Football, School Libraries, and Ferguson, MO: What’s the Connection?

By Kate M. 

Last year, I wrote about the opening of school and the inherent craziness of textbooks and class schedules, but this year I decided to write about high school football.

Now, you may ask what prompted such an odd choice for a library blog?

In truth, there are two or more reasons, but perhaps the one closest to my heart was the McCluer High School’s football team’s response to the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri. Rather than involving themselves in potentially dangerous situations, they listened to their coach and decided to take their frustrations to the field. Mario McDonald, the McCluer coach, reminded his players to avoid stereotypes and stay focused on the sport and school. This message, along with the support of the St Louis Rams, seems to have been heard and appreciated.

So what does football have to do with school libraries?

This brings me to my second reason . . . the Athletes as Readers and Leaders program, which uses student athletes as role models for younger students. Napa Valley USD implemented this program in response to a Stanford Study, which showed children who play sports are less likely to become obese. The report also revealed how overweight children are often too shy to join a sport. With this in mind, NVUSD librarians and coaches implemented Athletes as Readers and Leaders to introduce elementary students to high school athletes. They knew it would be a success with the students, but were surprised it had such an impact on the players. Football coach Troy Mott said, “I don’t know who gained more from this experience, the players or the kids.”

The program has been replicated throughout the country and was chosen as a California School Library exemplary program and recently recognized by California’s superintendent of education. Like the players in Ferguson, student athletes from every sport have the potential to improve not only physical fitness in young students but also academic achievement.

To learn more about Athletes as Readers and Leaders, please visit the CSLA blog at

Good luck to all the high school football teams and a special wish to all of the Ferguson players!

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