March 5, 2013
Gaby Moran, Texas Media Relations
In honor of Read Across America Day and renowned children's author Dr. Seuss' birthday, LCPL Nicholas S. Perez Elementary School in Austin brought in several celebrity readers to read to their students and to demonstrate how important reading is. Texas Longhorn senior DE Jackson Jeffcoat was one of the celebrities selected.
"He is a really positive role model in this community and the fact he decided to continue his education instead of going to the NFL sends a huge message to the kids," kindergarten teacher Ashlyn Kana said.
"Our kids have so much respect for UT athletes and so much respect for the people in the community that made themselves something special," Perez principal David Kauffman said. "It's great to see when some of their role models come in and not only know that they love sports and football, but that their role models love reading books, too."
Jeffcoat enjoys giving back to the Austin community as much as possible. Having participated in visits to the Dell Children's Medical Center and acting as a speaker to middle and elementary schools during drug-free week - reading to first graders and kindergarteners on Read Across America Day was just another great opportunity for him to give back.
"It was a fun experience for me because growing up I went to my little sister's school and spoke to her class and read to her class. I even remember my parents coming to my elementary school to read to my class," Jeffcoat said. "It was good for me to see [the kids] and for them to see me, especially since the little kids are big Longhorn fans and that made me excited to see that we have so many little Longhorn fans cheering for us."
It is moments like these when Jeffcoat and the rest of the football team feel like a larger part of the community they have chosen to spend time in during a special part of their lives.
"It's very important for the guys on the team to give back to the community because the Austin community has given us so much. This is a great city with great people so I think we should give back.," Jeffcoat said.
LCPL Nicholas S. Perez Elementary is one of the elementary schools in the Austin Independent School District with a dual language program. With four years experience in high school and three semesters worth of Spanish classes at the University of Texas at Austin, Jeffcoat had the opportunity to read to a first grade class in Spanish.
"Reading in Spanish actually went well. I was a little nervous at first because I am not a native speaker, and I had to speak to kids who were native speakers. I was excited that they told me I did well and being first graders, I think they would tell me the truth. I made sure I did my accents perfectly and spoke proper Spanish. They said I did a really good job, and I enjoyed it," Jeffcoat said.
Jeffcoat read Corre, Perro! Corre! (Go, Dog! Go!) to the first graders and also read the classic Dr. Seuss story, Green Eggs and Ham, in English to a kindergarten class.
"When I told the kids somebody very important from UT was going to come, they all couldn't wait especially since he was going to read in Spanish," first grade teacher Maria Vasquez said. "They are learning how to read and said they would help him if he has any problems."
The students were so excited to meet their celebrity reader that they did some research beforehand to get to know their guest.
"We talked about how his father played in the NFL for a while and even talked about his injury and how that happens in football sometimes. So we led to how important [it was that] he continued his education," Kana said. "[We also looked up] things like his favorite super hero and his favorite book. They still don't know the positions in football, but it was still great to know a little background around him."
This day dedicated solely to reading is an important lesson for kindergarteners and first graders to help motivate them to learn how to read and how it is something they need to know in order to further their education.
"They don't really know the college experience because [most of] their parents never went to college. So I tell them you have to work really hard, do all your homework, etcetera. When I told them someone from a college was coming, I feel like it gives them the idea they can have the same experience," Vasquez said.
"The kids hear it all the time from their teachers but until they see it, they do not know how important reading and education really is," Jeffcoat said. "They see that I am in college furthering my education and it motivates them to want to further their education and learn more about things.
"It kind of shows them the sky is the limit. They can learn whatever they want and do whatever they want."