Knicks’ Starks, Cong. Crowley push literacy

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Sharrod Gorum loves to read chapter books, poetry and Harry Potter. He’s an honor roll fifth grader at Coop City’s P.S. 178.

But Gorum also likes basketball. Imagine his excitement Monday, December 8, when John Starks – a retired New York Knicks professional basketball player – showed up at P.S. 178, book of poems in hand.

Starks, a 1994 National Basketball Association All-Star and the NBA’s 1997 Sixth Man of the Year, joined Congressman Joseph Crowley for the morning read-aloud, an event sponsored by the Knicks and Cablevision.

“He’s telling us that reading is important for our lives,” Gorum, ten years old, said of Starks.

NBA teams all over the country participate in the league’s Read to Achieve program. Here in New York City, the Knicks have partnered with Cablevision for an added technology aspect.

On Monday, 42 third, fourth and fifth graders plucked from P.S. 178’s honor roll listened to Starks and Crowley read Speak to Me by Karen English. Then the students took turns. Verses read included ‘No Saving Seats,’ ‘No Such Thing as a Red Cake’ and ‘I Come From the Ones Who Lived’ – a moving poem about the transatlantic slave trade.

After speeches from Starks and Crowley, up from Washington D.C. for the event, Cablevision’s Trent Anderson and the Knicks’ Karin Buchholz passed out flashy remote controls.

The kids clicked away at a comprehension quiz, showing off their listening skills.

“This was fantastic,” P.S. 178’s Principal Evelyn Fulton said. “I’m proud of our students. We focus on literacy, with our daily reading blocks and Book of the Month club. We just received a $300,000 grant to install SMART Boards (interactive whiteboards) in every classroom.”

The Knicks approached Crowley, who picked P.S. 178 for the event.

Crowley spoke to the students about his role as a legislator and mentioned president-elect of the United States Barack Obama. Every night, the 7th District representative shared, he and his family read together before bed.

“You might think reading is work, but it’s not,” Crowley said. “It’s fun.”

Crowley enjoyed chatting with Starks, a fiery NBA player who nailed over 1,000 three-point shots between 1988 and 2002. The Congressman played high school basketball, he said.

Starks, 43, lit up Madison Square Garden as a Knick, dunking over the Chicago Bulls’ Horace Grant and Michael Jordan during a 1993 playoff contest. But the Oklahoma native also went un-drafted out of college and bagged groceries for years before making the league.

Now a Knicks alumni spokesman, Starks preached determination Monday.

“I just want to encourage the kids to read, set goals and reach for the stars,” he said. “Whether you want to be a basketball player or a Congressman, you need to know how to read.”

Starks, a Connecticut resident, reads newspapers, books and magazines. He is particularly fond of Golf Digest.

“When I was young, I read a book about Paris and pictured myself there,” Starks said. “Low and beyond, I grew up and traveled to Paris. Read a book and take your mind on a trip.”

Cablevision operates a Power to Learn website where kids can score postcards from current Knicks.

“We say reading is important, over and over again. But for some reason, when our players say it, you guys get it,” Buchholz told the students Monday.

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