Reading with the Pikeville Bears
By Jessica Limberis, NAIA virtual intern, University of Pikeville, Class of 2014
At the heart of the NAIA is the principal to build character-driven athletics. That is exactly what the University of Pikeville men's basketball team did when head coach Kelly Wells launched the Reading with the Bears initiative designed to impact local elementary schools throughout the Pikeville community.
The Reading with the Bears program, which tipped-off in late October, made its first appearance at Pikeville Elementary school, where the young students listened as members of the men's basketball team read their favorite stories.
"It started out being a Dr. Seuss event when we came down to read, and now it's turned into a program where our guys go to different schools no only in our local community but throughout the country," said Wells.
The goal of the program is to encourage young people to read recreationally as well as for school purposes. Wells' wife Shawne, who works at Pikeville Elementary School, was a big influence and helped come up with the idea.
"My wife is a reading specialist at the elementary school, so it made sense to try to tie those two together. I'm a firm believer that our players need to give back to our community as much as they can, and this is just one way to do that."
Much can be said for the character of the Bears squad when they can take time out of their busy schedule in the midst of defending their 2011 NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship title to stop and make a trip to the local elementary school to promote reading. It goes to show that the Bears aren't too proud nor too famous to do something noble and honorable for society by promoting the importance of reading to young people.
"I'm a teacher first. I spent seven years as a normal classroom teacher, and really, the foundation of any learning is being able to read and interpret," said Wells.
Education inside and outside of the classroom begins with the ability to read and interpret, and this program is just one way that the community can benefit from the example the team is setting by encouraging and inspiring the youth in Pikeville and beyond.
With the launch of any new program, it is a gigantic leap to take an idea and then put it into motion. Before anything can become a success hard work must continue. With Wells at the lead the Bears have plans for additional visits throughout the school year.