Baylor athletes mentor through Bears for Books program

By BrenShavia Jordan | Broadcast Reporter

The Bears for Books program is in its third year, specifically partnered with Waco ISD elementary schools. The goal of the program is to work with schools that have been put on a list for required improvement. The athletes read to the students during school periods and give them reading logs to track reading outside of the classroom. The support is to help boost academic achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and post secondary readiness. The program also helps build relationships with every classroom visit.

Christal Peterson, the Student-Athlete Character Formation coordinator, shares more about the event.

“We look for schools that are having a little trouble with reading comprehension,” Peterson said. “We target third graders specifically.”

Volunteering weekly, these athletes get a chance to spend time reading and playing games with the students.

Samuel Clayton, the Behavior Specialist at Connally Elementary School, shares the impact Bears for Books has on the students.

“The impact that the Baylor athletes have on our kids is life changing,” Clayton said. “The program has changed the atmosphere of our school, and it gives the kids hope.”

Clayton said that the Baylor student-athletes bring inspiration to the children.

“The kids are talking about going to college, which they weren’t doing before Baylor began to read with them,” Clayton said.

Zachary, La. Baylor Track & Field freshman Kamden Jackson shares the experience he had when reading to one of the students.

Jackson said that he helps the children sound out words to recognize what the word means.

“They will get to used that, especially when they get older and go to high school and college,” Jackson said.

Upland, Calif. Baylor Equestrian freshman Haley Petersen shares the importance of the impact this has on the students.

“It is super important to come out here and read to the kids,” Petersen said. “Literacy is so important in these kids, and they want to see role models that are going to college and doing all these amazing things.”

“So, just coming out here and making a difference is what makes Baylor stand out to these kids,” Petersen said.

The program’s aim is to impact the students. Coordinator Peterson also shares the impact that it has on the athletes as well.

“It gives them a sense of ownership,” Peterson said. “These kids really want to see them here, and a lot of them are in the Waco community but have never been to a Baylor game. So, now they get to see the face behind the fame in some ways.”

With a focus on youth literacy, Bears for Books continues to grow, impacting the lives of 300 students at five elementary schools in the Waco community. The time spent gives them joy and hope for what lies ahead. Studies show 3rd grade reading proficiency is an indicator of future academic success.

“Our students athletes are doing something great, showing literacy is cool,” Peterson said. “It tells the kids that you can be anything that you want. If we can just give our kids the opportunity to think they can go to college, that’s really all we are trying to do.”

Once the program ends in November, teachers nominate students who have succeeded in their reading. The students are celebrated at a Baylor basketball game, and one student from each school is recognized for their success.

With a busy schedule between practice and classes, the athletes show that being great first starts in the classroom.