Big Ten and Chicago Schools SCORE Big With Reading Campaign

Feb. 1, 2011

The Big Ten Conference has long been a leader to not only its 11 members institutions, but to its peers on a national level as well. But it's the opportunity that Big Ten sought 21 years ago that has made a difference in the conference's home city of Chicago.

Commissioner Jim Delany began his tenure at the Big Ten Conference in 1989 and wasted little time making an impact on his community. In January of 1990, Delany and the Big Ten sought an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Chicago's metropolitan youth, developing a reading initiative, Success Comes Out of Reading Everyday (SCORE). This program, which began with one school and two classrooms, has grown to now educate over 500 Chicago kids annually, providing assistance to each classroom in each grade at two metropolitan schools; Melody and Armstrong Schools.

"Consistent with the concept of service learning that is encouraged on our campuses," Delany stated, "SCORE has been a vehicle for the conference office and its staff to make a positive difference in the community in which if finds itself. SCORE is a living example of the conference's increased desire to assert its value of academic priority in the lives of student-athletes, and of providing quality educational opportunities for young people of all races."

The SCORE Program, at its core, aims to motivate students to develop an affinity of reading throughout ones lifetime. The conference works with administrators at each school to create goals that are set by the students, teachers and parents with intent to involve the whole learning community in the process. Teachers and parents aim to integrate reading into all subject areas to emphasize the importance of reading.

Each school year begins with a SCORE assembly where the students present to the Big Ten staff members, parents and teachers, skits and performances geared toward the SCORE mission and Big Ten universities. Many of the students research each university and present some facts about each institution, including school colors, mascots, majors and sponsored sports. Each year the students elaborate on what was done before, making this year's performances some of the best.

"It truly is a great way to kick off each school year," exclaimed Big Ten director of branding Robin Jentes. "Whether it's seeing the kindergarteners give the Minnesota chant while wearing Gopher masks or seeing the way kids have changed the lyrics to a popular song, incorporating the importance of reading, really shows that the teachers and student understand the importance of this program and its emphasize on reading."

If you were to attend one of these assemblies, you might feel out of place though. Not because you don't teach at or attend the school, but might be the only person not wearing this year's navy and orange sweatshirt. The Big Ten starts off each winter by providing a SCORE sweatshirt to the entire student body and staff at the two schools. If you have been with the program since its inception, like Melody Principal Dorothea Lattyak, you might have 19 different colored sweatshirts lining your closest.

"It's about the little gains each day," said Lattyak. "And the little gains add up. Our students feel a part of the Big Ten Conference. They are proud to have the conference take an interest in them. They make the connection to the institution which inspires them, while also building pride within their own education. This program has changed our kids over the years. As educators, we want to teach our kids that this in not a means to an end, rather a whole world awaits."

In addition to the kick off assemblies, the conference staff has volunteered to judge science fairs and participate in Chicago's Principal for a Day Program. Both events really get the staff involved in what is happening in the classroom and engaged with the students.

"We have done a number of things to show the children that reading is enjoyable," stated Lattyak. "The more they read, the more they will improve. The trip to the bookstore with their teacher and the conference is powerful."

While the conference knows the interaction with the kids and teachers is the most powerful way to help a student achieve reading goals, this would not be possible unless there is a library full of books from which to choose. The Big Ten rewards students who have reached their goals, attended class regularly and have been exemplary children by taking them on an annual trip to a local bookstore. These students, along with their teachers, are given a stipend to buy books for their grade level or classroom. Providing books that are popular at the time or just keeping the library well stocked, can motivate the students to excel in reading.

Melody School has showed its support of the Big Ten as well. Currently hanging in the hallways of the three-story building are banners of each of the 11 member institutions, along with other Chicago universities. It's a daily reminder to the students that education starts here and doesn't stop after high school because that success can come from reading everyday.

This reading initiative, now in its 21st year, has provided assistance to nearly 10,000 Chicago students and for a conference that is steeped in athletic success, it might be this SCORE that many of these kids remember most.