More than 100 elementary students took part in the Edison Local School District’s first Virtual Family Literacy Night on April 14, which featured athletes on the local and professional level.
Activities were conducted using Google Meets for Stanton and John Gregg pupils in grades K-3 and the theme was “Reading: A Sport for All Seasons.” It included appearances by Cleveland Browns alum Frank Stams, current team center J.C. Tretter, Chomps the team mascot and even Eddie the Wildcat representing Edison’s home turf. Teachers, Edison High School athletes Sophia Smith, Emma Scott, Jadyn Nicholson and Lexie Reed and other educators also took part by reading books and conducting craft sessions while snacks were provided by the district.
Tretter appeared via video and encouraged youth to stay the course by going to school and Stams, who was a linebacker for the team from 1992-95, echoed those sentiments by telling third-graders to go to school and stay in the game, which is also the theme of the Cleveland Browns Foundation’s attendance program. Edison partnered with the foundation as part of the Proving Ground program through Harvard University to curb chronic absenteeism.
“Every day you can go to school, go to school and stay in the game,” Stams said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a professional football player, a firefighter, a doctor or a teacher. It’s important to go to school every day and learn. IT’s a wonderful experience.”
He added that reading was also medicine for the soul.
“The importance of reading [is to] exercise your mind, not just your body. No matter how you feel, reading cures all ills and it’s a wonderful way to forget all of your problems.
District Assistant Superintendent Julie Kireta said COVID-19 spurred officials to take a different route when planning literacy night and the night scored big with participants.
“We had about 110 students and 16 staff members plus four readers from the high school,” Kireta said. “The kids really seemed to enjoy it. They were excited and had a really good time.”
Leaders also liked the turnout for the event and Kireta said a similar virtual night may be held in the winter. She noted that in-person activities were always held until they were sidelined by COVID, but the prospect of an online event could be a good way to engage students in January or February.
“Being that it was the first time, we didn’t know what to expect. We had 30 percent participation and it was higher than we thought. We hope to carry on with something similar in the future,” she continued. “I think this would be a nice opportunity for a time when we typically have a hard time scheduling events.”
In the end, some lucky pupils earned autographed footballs, player photos, sunglasses and other goodies donated by the Cleveland Browns Foundation. Kireta said the organization has been supportive and were helpful when leaders reached out to invite sports personalities.
Officials added that they have received plenty of good feedback from the pupils.
“It was very positive. They thought it was well put together and it was nice to see teachers engaged,” said Stanton Elementary Principal Shannah Scotch. “The kids were excited because it kept them engaged, plus the parents were home and could be involved. We’d like to do it again.”
“Each administrator also took a grade level to monitor. I had the kindergarten group and they were so excited and participated fully in the activities,” added district Administrative Assistant Fatima Smuck. “We also had an athlete and our mascot read a book to the students. It was a great success! Julie [Kireta] took charge of putting this together and the staff participated in getting the food, activities and craft to the students. We had two or three teachers in each group either doing the activity and then the craft with the kids.”
The virtual literacy night was organized by Kireta as well Smuck and educators Miguel Brun, Michelle O’Karma, Angie Smith, Kathy Stewart, Barb Mohnacky, Summer Householder and Mindy Carpenter. Additionally, it was supported with funds from the Early Literacy program and school district.