Team gear on, books in hand, 20 members of the eighth-grade boys basketball team at Crone Middle School in Naperville went back to their roots and experienced a form of mild celebrity.
Reading to youngsters, other kids just like their former selves, the middle-school hoopsters did a good deed for students at Graham Elementary in Indian Prairie Unit District 204.
"It's an easy way for the boys to give back and to answer some questions with the little kids and be a good example for them," Crone coach Eric Williams said, "and at the same time try to emphasize reading."
The tradition is called Team Read, and Crone's eighth-grade boys and girls basketball squads have been conducting it for the past several years. Williams said occasionally he has the football team join in as well earlier in the fall.
During the most recent Team Read, Graham's library media center director Michelle Shiles selected two books per grade level for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. As the Crone basketballers hopped off a bus one morning shortly after Thanksgiving, she handed them to the boys to read in various classrooms.
"It's one of our highlights every season to give back and read to the little kids," Williams said.
After 20 or 30 minutes of age-appropriate stories, read by eighth-grade boys who had been given a quick lesson in speaking loud and clear, the kiddos got to ask anything they wanted about the big, brave world of middle school.
Hot lunches, riding the bus and gym class were the subject of most queries, which the boys answered with pride.
"The little ones just look up to these kids a lot," Williams said. "A lot of hero worship."