Magic, OCPS’ reading program making an impact in Orlando

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A sold-out crowd of 18,846 screaming and uplifting fans helped give the Orlando Magic the boost they needed to secure their home win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

Less than 24 hours later, a group of nearly 3,600 fourth and fifth graders from Orange County Public School created a similar atmosphere in the Magic arena.

Not because Jalen Suggs made winning plays. Or because of a Wendell Carter Jr. dunk.

But because of Friday’s event, Magic and OCPS hosted at the Amway Center as part of their Pick, Read & Roll program, which encourages local children to improve their reading skills.

“So that we can come here and put smiles on kids’ faces and help them have a good time, that’s what it’s all about,” Suggs said.

“[The kids] were almost as loud as [Thursday] night we were getting ready to go out, which is crazy.

An Orange County Public School student rushes to center court to deliver a book during the Pick, Read & Roll event for Orange County Public School students at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on Friday, November 4, 2022.
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Suggs and Carter were among the Magic players who answered questions, shared their favorite books/magazines, and participated in teaching-related basketball activities.

The annual program, which is open to fourth-grade students at OCPS, rewarded those who had the most significant improvements in reading during the 2021-22 school year.

“My biggest thing growing up – basketball was never a need or anything,” Carter said. “It wasn’t like anything wasn’t happening, I wasn’t going to make it. My parents put me in a situation where I was going to be good regardless. Basketball can end for anyone anytime, but when you have your mind, you have your intelligence, you are very wise and intelligent, no one can take that away from you. That’s really what I like to preach to kids: to be able to study something or do something that no one can take away from you.

Orlando Magic basketball players come together to celebrate and answer questions from fourth and fifth graders from Orange County Public Schools during the Orlando Magic Pick, Read and Roll event to recognize the reading improvements in Orlando, Florida on Friday, November 1.  4, 2022.

The Pick, Read and Roll program has had a tangible impact since its inception in October 2018 and the inaugural event the following year. Friday was the third event on the schedule.

Since 2019, students at participating Title 1 schools have seen a 30% increase in reading scores compared to students at Title 1 schools that did not participate, according to Orange County Public Schools.

“Kids look up to players and whatever a player says, they cling to their every word,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “When a player can say ‘it’s important to read’, ‘it’s important to have favorite books and subjects’, it sticks with the children and helps to motivate them. Player involvement is a important part of the program and it is a real motivating factor for the children in general.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Prize to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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