Husky Sport is a community-campus partnership that began in 2003. It works within the City of Hartford’s North End and UConn's Neag School of Education. Husky Sport staff and student-volunteers work to build positive connections. They engage with youth, families, teachers, and community partners in the City of Hartford. The engagement happens through in-school and out-of-school partnerships. All programs and partnerships emphasize health and wellness.
Ready, Set, Read! is a Husky Sport literacy skill-building program. It is a school-time program and students and their teachers participate. Each week students in grades K-2 participate in a lesson. The lesson includes a section about USDA's MyPlate, a physical literacy skill, and a life skill. Each lesson includes reading a book aloud and a game/activity. As a special component, every month there is an added healthy recipe tasting. The recipe showcases one section of MyPlate.
“Husky Sport does well with theme topic/curriculum planning and incorporating activities and snacks that are healthy. Their presence in the school makes an impact for students to see another set of eyes on them. It also helps teachers to see another aspect of how to incorporate sports/snacks into their daily schedules.” - Wish School Teacher in the end-of-year evaluation 2016-2017
Hands-on Snack Preparation
Each cycle of Husky Sport includes a hands-on snack preparation. Snacks reinforce nutritional themes of USDA's MyPlate. Staff use Snap4CT.com, to pick a kid-friendly recipe. Staff choose the recipes based on:
- Ingredient access
- Connection to MyPlate guidelines
Husky Sport staff divide and engage students in small groups while making snacks. Students work together to create a healthy snack tasting. In each lesson, students learn how to read a recipe and interpret the directions. Lessons include cleanliness and cross-contamination. The students bring recipe cards home to family members. This encourages healthy eating and cooking at home. At home, students can also showcase the skills they learned during Husky Sport.
“We really like the days when we get to taste new foods, especially the apple pancakes and pinwheel sandwiches. We also liked when we got to play with vegetables of all different colors during the 5 senses activity!” - Students in grades K-2 during a mid-year focus group
Physical literacy is the ability to perform important gross motor skills. Every cycle of the Ready, Set, Read! program focuses on a physical literacy skill. Students learn to increase bodily awareness and motor skills to prevent injuries. Skills include activities such as:
- Hand-eye coordination
The staff select Ready, Set, Read! books that highlight a similar physical literacy skill. Following the reading, the group copies the physical skills from the book. For example, during the agility-themed cycle, they used the book “Ready, Steady, Mo” by Mo Farah. This book shows agility skills Farah gained as an Olympic Gold Medalist. After the reading, the students played a fun relay-style ladder drill. They also did jump rope activities. These activities taught agility and related to Farah's experience in the book.
Selection of Books
The Ready, Set, Read! Program is dedicated to choosing diverse children's books. It is important for students to read books with main characters that they can identify with. This helps students draw a greater connection to the theme. It also helps students develop a greater love of reading and learning. Husky Sport staff working with Ready, Set, Read! participate in trainings lead by program stakeholders. Staff are trained to enhance their delivery of activities using inclusive books.
“A large majority of the children's books published each year contain white main characters. The second most represented main characters are animals. Students are looking for themselves in the books we read, they want to imagine themselves tackling the same challenges, learning the same lessons, or participating in similar activities. It's important that we choose books for our lessons that represent the diverse world around us, not only when it comes to race and ethnicity but also gender, ability, culture, etc. In order to do this, we work with Program Leaders to examine these inequalities in education, publishing, and representation and learn best practices for creating inclusive lessons!” - Cassandra Therriault, Ready, Set, Read! Program Coordinator
Staff and Volunteers
The Ready, Set, Read! program is run by Husky Sport coordinator, Cassandra Theriault. Her staff includes Husky Sport staff and UConn student volunteers. Cassandra and Husky Sport staff develop lessons based on the pre-selected themes. Cassandra guides decision-making to ensure books are appropriate, relevant, and diverse. UConn student volunteers help divide and engage students into small groups. They build meaningful connections with students. These connections and literacy skills are reinforced through two weekly Ready, Set, Read! lunch bunches. At least one student from each class gets to enjoy lunch with Husky Sport staff. At lunch, they read books and discuss healthy school lunch and nutrition options.
2017-2018 by the Numbers
- Number of Schools - 1 - Wish Elementary School
- Days of Programming - 1 - “Read Mondays”
- Weeks of Programming - 26
- Number of K-2 Classes - 7
- Number of Students - 140
- Length of a Program Session - 40 minutes
- Total Program Time per Week - 4 hrs, 40 minutes + 1 hr Lunch Bunch
- Total Program Time per Year - 121 hrs, 20 minutes + 26 hrs Lunch Bunch
2016-2017 End of Year Evaluations
What students had to say:
- 122 of 144 students said: It is very important to me to be a good reader.
- 109 of 144 students said: I like when reading is part of the school day.
- 124 of 144 students said: I like when UConn people read with me.
- 102 of 144 students said: Reading in small groups is my favorite.
- 120 of 144 students said: I like doing activities with UConn people.
What teachers had to say:
- 9 of 12 teachers strongly agreed that: students enjoy eating the healthy snacks provided.
- 9 of 12 teachers strongly agreed that: students are learning valuable lessons about nutrition and healthy eating.
- 11 of 12 teachers strongly agreed that: students enjoy the sports and games we play together.
- 11 of 12 teachers strongly agreed that: students are learning important life skills from the sports and games we play together.