By Rebecca Corman
RB George Atkinson III and DT Ricky Lumpkin visited La Escuelita Elementary in Oakland, Calif., to read aloud from books by and about African Americans to commemorate Black History Month. The inaugural African American Literature Read-In Week, organized by the Oakland Public Education Fund, is a citywide celebration during the week of February 2.
"In a diverse city like Oakland, it's so important for our students to see themselves in the books they read," says Oakland Public Education Fund Executive Director Brian Stanley. "The Education Fund is proud to help make that happen through the Read-In, and we're excited to bring even more education supporters into our schools when we host future events celebrating diversity and community involvement."
The two Raiders spent time in the classroom with the first graders reading and answering their questions. “We had a great time in the Oakland School District with the first graders here,” said Atkinson III. “We just read a couple of books to them and had a lot of fun just showing them the importance of reading, and not only how important it is, but how fun it can be as well.”
The players made sure to emphasize the importance of reading.
Atkinson asked the students, “Who here reads books every day?”
All of the first graders raised their hands.
The students were excited to have members of the Silver and Black visit their classroom. “It’s an awesome feeling just to see how excited they get just to see us,” said Lumpkin. “I can’t even explain it because the joy in their face, if you could just be there to see how they looked when we opened the door, it was just pure excitement.”
Having local professional athletes, like Atkinson and Lumpkin, brings an added dimension to the program. "Thanks to volunteers like George Atkinson and Ricky Lumpkin, the Read-In has become what we hoped it would be - a truly community-wide event that celebrates a love of reading," said Stanley. "We are so grateful to the Raiders for giving back to Oakland kids. Reading aloud to students is a really powerful way to connect with schools, and the enthusiasm in the classroom today clearly backs that up.”
Lumpkin understood the importance of showing the young students the importance of reading and education. “It’s where it starts. This is when you can really affect kids,” said Lumpkin. “It’s an amazing feeling and amazing sight to see in their eyes how they look at you and they see you as a role model.”
Both Raiders were happy to give their time to kids in their community. “Any opportunity I can to give back I find it important,” said Atkinson III. “It’s something my dad [former Raiders safety George Atkinson] instilled in me growing up. It’s nothing to just take time out of my day to make some kids happy and read books to them. It’s a lot of fun.”