Benzie Central Athletes Read to Elementary Students throughout County

A unique program in Benzie County successfully celebrated National Reading Month.

The "Lifting a Book is Sweet" program takes Benzie Central Middle and High School athletes around the county to read to elementary students.

Benzie Central’s football coach came up with the program as a celebration of last month’s National Reading Month.

With a snow day right before spring break, the last visit was postponed until Thursday.

“For a child to be successful in reading, it takes a lot of shareholders to help that student grow and develop a love for reading and for learning,” said Platte River Elementary School Reading Interventionist Kim O’Connor.

So Benzie Central High School’s football coach came up with an idea…

Have student athletes become shareholders in promoting children’s education.

“The little kids, they see these big kids come and they’re like celebrities. Student athletes are like celebrities to them.”

About 25 to 30 middle and high school athletes participated.

“Each person goes to a different classroom. And we talk about the importance of staying in school as a team, and work together basically answering their questions and read to them,” said Benzie Central High School Football Player Caleb Coyne.

They draw a link between reading and athletics, since you need good grades to be a student athlete.

And work with kids in kindergarten up to sixth grade.

“The teachers choose the books so it’s like they’re good with the grade levels and not too high or too low for the kids,” said Benzie Central Sophomore Lauren Ross, who plays volleyball, basketball and softball.

The athletes went to Crystal Lake Elementary, Betsie Valley Elementary, Lake Ann Elementary and Platte River Elementary schools this year.

It is a program they are hoping to continue for years to come.

“It shows them they need to stay high in their academics and have high expectations for themselves.”

After reading and having open questions, the athletes play with the students during recess.