“E is for East Race Waterway. Grab a kayak and invite a friend, to East Race Waterway in South Bend. Pack a red swimsuit that you can wear. We can paddle down the rapids if you dare.”
Colts mascot, Blue, disappears behind the screen and returns wearing a red swimsuit. Shrieks of laughter fill the air at Stephen Decatur Elementary in Indianapolis.
In celebration of Read Across America Week, Blue took his show on the road and had some special friends join him along the way – Colts owner Kalen Jackson, safety Matthias Farley, and reporter Caroline Cann – visiting schools and reading his book, “Blue’s Road Trip Through Indiana.”
“Our kids need any kind of additional experience or exposure to literacy that they can get and any encouragement to read because for a lot of our kids, it’s hard for them,” says Katie Gordon, principal of Decatur Elementary.
“They come to school and they don’t necessarily have a lot of exciting things that they get to do outside of school, just because of what they have going on,” she says.
Blue isn’t the only member of the Colts organization who’s helped Gordon and her staff promote reading.
“One of the things we did last year was follow along with Andrew Luck’s Book Club with our sixth graders – showing them that everyone reads and it’s really critical and important for them to become a reader because it’s a way to experience all sorts of new things that they wouldn’t be able to see.”
One of the things Blue does best is show students how fun reading can be by acting out scenes from his book – snowball fights at Pokagon State Park, baseball at Victory Field, riding bikes on the Monon Trail, and camping at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park.
“Having him present it makes it fun for everybody every place he goes. When they see Blue attached to it, it might trigger something in a kid that may have struggled with reading before or didn’t really love it,” says Jackson.
But seeing all the places reading can take them shines a light on a whole new world.
“Being able to learn about a state or another country or somewhere different than where you live,” Jackson says. “And you can do that without leaving your classroom or leaving your bedroom at home.”
One of Jackson’s favorite books was “Corduroy.” She loved anything by Dr. Seuss, and “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein was a favorite of all three Irsay daughters. She says they were always encouraged to read growing up and it made a lifelong reader out of her.
“I read three books in the last month, along with everything else I’m doing,” she says. “But you really do have to make time for it as an adult.”
Jackson likes to share her love of reading year round. It’s something the Colts organization puts a value on. And she loves to see Blue carrying that message across the state.
“We’re the Indianapolis Colts, but really, it’s a little bit more accurate to say the Indiana Colts. Because we really try to talk to all parts of the state and we have fans from all parts of the state.”
From the East Race Waterway to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and everywhere in between, Blue takes young readers on a road trip – and opens the door to a world that goes far beyond Indiana.
Blue’s Read Across America school show is sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels. To bring Blue to your school, go to: http://www.colts.com/fanzone/mascot/blue-programs.html.
Blue’s book is available at the Colts Pro Shop: http://shop.colts.com/style/Book-Blues-Road-Trip-Through-Indiana/20845224.