It's hard to tell who leaves a Read with the Reds session with a bigger smile - the UNB athletes or the kindergartners?
The program has been bringing together Varsity Reds athletes with local kindergartens for ten years now. It's the brainchild of Frederictonian Garth Wade, a former supervisor of physical education and health, and past UNB Director of Athletics Clint Hamilton.
With literacy being such an important component of teaching in public schools, it seemed like a great opportunity to get student-athletes involved as literacy role models. And in 2006, Wade penned a book, illustrated by Ian Smith, especially for the occasion. "Su and Reds become Junior Reds" tells the story of two young athletes who get a special chance to try out sports at UNB.
Joe Crossland is one of the main organisers of the program, in addition to being the associate coach of UNB's women's soccer team. He says Read with the Reds gives student-athletes the opportunity to share their experiences with some of their biggest fans.
"Most student-athletes are nervous to go, but then they don't want to leave, and a big part of that is because they are a rock star to these kids who will go home and talk about it non-stop," Crossland said.
"The best part for me is the smiels at the end from both the kids and the student-athletes."
Ellen Arsenault plays for UNB's women's soccer team. She says she definitely enjoyed her first time with Read with the Reds and would love to do it again.
"It's good to get involved with the community of Fredericton, and I know that was me looking up to older players when I was young," Arsenault said. "Especially if they play soccer, it's kinda cool to have the UNB players come in."
Read with the Reds takes place for over two different months throughout the school year. So far this year, UNB student-athletes from a variety of teams have visited 10 schools in the Fredericton area. After Christmas, they will spread out to visit some schools around Oromocto as well.
UNB Varsity Reds read to local kindergartners.