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University of Iowa News Release


April 15, 2010

Program will bring Hawkeye football players into classrooms to read with students

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes football program and the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) will partner to bring Hawkeye football players into elementary schools to read with students.

Starting April 19, the Hawkeye Readers program will bring more than 30 Hawkeye student-athletes to classes at Twain and Wood elementary schools through May, serving as role models as they talk about the importance of reading, work and athletics and read from favorite books.

The project is similar to one conducted by the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals. LeVar Woods, an administrative assistant with the Hawkeye football program and a former Cardinals player, participated in that program and is one of the organizers of the Hawkeye Readers project. He said the Cardinals' program was a tremendous experience.

"It gave me a great feeling," Woods said. "I loved seeing how the kids were affected. As a football player, you are able to instantly have an impact, just by what you do. We would like the players to share the importance of reading, books they loved when they were kids, books they still like and different ways that reading is involved in their lives."

Anticipating the success of this pilot program, the partner organizations plan to expand it to more area schools this fall.

"This is an exciting partnership between the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, the UI football program and ICCSD," said ICCSD Superintendent Lane Plugge. "ICCSD looks forward to providing this opportunity for school district students."

Jeanette Pilak, executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, said the partnership with the school district and the football program is the kind of program the organization needs to create in the region and throughout the state of Iowa.

"While we are just starting this program, we hope this Hawkeye Readers program will inspire student-athlete literacy community outreach programs throughout the UNESCO Creative City network," said Pilak. "We are grateful to our partners to help us bring such important messages to our students -- our leaders of tomorrow."

Woods said the program also can help to train the football players to be better leaders. Among senior starters in the football program, 87 percent go on to play in the NFL, he said, and a big component of that role is community service.

"Here, we're working hard to prepare guys on the transition from high school to college, and now take it a step further to make the transition from college to life after college," he said. "We’re giving them experience and making them more well-rounded individuals."

Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz said that is an important aspect of the players' experience in the community.

"When our staff recruits student-athletes for the UI football program, they enjoy a lot of support from the community," he said. "Programs like this are an excellent way to return that support and help children learn about the value of reading."

EDITORS: For information about specific dates, locations and times of these events for coverage purposes, contact Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Executive Director Jeanette Pilak at 319-356-5245 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: LeVar Woods, Hawkeye Football administrative assistant, 319-335-8943; Lane Plugge, Iowa City Community School District superintendent, 319-688-1000