I think that it is really cool that high school football players were allowed to come to my school to help us with our reading…. (My mentor) and I would set a goal for how many pages or chapters that I should read each week. He would go over the pages with me and ask me what had happened in the story. I liked being able to talk about my books with him, so I was happy to read more at night than I used to.

4TH Grade student

Through this partnership we saw not only an increase in scores, but an enthusiasm and excitement for learning grow! Both the elementary students and high school students looked forward to meeting each week. One baseball player was even quoted in the paper saying even though he was tired some mornings, he never missed because he knew his buddy would be looking forward to his arrival!


I was surprised by how moving and rewarding it was to watch the players step into and embrace their roles as academic mentors .… During the drive from the high school to the elementary school, the players would talk about their present and future plans and discuss with each other their concerns and hopes for the younger boys. Even the youngest members of the varsity team, were committed to making a positive impact on the boys, in some cases, overcoming their own academic challenges and learning disabilities to do so.


Having now completed a second year with the Readers Are Leaders program, I am sold on the value of this program. Not only did the RAL program provide an additional opportunity to support our struggling readers, but it also motivated our students to want to read. Our students looked forward to reading with their buddy each week. The student athletes took this assignment most seriously while having fun and creating a positive relationship; the focus was always on reading during the sessions…. The relationships built between the students and the sense of pride the athletes developed for their students, shone in their faces. It was heartwarming to watch the relationship of trust develop between the athlete and student reader. Struggling readers are often shy or hesitant to read out loud. By creating a positive relationship, this was never a roadblock.


Two of my three elementary children have been reading below their level, and I truly believe this program has been beneficial for both of them. While I was skeptical about the program at first, it was more about my anxiety with my children being removed from their class session to attend a reading session with other "kids." But what I found was the benefit that both of our children were not only reading better, but with more fluency and better comprehension. Both of our children looked up to the high school football players as they were not represented as a teacher or parent, but someone in between who wasn't there to judge, criticize or perfect, but there to just read.

This year my fourth-grade son, Jacob… is very athletic, playing both travel hockey and baseball so the whole sports thing sold him on the program right away. He enjoyed reading with his buddy and continued to tell me that his partner always made him feel more confident in his reading; he really could identify with and relate to his partner. Tuesdays became his favorite day of the week. His fluency has grown leaps and bounds this year.

Last year, my then first-grade daughter, Maddie, was selected to read in the program. I was a bit apprehensive with her participating at first as she is shy and timid with strangers. Because of her knowledge of not reading on level, she tends to be intimidated reading altogether. But what I found with her was a sheer joy of having someone to "read to." This program served as a motivation to her to not only branch out socially, but to grow as a reader. I really think the basics of her feeling more confident and motivated to read well, had been established during that program's year. She'd come home to tell me what story she had read with "her football player," which showed me her reading comprehension was also improving. I’m proud to say that she is now reading at grade level and she LOVES to read.


Each Wednesday morning this spring, I had the opportunity of having some of my first grade students involved in the Readers Are Leaders Program. This day was the highlight of every week for several of my students. My students that were involved are not only poor readers, but many of them are quite shy and have low self-esteem. The program not only helped with their reading skills, but it also gave these students confidence.

They formed a great friendship and connection with the high school athletes…. Several of my first graders involved in the program suffer from a lack of self esteem and they are unsure of themselves, partly due to their reading difficulty. These students quickly formed a bond and friendship with their partner. My students were a bit apprehensive prior to the first reading session. The rest of the week, they all continually asked when they will get to read with their "High School Buddy" again. Their excitement on each Wednesday morning was wonderful to see….

During the tutoring sessions, I had the opportunity to walk around and observe the interactions of the Readers Are Leaders program. My students were fully engaged and enjoying every minute of their time. It was apparent that the students from Broad Run in the Readers Are Leaders program benefitted as much as my first graders. They were given a leadership role and handled their responsibilities with great maturity. I heard the students complimenting my first graders on their reading and I noticed them working to help build the confidence of my lowest readers.