanta Global Services; Darrin Smith, former NFL player and Million Book Read founder; Brian Jordan, retired Major League Baseball player and author of children’s books, and Jeff Buchanan, executive director of Project 59 for Youth Foundation. Each hailed the value of reading and encouraged the youngsters present to read long, deep and often. That Saturday, everyone learned that reading matters.
    As the children registered for the event, their excitement was clear: wide, bright eyes as their names were added to the list; curious glances as they looked out to the nearby field and the promise of new and some not-so-new activities; pride as they chose their very own T-shirt, and put it on right away. And, to give voice to the unspoken thoughts of the other children gathered there, the burning question of one six-year-old boy as he surveyed the buildup of activity and asked, “Is this going to be a fun day?”
   It’s always refreshing to see how eager children are to try anything new. Assigned to teams, it didn’t matter whether or not they knew each other. Guided by a team mentor, the boys and girls worked together, reading and following the instructions to build and then decorate their team race car. It was important that it looked just right, from the choice of name and how that was displayed to the colored stickers to “make it look cool.” Members of one team could be seen sprinting from table to table, salvaging leftover sheets for unused stickers to decorate their car to the max.
    Then came the heats. Each team was so proud of its car. Hands were raised high when the names of the cars were announced. Loud cheers erupted over the field as the cars raced down the track until finally, the last race was called. In the more than 10-year history of the Million Book Read, an all-girl team has always emerged winner of each Race for Reading. This Saturday was no different.
    On that cold November morning, these 6- to 11-year-olds learned firsthand that reading matters. They learned that reading is essential, if they want to be a part of all that’s taking place around them. They learned that words can create. Had they not used words to create a car that could actually compete with other race cars? They learned that the words on an instruction sheet were really a physics project, and that being able to read had enabled them to complete it successfully. And, they learned that it can all be fun. The proud smiles, laughter, excitement and sense of accomplishment as the teams received their awards at the end of the competition, bear testimony to that.
    So, the six-year-old who asked during registration, “Is this going to be a fun day?” answered his question himself. He was with his team, jumping up and down, and loudly cheering his car on as it raced down the track.