football player reading along with two first graders football player reading book with little girl

BCSD photos / Monica Kreber

Mount Holly Elementary’s first-graders love it when their reading buddies come to visit them every Wednesday.

These are not just any reading buddies: a group of Goose Creek High football players will walk over from the high school to sit down and read books with the first-graders.

Football Coach Jason Winstead said his players used to make appearances at the elementary feeder schools to greet students in the car rider lines but they had to take a break from it when the pandemic hit. This year the team decided to step it up a notch and start reading with the Mount Holly Elementary first-graders as way to be good role models and encourage the children to read more.

The football players come out during their Wednesday study hall, but they can only come out to the elementary school as long as they maintain good grades.

Winstead said he wants his players to see how good it is to give back to the community.

“I think they have more fun than the kids,” he said. “(We’re) teaching them to be role models, and they enjoy it.”

The football players will sit down with one or two first-graders and read aloud to them from a selection of provided books, and then the little ones will take over and practice reading aloud. The high school students are good about helping the first-graders if they get stuck on a word and need to sound it out.

The younger students will rotate out during the visit but first-grade teacher Jessica Williams said all of her students would go read with football players if they were able.

“The Goose Creek High players are like celebrities to them,” she said.

First-grader teacher Caroline Leck said having the football players come out has been a huge opportunity for the first-graders to create connections with someone who is a leader and role model within the school community.

“My students constantly hear from me how important reading is, but it adds a different perspective when you hear and see it from an older student,” she said. “I am so thankful that the football players have taken the time to come create a connection with my students and share their love of reading.”

The four football players that came out to Mount Holly on Wednesday all gave a good report on how well the first-graders can read. Twelfth-grader Kavarion Brown said it feels good to give back, and that being with the younger students makes the teammates feel special.

“They like it when we come here – when we come here we’re like superstars,” he said, adding that the little ones react as though they are hosting NFL players, and particularly love it when the players are wearing their jerseys and Goose Creek High attire. “That’s how they look at us.”

The first-graders get to select the books they want to read; some of their favorites were “Even Monsters Go to School” and some pigeon-themed books called “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” and “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!”. Twelfth-grader Seabrook Ranly said he loves meeting the first-graders, and that he hopes the younger students find enjoyment in it as well.

“I just love kids in general,” he said.

Twelfth-grader Isiah Mitchell said his favorite part is seeing how excited the students get when the team shows up. In addition to the reading portion of the session, the students also do a lot of chatting.

On Wednesday Mitchell hung out with a little girl he has previously read to before – they got into a big discussion about how much she enjoys gymnastics.

“She tells me about her life, I tell her about school, football stuff,” he said.

Tenth-grader Da’Vion Malloy is a newbie to reading with the first-graders, and said he was looking forward to the opportunity to read to the first-graders after hearing good things it about from his fellow teammates.

On Wednesday Malloy spent time with a little girl who chatted with him about all her favorite things in life (“She had a lot of favorite books,” he said).

“I think they just get a fun time with football players and being able to read with someone,” Malloy said.

football player reading with little girl in hallway football player reading with little girl