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'Redskins Read' Gives Literacy A Cool Factor


"You guys are so lucky."

Those are the words spoken often between fans and football players, as fans try to imagine what life must be like for gridiron superstars.

But that wasn't the case on Tuesday, as Redskins legend Chris Cooley sat in the press box staring at the faces of dozens of 9-year olds.

"You guys may think it's silly with some of the things you have to do, but none of it's silly. School is awesome," Cooley told them. "You guys are so lucky to get to go to school every day."

It was a unique perspective for elementary school kids, as Cooley, along with Josh Wilson, Darrel Young and a pair of Redskins Cheerleaders teamed with the Redskins Charitable Foundation to present the 'Redskins Read Book Challenge,' powered by NRG.

Cooley's larger point was that these students were lucky to have their lives in front of them and be able to choose their path through life.

The caveat to success in any profession, however, was the ability to read, learn and be smarter than the people around you.

"Even back to high school, I have never been the fastest player on my team," he told the students. "But I could read up on opponents and watch film, so when it was game time, I was faster than them because I was smarter.

"When I came to Washington to play for the Redskins...we spend more time in the classroom than we do playing football. It mattered so much to me that I was able to learn the plays and take notes.

"Being smart, as a human being, is the one thing that will allow you to do whatever you want with your life. Working so hard at being intelligent is how you're going to be able to get to what you want to do."

'Redskins Read' rewards students from across the Washington, D.C. metro area who read 10 or more books during the 2013-14 school year with a "Redskins Read Book Challenge" reading certificate.

Eligible students will also be entered into a drawing to earn additional Redskins incentives. The goal of the "Redskins Read Book Challenge" is to encourage students from kindergarten through sixth grade to explore the joys of reading and the power of imagination.

"At the end of the day, you have to be able to read in anything you do," Darrel Young said. "Even in sports, you have to be able to read your playbook, read your contract, stuff that you have to be responsible for.

"As a kid, I read enough to get by, but I wish I had done more. There are times when in conversation I'll think 'I have no idea what that means.' Maybe then I would've been a straight-A student instead of some A's and B's."

For Josh Wilson, this was the second year in a row with this event, and the one-time math mind has had a change of heart.

"I talked to my mother-in-law, who works at the department of education, and she's the one who sold me on how important reading is," he told "I'm a huge math guy and she said, 'Well, think about if you couldn't read the directions, you couldn't do the math.'

"I realized that's something that's missing in our community, PG (Prince George's County) especially."

Wilson, a native of Upper Marlboro, Md., had it in his mind ever since coming into the league with the Seattle Seahawks that something could be done to better the area that he will always call home.

It was last year's 'Redskins Read' challenge that challenged him to make that difference he envisioned.

"Just being here last year with my mom and pregnant wife, seeing the kids and just realizing that this is key," he explained. "Being able to keep up with the surrounding counties in reading proficiency is how you level the playing field for these kids."

Wilson said he spent the last year reading over every study on early childhood education, and he and his wife both enrolled in the MBA program at George Washington to figure out the best way to create the biggest impact for the community.

"In the long-term, I want to make this county equal to all of the counties surrounding Washington," he said. "Whether you grow up in PG, Montgomery, Fairfax or Loudoun, you have the same opportunity, you have the same opportunity to get to the University of Maryland, University of Virginia, George Mason, George Washington.

"It starts at home. And this is my home. This is not business to make money, this is business to make a difference. That's what we're all about."

In addition to his work with the Redskins Charitable Foundation for events like Tuesday's 'Redskins Read' challenge, Wilson and his wife, Jazmin, have already set up their own reading challenge between their alma mater elementary schools.

"It's a challenge that counts the chapters that each kid can read at each school," he said. "At the end, we're going to count it up and the winners get to come to Redskins Park and hang out.

"Every month we go back there and read, and the kids are excited. Everybody loves competition and winning. If that's what it takes to get kids to read more, than it's worth my investment of time and resources to get them reading."




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