Community Papers

Nanaimo hockey players help students engage with reading

Tales the Whale, the mascot for Vancouver Island Regional Library, participates in a ball hockey game with kids and players with Nanaimo Clippers in February. - Photo contributed
Tales the Whale, the mascot for Vancouver Island Regional Library, participates in a ball hockey game with kids and players with Nanaimo Clippers in February.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Nanaimo librarian Jason Kuffler’s Score with Reading event combined two of his greatest passions: hockey and engaging reluctant young readers.

And who better than hometown hockey heroes Nanaimo Clippers to help motivate and inspire kids to read?

“The players really are a perfect match for a program like this,” Kuffler said. “The kids hang on their every word.”

Since it began in 2012, Score with Reading has grown through new partnerships and a collective commitment to help kids discover their love of reading. This year’s partners included the Nanaimo Lions Club, School District 68, which offered a mentorship component, the Clippers and the B.C. Hockey League.

“The BCHL’s motto is Smart Hockey and the league boasts the highest percentage of players who go on to scholarships in Canada and the U.S,” Kuffler said. “Few of them make it to the NHL, so they really understand the value of education and literacy.”

Score with Reading has been the BCHL’s league-wide, education-based initiative for the last two years with teams and libraries offering the program throughout B.C. and Wenatchee, Wash.

In 2016, the library partnered with Nanaimo school district to offer a mentorship program that aimed to give kids who would benefit from more interaction with the players three opportunities to do so. In addition to the Score with Reading event on Feb. 11, kids also participated in a meet-and-greet with the players in December and a Skate with the Clippers day in January.

At the February event, Clippers’ players read to the kids and adults inside the library, and then everybody spilled out into Diana Krall Plaza for a game of street hockey. Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay dropped the ball for the opening face-off between the library’s mascot, Tales the Whale, and Clippers’ captain Spencer Hewson.

In the future, Kuffler hopes to expand the program Canada-wide and apply it to other sports. He has had interest from rugby, football and soccer teams already.

“The program is so easy to deliver and can be tailored to any sport,” he says. “You can see the impact that these players have on the kids immediately.”

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