READ with the Jayhawks

Oct. 9, 2009

LAWRENCE, Kan.— During a busy homecoming and midterm week, Jeannette Francia, soccer player, and Mason Finley, track and field athlete, spent their Thursday morning reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to kindergarten and first grade classes at Deerfield Elementary School.

They helped to support the national campaign Read for the Record on October 8. The goal was that 1 million students in kindergarten and first grade around the country would hear the classic children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The children that Francia and Finley read to had the chance to be one in a million.

“We appreciate the student-athletes coming out and reading to the kids,” Ann Tormohlen, librarian and KU alumni, said. “They just love when anyone from KU comes to school because they all love KU. ”

The visit was part of the READ with the Jayhawks program. Jayhawk student-athletes and KU Libraries have teamed up with the local Lawrence community to promote literacy. This program puts student-athletes come into local schools and libraries to read throughout the year. This program also offers READ posters featuring student-athletes, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Bonnie Henrickson, Head Men’s Basketball coach Bill Self, Head Football coach Mark Mangino, and Big and Baby Jay.

The benefits of reading to children are endless and they enjoy it too.

“I thought it was very funny,” Georgia Rae, first grader, said.

At Deerfield Elementary School the halls were buzzing with excitement when the student-athletes arrived.

“I had a lot of fun today,” Francia said. “I have little sister on the way, so this is good practice. They are so energetic. Their vibe passes through you and makes you excited about being here and spending time with them. “

When Francia was reading the first graders kept shouting out their favorite foods.

One first grader even said, “I would eat all that for dinner.”

“I really like interacting with the kids,” said Finley, a thrower who is 6-foot-8. “When they first see me sometimes they are a little scared because I am pretty big, but as long as I smile they seem to like me.”

Not only did Finley read them a book, but he also described to them how to throw the discus and the shot put.

By taking an hour out of their day, Finely and Francia impacted the lives of many first graders and kindergartners helping them to be one in a million of those children who heard The very Hungry Caterpillar on Read for the Record day.

For more information, please contact Mike Harrity, Assistant Athletics Director at