Grizzlies Reading Challenge promotes literacy

To the players on the court and the kids in the classrooms...minutes matter. 25,000 Mid-South students are taking part in the Grizzlies Reading Challenge. The more minutes a child reads, the more likely he is to earn big prizes from the Memphis Grizzlies.

Edward Hayes is only a second grader but he's a top reader at Bruce Elementary and already has his favorites, "one is a discovery book and it has words in it. It's a hot wheels book."

Grizzlies Director of Community Investment, Staci Franklin, says the goals of the challenge are clear, "the purpose of the Read to Achieve program is one: promote literacy, and two: to try to help children develop a lifelong love of reading."

The results are clear as well. "Kids that didn't necessarily like to read before they are now picking up a book and reading," says Franklin.

"You see a lot of kids making drastic improvements, going up almost two grade levels," says the Grizzlies Reading Challenge Coordinator for Bruce Elementary, Coach Danny Gullett. He says the posters, bumper stickers and certificates students receive for participating are a real incentive. "They see these things that are signed by the players, you know the certificates are signed by Shane Battier. Well the kid takes it home, 'mom, look what I got at school for reading!'"

Classrooms like Peggy Thornton's where students log the most minutes reading get game tickets. She says the lessons her third-graders learn while taking part in the challenge last a lifetime. "They realize it's important for them to read with understanding so that they can do a good job."

Students in first through fourth grades participate in the Grizzlies Reading Challenge. Students from one class at each grade level, at each school receive tickets to Sunday's Grizzlies game against the Bobcats, or Tuesday's game against the Sonics.