SPRINGFIELD TWP. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, six out of 10 households do not by a single book in a year.
The Second and Seven Foundation is doing what it can to make sure that books get in the hands of second graders in more than 20 states and 130 schools in Ohio, including students at Spring Hill Elementary.
Second Grade Teacher Doug Jones said that the foundation provides three books for each student throughout the school year. Maybe as important as receiving a new book, the books are read to the students in small groups by Springfield High School athletes.
This is the second year for the program and Jones explained that the books deliver great lessons in a kid friendly format and are read by an older peer.
"I love it. I absolutely love this program." Jones said that the foundation provides the Spring Hill second grade classes with more than 400 books a year.
The history behind the program is somewhat unique as it was three former Ohio State Football players that began the foundation - Luke Fickell, Ryan Miller and Springfield’s Mike Vrabel. They were inspired to begin the foundation in 1999 by their involvement in a variety of community outreach programs while attending Ohio State. The three athletes wanted to continue making a difference by providing positive role models and promoting literacy for children in central Ohio.
In a recent video from Second and Seven day, Vrabel said they knew what they wanted to do, but they just didn’t have a lot of money to do it. They went to Borders Books and bought as many books as they would sell them for the second grade. They gave them 30 percent off.
"We thought everything was great," Vrabel said. "We had enough books for seven second grade classes and that is how we ended up with the second and seven."
Megan Whitt, regional program manager for the Second and Seven Program, said when the ex-players started the program in Columbus, they never imagined that there would be programs in so many schools across the U.S.
The mission for the foundation is "to promote reading by providing free books and positive role models to kids in need while encouraging young athletes of the community to pay it forward."
Jones said the kids get free books, the high school kids get to interact with the younger kids, who get read, tutored and mentored by the high school kids.
"It connects our buildings and all the kids enjoy it," he said.
Whitt said that people think they just hand out books.
"That is not accurate," she said. "We provide athletes this platform to pay it forward to give them the ability to go into the second grade classrooms to talk about reading, to do the discussion questions, tell them about themselves and then they also give them a book."
It is based on the fact the founders had the opportunity at Ohio State to pay it forward and now they give other athletes - high school, college and professional - an opportunity to do the same.
Second grader Mack Crespo said he met a wrestler, a football player and "lots of cheerleaders." He said they were all awesome. Crespo is a wrestler and football player and really looks up to those that visited. He went to a high school wrestling match after the athletes visited. Smith said Mack was excited to see those high school wrestlers he knew.
The foundation writes its own children’s book each year with a lesson in each book, such as trying your best, doing the right thing, kindness is contagious or practice and consistence. The athletes talk about those lessons and encourage students to read every day.
Macy Freimuth, a second grader, said she really likes the books because they are about teamwork and people working together. She spoke about the book they just read, "The Hog Mollies and the Rocky Relay Race."
"They were training so hard and they were actually in the race, the first couple of ones did really well and then the last one didn’t get to it (the finish line) fast enough, but they were still happy and didn’t get mad at the person," Freimuth said.
Jones coaches wrestling at the high school and he brings wrestlers in for the program, while Athletic Director Kevin Vaughn brings in kids from every team to read and mentor the younger students.
Second grader Jackson Eitner said he really likes the books because "sometimes they have a problem and they fix it and sometimes they don’t have a problem but then they end up having problems and they fix the problems."
"There is a deep lesson in every book and the high school kids absolutely love it," added Jones.
After reading the books the younger kids get autographs and take pictures with the high school mentors.
"The best thing about it is that every second grader at Spring Hill will end up getting three books by the end of the year," said Jones. "It is a great service they provide."
Maybe one of the best lessons learned from the program is one of the most important learned in life. Crespo said he learned, "If you always try your best, you’re a winner."