“The N.F.L. Comes to Rockford”

by Blake R. Bowman

Principal, Meadow Ridge Elementary


School-beat-Bowman3Most people have to wait until September for the return of the N.F.L. For a long eight months of the offseason, fans have to wait for the excitement of crisp autumn Sunday afternoons. School-beat-Bowman2The players don’t take those months off. They’re busy honing their skills so they can be at their best in the coming season.

“You’re getting ready for your offseason,” Joe Staley told students last May at Lakes and Meadow Ridge Elementary Schools during a live version of “The Joe Show.” Staley, a Rockford High School graduate, is the starting left tackle for the San Francisco 49’ers who made him their first round draft pick in 2007 after he starred at Central Michigan University. He hosts “The Joe Show” on the team website and brought the live version to two schools back in his hometown to promote summer reading.

“Summer vacation is like your offseason,” Staley told the students who were thrilled to listen to a star they had watched play in the last Super Bowl talk to them in their own school. “What do you think would happen to me next year if I sat on the couch during my offseason and ate junk food? Would I be ready to help my team next year? No way! I’ve got to work out, get my exercise, and study the play book to make sure I get better.”

“The N.F.L. stands for Never Finish Learning.”

Staley challenged the students to make sure they keep their own skills fresh by reading during their upcoming time away from school. While reminding the children to get outside to get some exercise, he reinforced the importance of reading this summer. “For you, reading books is like lifting weights and studying the playbook for me. That’s how we all make sure we’ll be the best we can be next year.”

To generate additional excitement, Joe showed a video (the video was shown at all eight Rockford elementary schools) where he interviewed several San Francisco teammates, including Collin Kaepernick about some of their favorite books that they read in elementary school. Staley reprised this role in the live version of the Joe Show as he interviewed both staff and students at both schools.

Staley flew in from San Francisco for this event, but this isn’t a one-time attempt to remind Rockford’s kids about reading this summer. On Saturday August 10th, the city of Rockford hosted its annual Summer Reading Festival. Notable authors flocked to the banks of the Rogue River from all over the state to participate in this fantastic event. Every Rockford elementary school had a booth and there were opportunities for children to buy books and listen to stories read by the authors and illustrators who created them. Without question, this event (which is supported by a collaborative effort between the Rockford Rotary and Rockford Public Schools) has become Michigan’s premier Summer Reading Festival.

Yes, Rockford may have had some help from the NFL to “kick off” our Summer Reading program this year, but it’s up to our children to take the ball and run with it. Hopefully the Summer Reading Festival came to town at just the right time. Think of it as a great halftime speech by the coach. The children who attended will certainly be ready for the second half of summer. Keep reading… and Never Finish Learning!

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