User ID: Password:

November 14, 2011

Tech baseball players participate in Pep Rally for Reading at local elementary school

By: Marc Mullen

Beverages, books, a band and baseball players were just several of the things a person could find at the second annual Pep Rally for Reading held at Christiansburg Primary School on Monday, Oct. 17.

Arranged by Nicole Craig, a mother of two and a member of the PTA, the event began shortly after 6 p.m. with registration, refreshments, a face painting area and a new book table. But the pep rally really got underway when the invited guests, who included seven members of the Virginia Tech baseball team, showed off their specialties.

“The most important thing about this event is that kids need to read more,” Craig said. “For them to see people that they look up to, especially the Virginia Tech players … that’s why it means so much to have them get involved because these kids look up to these guys or girls, whoever comes. It’s just neat for the players to read to them and just makes it fun.”

The Christiansburg drum line began the evening playing its cadence and four drum cheers before the Christiansburg Middle School cheerleaders followed with a whole routine devoted to reading. Both groups got the elementary school kids, parents and even the Tech players into an enthusiastic mood.

“Personally, I loved the event. I thought it was real fun. All those kids were there, and the environment was great,” redshirt senior Andrew Aizenstadt said. “The show they put on before we read was something really cool, where they had the cheerleaders and the band come in.

“So what they were doing to promote the reading was great. That kind of got me and a few of the other guys there excited about it. All the energy that they brought kind of got us excited for our part, and the kids loved it, so it was a fun time.”

Aizenstadt and the rest of the players then took the stage – or the steps just in front of the stage. He read Sock Monkey goes to Hollywood: A Star is Bathed. The story centers on a famous toy actor who has been nominated for an Oswald Award. But to attend the ceremony, he must take a bath.

Aizenstadt’s rendition of the adventure of Sock Monkey to the elementary school students sitting on the floor in front of him would have led a person to believe he’s familiar with the book or has been doing this for years. However, he is not an education major, but rather is enrolled in the MBA program at Tech.

“I had never read that book before, but I was able to read it while we were sitting in the seats about 10 minutes before the event really started,” he said. “It was a really funny book, and the kids seemed to enjoy it and really got into it.

“I’ve worked with kids pretty much my whole life, like working camps for ages 5 to 7 for about six years now. I love working with little kids. It’s a lot of fun, so any time we get to do something like that, I try to jump right on it, where you’re working with kids as opposed to just running a book drive.”

Next up was Kyle Prats, who may have been the perfect recruit for the second book, Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones. This book followed the life of the title character – a Siamese kitten that looks like a Chihuahua and ventures into the land of dinosaurs in search of the fabled Skipposaurus.

Among some of the challenges this book presented were the alliterations – for example, “… where Mrs. Dolly Doohiggy’s dog, Darwin, buried all of his bones” – and, to Prats’ expertise, all of the Spanish words and phrases.

“Well, we were looking through the books, and a couple of the guys weren’t too thrilled about speaking in front of the big crowds, so me and Kyle Prats stepped up and said that we would do it,” Aizenstadt said in reference to how the decision was made on who was going to read. “So when we were looking through the two books, in the one that Kyle read, there were a lot Spanish words in it. He’s from Miami and he can speak Spanish, so I told him ‘There’s no way that I am doing that book.’ I would have been fumbling around with all of those words. So I took the other book, and he took that one.”

Prats turned in another flawless performance by the baseball orators, even getting interaction with clapping from the crowd during a couple portions of the book that were read in tune of the nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock.

“Oh my gosh! I thought they did awesome,” Craig said. “I chose the books for them. I wanted to find some cute ones for them to read, and I thought I would trip them up with the Skippyjon Jones book, but I didn’t.

“This event was definitely larger than last year, and it was just awesome with this group [the baseball players]. We would definitely want them back again next year. They did great!”

Upon completion of the second reading, the kids were handed a sheet of paper, while the players were handed markers. The kids were then invited to get autographs of the seven men who attended the pep rally, giving the kids another souvenir from the evening. They were able to get a new book at the beginning of the night.

“Giving out the books was brand new, and that went great,” Craig said. “We had kids bring in their own books for the past two weeks, ones that they might not read at home, and then we swapped them out with the others. So it’s like they are new, free books.”

With the turnout and the excitement that was generated by all of the special guests, it’s easily foreseeable that there will definitely be a third annual Pep Rally and the Tech baseball players will be more than welcomed back.