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Barack Obama Students Hear Retired NBA Player Stress Importance of Reading

Barack Obama students hear retired NBA player stress importance of reading


Retired NBA player and former student, Craig Hodges and his son, Jamaal Hodges, spoke with students at Barack Obama School of Leadership and STEM prior to Thanksgiving to stress the importance of being good readers and to encourage them to make a commitment to acquire a good education. Hodges was tapped for the visit because he is a Park Forest resident who went on to have a successful career in sports. He played for the Chicago Bulls from 1988 to 1992 and helped them win two NBA championships. Hodges also played for the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Phoenix Suns.  He is now the head basketball coach at Rich East High School and author of the book “Long Shot.”

“Prior to Craig Hodges’ visit, a student had expressed surprise about a poster displaying basketball player Lebron James reading a book. He didn’t think basketball players needed to be readers,” said Olivia Langle, reading teacher at Barack Obama. “We asked Mr. Hodges, a two-time NBA champion, to visit and speak with the students so they would get the message loud and clear that reading is an important part of life and you need to embrace reading no matter what future career path you take. I didn’t realize that he was a published author, so that was an added bonus because we have a major focus on connecting our students’ reading skills to the writing process.”


 During his presentation, Hodges answered students’ questions about his basketball career, tips on how to be a better player, what he was thankful for, his new book, and his thoughts about reading in general. Hodges had a great connection with the students and noted that he coaches an Obama student, David Douglas. With David’s help, Hodges demonstrated the 3 Fs that a player needs to know when shooting a ball: foundation, form, and follow-through. 

Hodges also emphasized the importance of education and told the students that listening was their number one learning tool. He was clear with the students that all of the jump shots and slam dunks that he made in life really don’t matter as much as the education that he values. He talked about the struggles of the writing process he experienced as he set out to publish his book. Hodges observed that the accomplishment of completing his book outranked any of the jump shots or slam dunks he made. 


“He set high expectations for the audience and he wasn’t shy about redirecting them when he didn’t have their complete silence and attention,” related Ms. Langle. “I think that the students were captivated by Craig’s passion for learning and they were mesmerized by the fact that he played with a lot of the big name heroes that they idolize, among them Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.  Jamaal, Craig’s son, came forward and spoke about his memories of having to do book reports for his dad over the summer. Jamaal made the kids laugh as he recalled how he and his brother once tried to turn in the same book report. Craig caught on, of course, and directed his sons to start back at square one with a different book.”


Students later wrote thank you notes to him. Amari D. Rush wrote, “Mr. Hodges, I want to thank you for coming and teaching us about how you have to read to get the game plan in basketball.  I just am glad that you could take some time off to come talk to my school about reading.” Tre A. Hawthorne’s note indicated that Hodges’ scored some points with him. Tre wrote, “Thank you for coming to my school and telling me the importance of reading. I personally really do not read and you changed that.  I am also a basketball player and I thought when you played basketball you don’t have to read.  Now I am reading more often.”

Aajah Carrell wrote, “Most of us really needed that inspirational speech about reading and life.  Some students think that if you have a great NBA or NFL job, then reading won’t really be important, but everything you learn in school IS important. Thank you, Mr. Hodges, for reminding us of that.” 



Picture caption 1:

Former NBA player Craig Hodges recently spoke with students at Barack Obama School of Leadership and STEM and stressed the importance of being good readers. With Hodges are, from left, William Bean, Senceare Chism, Jaylin Durham, and Julian Imoniruwe.