By Terence Clarey
The goal, according to Tufts Hillel, the organizers of the 13th annual “Read by the River” Carnival at the Tufts Gancher Center last Sunday afternoon, was to make reading fun for both kids and parents. To that end, the Tufts Hillel presented an event that combined fun learning activities like word and spelling games with more carnival-like activities such as face painting and cotton candy and popcorn machines.
The day was highlighted by an appearance by New England Patriots starting Center Ryan Wendell, who spoke and then read to a rapt audience of young children.
Student volunteers from Tufts University, Medford and Somerville staffed tables that were set up on the infield portion of the indoor track. The Boston Public Library was on hand with a table piled with children’s books, as were local firefighters and police. Music was provided by The Beats.
Midway through the festivities, a crowd of young children, many sporting Patriots gear, sat on floor and gathered around Ryan Wendell to watch and hear him read from, Curious George and Let’s Go Patriots. Wendell invited several lucky kids to help him with Let’s Go Patriots.
For Ryan Wendell, his first experience regarding the importance of learning to read came when he was in kindergarten and was initiated by his mother. “My mom had to convince my teachers that I didn’t know how to read, because I was passing reading,” said Wendell. “It was simply because I had had kids read to me so I could memorize the stories. After that my mom hammered it home by rewarding me with books. Since then I fell in love with reading and still read all the time now.”
As the one person who touches the ball on every offensive play, the Patriots center told the young audience that it was crucial that he be able to read and understand detailed scouting reports on other teams to play his position more effectively, stressing that reading is important even for professional athletes.
Assistant Director for Tufts Hillel, Lauren Bloom also noted the importance of parental involvement in helping their kids read.
“I think for parents, just having a day focused on literacy and reading, is important so that they’re actually seeing what can happen, and what can be fun about reading outside of the classroom.”
Both Bloom and “Read by the River” co-chair, Christopher Blackett, emphasized that the primary goal of the event is to show that reading can be enjoyable.
“We just want to make it easier for parents to read to their children,” he said.
“We want to promote literacy in general and let children know that reading can be fun.”