April 7, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- For over a decade, University of Wisconsin student-athletes have been doing their part to promote literacy in Madison.
A fixture in Madison-area schools since the 2001-2002 school year, the Bookin' it with Bucky program has paired UW student-athletes with classrooms to work together to reach a predetermined reading goal.
This year, 25 classrooms in eight different schools are taking part in the program. Many student-athletes in the initiative want to work in education or further promote literacy.
Wisconsin women's hockey player Madison Packer believes improving kids' reading ability is an integral component of their mission as student-athletes.
"Promoting literacy in the community is important because it is a major part of our education and development as young adults," Packer said. "Interacting with the young kids motivates them to want to learn and educate themselves more and will hopefully help them develop into more well-rounded individuals."
Classrooms who reach their goal are rewarded with a party and a visit from UW student-athletes as well as Bucky Badger. The student-athletes do not receive anything in return for their visits but the satisfaction of helping the students accomplish their goals.
Being paired with a classroom throughout the year means the Badgers have the privilege of watching the reading skills of the students' blossom and flourish over time.
"The Madison community is so supportive of Badger athletics, and giving back to young kids who look up to us is something I really enjoy," Packer said.
For rower Jonathan Smaglick, being involved in the program is a natural fit. His mother was a kindergarten teacher in the Cudahy school district for 25 years.
"She was always asserting to me that being able to read for comprehension would allow me to follow my dreams," Smaglick said. "I would like to pass on that idea to as many children as I can."
In total, the initiative has reached more than 6,000 students in more than 250 classrooms throughout the Madison Metropolitan School District. This year, UW student-athletes have visited a record number of schools after only a few months.
But Bookin' it with Bucky is just one part of the athletic department's efforts to promote learning and encourage academic achievement. Promoting literacy is a primary focus of the Badgers Give Back program.
In addition to the Bookin' it with Bucky initiative, student-athletes also make several visits to schools throughout the academic year to read with students and encourage literacy. Forty-five student-athletes also visited ten area schools in celebration of Read Across America Day on March 3, the second year that UW Athletics' has made it an effort to visit as many schools as possible on the national reading holiday.
This year, Wisconsin Athletics' commitment to education has extended to the UW Football Spring Game on Saturday, April 12, at Camp Randall Stadium. Proceeds from the game will benefit the UW School of Education's continued efforts aimed at improving student literacy.
Tickets can be purchased for $5 online at UWBadgers.com, by calling 1-800-GO-BADGERS or in person at the Wisconsin Athletic Ticket Office. The game will be preceded by the annual Badgers Sports Kids' Fair, which is a free event that starts at 1 p.m. in the McClain Center.
"We hope fans come out and show their support for the team and help us support a cause that we care about in the process," senior nose guard Warren Herring said. "It's something we're all looking forward to."
For more information on participating in the Bookin' it with Bucky program, please contact UW Athletics Community Relations Assistant Michelle Preston at firstname.lastname@example.org.