Miami football player teams with fellow athlete to read to local school students during coronavirus

Miami University football player Henry Beckett invented a new reading program involving himself and other university athletes to reach out to students in the adjacent Talawanda School system. Beckett, shown here during one of his video recordings of reading remotely to school kids, plans to recruit more Miami athletes to become regular members of his "Redhawk Readers." (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
Miami University football player Henry Beckett invented a new reading program involving himself and other university athletes to reach out to students in the adjacent Talawanda School system. Beckett, shown here during one of his video recordings of reading remotely to school kids, plans to recruit more Miami athletes to become regular members of his "Redhawk Readers." (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

A Miami University football player has come up with an unusual idea of how to help local school kids develop a love of reading and other school athletes are joining in to help.

Miami kicker Henry Beckett has created a children’s reading program suited as a workaround for the social distancing required during the pandemic.

The sophomore has started “Redhawk Readers,” named after the school’s mascot.

ExploreThousands of Miami students return to classes today: What officials are doing about COVID-19

Beckett and Miami soccer player Emily Sexton have been filming themselves reading children’s classic books for students in the Talawanda school system.

For Beckett, who is a psychology major with neuroscience and pre-med co-majors, the idea sprung from his love of children and the joys he knew as a youngster with older siblings who read to him often.

Later, his elementary school in Alabama would have parents come in to read to the class and he wanted to pass on the tradition.

“And I’ve always wanted to work with children,” he said, who first approach Miami school officials about a month ago.

“My original idea was to go to them (Talawanda students) to read to them in person in their classroom,” but the pandemic ended that plan.

Sexton began the video series last week by reading first from a children’s book and then Beckett will soon be offering up his own video reading from the remainder of the book.

Videos work better than live readings via Zoom or some other digital format, he said, because it allows participating teachers more flexibility in when they want to incorporate the reading sessions into classroom or at-home, remote lessons.

For Sexton, an early childhood education major, the idea thrilled her.

“I love kids and I want to help people and when Henry asked me … I was really excited,” she said.

Due to coronavirus, Sexton said she’s lost out on opportunities to go into schools to student teach “so being able to reach them through technology and using these resources we have now … it (videos) was a great way to connect with students other than seeing them in person.”

Jason Merz, principal at Kramer Elementary, praised the two college students saying “I know some students do not have access to a variety of children’s books and kids really love to be read to.”

“I also think this helps cultivate a lifelong love for reading. It’s nice that this project was able to come together for kids in our community,” said Merz.

Talawanda officials, said Beckett, “have been really excited about it and it has been a lot more satisfying than I ever thought it would be.”

In Other News