WINTER GARDEN It’s not every day that a Solar Bears hockey player visits elementary students in their classrooms to read to them.
But Foundation Academy students in kindergarten through fifth grade enjoyed that special treat Monday, Feb. 19, when six Solar Bears players visited to kick off the Lower School’s third annual Real Men Read event.
The Real Men Read program is the brainchild of fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Douglass, who came up with the idea a few years ago while she was teaching at another school.
“The whole purpose behind this is young boys see their moms and their female teachers — because there really aren’t a whole lot of male teachers in elementary schools — we’re the ones pushing them to read, so they get this skewed idea that reading is a girl thing,” Douglass said. “We have invited dads, grandpas, uncles, cousins, teachers, husbands and those (people) in (along) with the Solar Bear players to show them that men read, that they enjoy reading, they’re good at it and it’s not just a girl thing, it’s an everybody thing.”
It’s especially exciting for the fifth-grade students, because they’re the only ones who get the players’s autographs. One of the fifth-grade field trips is to a Solar Bears game, so going from seeing the players from a distance to meeting them is a highlight of the school year.
“Now to bring them face-to-face and listen to them read and listen to their stories and everything, they make a friend, almost,” Douglass said. “They’re really excited that they’re here. And they (Solar Bears) get a kick out of this, and when they leave, when the kids go to a Solar Bears game or we see them out and about sometimes around Orlando, they go, ‘I know you, you came to my school!’ It makes that kind of celebrity connection, and it’s so much fun.”
Solar Bears defenseman Sean Zimmerman added it’s always fun to meet the kids and watch their reactions to the books the players read to them.
“As funny as it sounds, we’re put in a position where we can have an effect on (people’s) lives, and I think that’s pretty important,” he said. “I love interacting with kids however possible, so it’s a fun day.”