KIRKLAND – Hiawatha Elementary School fifth-grader Jacob Sterling is proof that reading can pay off.
Jacob was one of three students at his school who won the grand prize in the Bears’ Tackle Reading program reading contest: A visit April 26 to the Walter Payton Center at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, where he met Bears’ mascot Staley Da Bear.
“I think he’s still talking about it,” said Kim Sterling, Jacob’s mother. “Whenever someone he hasn’t seen [visits], he mentions it.”
The other winners were fifth-grader Perla Gonzalez and fourth-grader Zachary Bennett. All of the students had to read four books and write a book report on each one to be eligible to win.
Jacob chose to read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” the popular book series that follows a boy through middle school.
Hiawatha students were first introduced to the reading program in December, when Staley Da Bear visited the school thanks to Kirkland Public Library paying for the program and school assembly, said Angie Messenger, Hiawatha school library media specialist.
Only 21 students submitted the book reports in order to qualify for the grand prize, Messenger said.
“It pays to read,” Messinger said. “Those three students were able to reap the benefit of that. Going that extra step and being rewarded, it pays to read.”
During his visit to Halas Hall, Jacob also met Bears cornerback Isaiah Frey. Kim Sterling said Frey is now her son’s favorite player.
Students went to different stations at Walter Payton Center that were set up to teach visitors football skills such as proper tackling or how to catch a football, Sterling said.
When one the drill was over, Jacob was always the first one in line at the next station, Sterling said.
Jacob also got to take home a T-shirt, a hat signed by Frey, and a goody bag.
Sterling said her son was motivated to participate in the reading program.
“He came home and said, ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to win this,’ “ Sterling said. “He was very excited about it. He just wanted to do it.”