Professional Sports West Edition

Sparks players read to kids at Jefferson Park Library

JEFFERSON PARK — Preschoolers know better than anybody else how to have fun in the library.

Just ask the youngsters of the Nu Building Block Day Care Center in Jefferson Park.  On Aug. 23, they shot some hoops and sank a few baskets with Los Angeles Sparks guard Chelsea Gray and forward Nneka Ogwumike.

Well — not quite — but they did get to giggle out loud and partake in one of life’s elemental pleasures.

Gray and Ogwumike read to the little ones at Vassie Wright-Jefferson Park Branch Library’s as part of its “Read to Win” children’s summer literacy program.

Gray read “Allie’s Basketball Dream,” about a girl’s determination to play basketball, “a boy’s game,” despite the obstacles she encounters.

Stanford University alumna Ogwumike read “The Quickest Kid in Clarksville,” the story of Wilma Rudolph, the “first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympics Games.”

“Rudolph was faced with having a racially segregated celebration in her hometown, but insisted that the parade be integrated,” Liz Goralka, Wright’s young adult librarian said.

“In the book and real life, the kids attended the first integrated parade in Clarksville.  Wilma Rudolph’s accomplishments are another layer of what’s going on in the book,” Goralka added.

”I really enjoyed myself,” Ogwumike said.  “I got a lot out of this. … It was interactive and is always good to be able to … reach out to the community and parents that follow us.”

Gray, a California native, said, “I love giving back to younger kids and I think it’s important for them to be reading. I was always in the library as a kid. I loved to read. We’re the Sparks and we always … connect with our community.  It is important.”

Brenda Breaux, L.A. Public Library’s principal public relations representative, agreed.

“The Sparks volunteered their time. They reached out to the library.

“[This] was the final event of our system-wide summer reading program,” which started June 13.  “We try to reach and incorporate kids … with sports; kids who just want to read; kids who love science and math.”

“We served 33,741 participants, ages 0-to-19 years, compared to last summer’s 27,231. This year, we had two sports — the Dodgers held programs at eight branches.”

Asked if the Rams are candidates for the reading program, Breaux said,” That might be next summer. They’re too new to have gotten it together.”

Gray and Ogwumike agreed they will do it again “if their game schedule permits.”

“Getting into the community, giving back is very important, whether it is reading or a service project,” Stacey Mitch, senior director for communications for the Sparks, said. “It’s been a wonderful event and so cute to see their faces. Our players really do care.”