Husky Sport’s ‘Read and Raise’ Fosters Literacy and Healthy Nutrition Skills

Students from John C. Clark Elementary and Middle School complete forms for the Read and Raise program. Photo credit: Husky Sport
Students from John C. Clark Elementary and Middle School complete forms for the Read and Raise program. Photo credit: Husky Sport

Husky Sport’s third annual literacy initiative, Read & Raise, is in high gear, encouraging Hartford students to read books, complete reading response worksheets and compete for various prizes, all the while raising money for continued Husky Sport efforts. The Husky Sport program is in the Neag School of Education‘s Department of Kinesiology.

Read & Raise takes place over the course of five months, working toward building positive relationships, creating a consistent UConn student presence in the Hartford public schools and assisting with literacy skill building.

This year, four Hartford elementary and middle schools, John C. Clark, Martin Luther King Jr., Fred D. Wish and America’s Choice at SAND School, are participating. Each school has been given a goal of 15,000 books, at $1 for every book read.

“Last year, we challenged them to read 10,000 and they easily surpassed it. From our end, we’re also trying to raise money that will go back to the kids’ programming in some way so that we can continue to do what we’re doing now,” said Dr. Jennifer Bruening, program developer and associate professor of sport management in the Neag School of Education. “We raise the money — students, faculty, staff — not the kids or teachers in Hartford. They read and support reading and we raise the money.”

Students and staff members of Husky Sport, a community outreach program founded in 2003, visit each school throughout the week, serving as liaisons between school officials, students and teachers. During schoolwide reading days, volunteers provide enthusiasm and motivational elements such as physical and nutrition-oriented UConn prizes.

“Any time you walk down a hallway or stop by a classroom, the students know it’s ‘UConn’ and will start proudly discussing how many books they read and asking when people are going to come to their classes to read with them, eat lunch with them in the cafeteria, or take them to a recess,” Bruening said. “I think everyone is truly impressed how committed the kids are to the challenge of reading so many books.”

Husky Sport’s mission is to integrate and promote nutrition, physical activity and life skills through its programming and incentives. Designers of the Read & Raise program further reinforce this by selecting books with athletic and health content.

In March and April, during March Madness, classes mirror the NCAA basketball tournament by competing against each other for a championship title. “We just concluded Unit II and are going to be taking the top 10 readers from each school to Springfield, Mass., for a day at the Basketball Hall of Fame,” Bruening said. “Our end prize is for the top three classes at each school to come to UConn for our all-day Olympic-style event, comprised of different physical activities and nutrition messages.”

Read & Raise has raised more than $40,000 since its launch and has already had a significant impact. The money raised through the program the past two years has supported Emeka Okafor’s Safe Blood for Africa organization. This year, all proceeds will go directly back to serve the kids in Husky Sport’s programs.

Anyone who loves kids and is dedicated to Husky Sport’s mission can get involved. Although a requirement for sport management majors, the community outreach program is not limited to any specific major.

For more information and to help support Read & Raise, visit Husky Sport’s website at