WASHINGTON – “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” played as a class of excited second-graders entered the library at Kimball Elementary School for “Reading is Fundamental Day.”
RIF partnered with the city's Major League Baseball team,the Washington Nationals,to motivate students to read. RIF President and CEO Carol Rasco and Nationals' Manager Manny Acta read “Clifford Goes to Washington” by Norman Bridwell to the students.
Ernestine Benedict,vice president of marketing and communications for RIF,said that the theme of the group this year is “Discover D.C.” Each participating school will have an activity based on an aspect of the city,such as the pandas at the National Zoo,leaves from the U.S. National Arboretum or a memory game about the Federal Reserve.
Kimball Elementary was able to host the Washington Nationals' activity because it has been the teams' adopted school since winter 2007. The team provides Kimball with several events throughout the school year such as meetings with players,assistance with assemblies and donations of books and supplies.
“This will make my day,” said the baseball manager before he began reading to the students. He paused during the book to comment that the author left out two important D.C. places from the book – the Washington Nationals Park and Kimball Elementary,causing a cheer from the students.
Acta also told the kids that reading is important. A native of the Dominican Republic,Acta said he learned to speak English mainly from reading after he came to this country.
After the reading,students chose a book to take home and colored with Rasco and Acta. Screech,the Washington Nationals' eagle mascot,gave autographs and posed for photos.
“Screech rules!” one student exclaimed.
The Nationals also invited the starting players from Kimball's baseball team,the Cheetahs,to join them on the field at Tuesday night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
RIF distributed more than 13,000 books to 44 D.C. public schools Tuesday. The group visits Kimball three times during the school year and Rasco said she's always looking for simple things to get kids excited about reading.
“Baseball and books – can it get any better?” she asked.