KPBS Recruits Chargers for Children’s Literacy and Fitness
On home game Sundays, the San Diego Chargers faithful converge on Qualcomm Stadium to watch their heroes “Lead the Charge!” KPBS public broadcasting and the Athletes for Education Foundation teamed up with that same enthusiasm to write Charge Ahead, a book that encourages children to reach for their goals with discipline and determination.
The book was created as part of PBS Kids Raising Readers, which is funded by a federal Ready to Learn grant. The Ready to Learn initiative—led by the U.S. Department of Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS, and other partners—supports creative literacy programs in communities of need. San Diego is one such community; only 53 percent of elementary students are at the basic reading level compared to the national average of 66 percent, according to a federal report.
The book debuted last fall with great fanfare at a “Pep Rally for Literacy” at San Diego’s Sunset Elementary School, a natural launch site because second- and third-graders there had drawn the book’s illustrations. Some 400 community members participated. Another event at the Hall of Champions featured the USA Jump Stars and high school bands. San Diego Chargers players read Charge Ahead with Sesame Street’s Elmo to the 300 children, parents, and community members in attendance.
“It makes me so proud that Jose is part of something that motivates the kids to be something good in life—good students, good athletes, good people!” says Giselle Hurtado, whose son is a student illustrator.
“All faces were aglow, it was clear the students were so proud of their work,” says Clare Pister, KPBS education and literacy coordinator, recalling the launch event.
Also on hand were Chargers Jacques Cesaire, Tra Battle, Kasim Osgood, Luis Castillo, Steve Gregory, and Jeromey Clary, who traded places with the students and became their cheerleaders.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of something like this and to positively impact the lives of these kids,” says Gregory. “Charge Ahead will have a lasting impression on them!”
Fueled by the success of Charge Ahead, KPBS has developed a new initiative, Fit 4 Lit, which couples the literacy effort of Charge Ahead with teaching the importance of physical health, using Chargers players as top-fit athletic role models. Fit 4 Lit encourages children to write and recite jump rope rhymes as well as set reading and fitness goals.
KPBS is planning a citywide launch of the program for the coming school year. The popularity of Charge Ahead has been a powerful incentive for kids to participate in Fit 4 Lit, says Pister. She hopes the program will be another big step ahead in happier, healthier lives for children in their community.