49ers Kickoff Kindergarten

49ers Kickoff Kindergarten with Library Unveiling and Story Time

While the city of San Francisco shares its excitement for 49ers football every Sunday, it was the 49ers players who were imparting their passion for reading this Tuesday with four kindergarten classrooms at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School.

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In cooperation with the Bring Me a Book Foundation, 49ers owner Dr. John York, San Francisco Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, and members of the 49ers were on hand to unveil four new bookcase libraries filled with books for the school. The players included offensive linemen Joe Staley, Joe Toledo, Cody Wallace, and tight end J.J. Finley who used their day off to show their respect for schools and the community by donating their time at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School.

The school's principal said the visit will help motivate the students.

"It's not enough to say that I care about the children every day. It's not enough for the teachers to say it. This demonstrates to them in a tangible way that the whole community is expecting something great from them," said Principal Tamatrice Rice Mitchell. "The 49ers didn't just drop off some books – they took the time to read to the kids and participate in an activity."

The morning opened with a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony, and the players kicked off the school year with a bang by reading the book Chrysanthemum, a respect-focused text, to the kindergartners in each of the four classrooms. The students listened intently as their favorite players animatedly shared the story and illustrations.

"It's fun to go back and see how they start off and the stuff they learn to begin with," Wallace said. "It's amazing to see how simple it begins and going up through college how much you really develop."

Getting back to the kindergarten level was a fun flashback for the four young players. They each talked about their own favorite books growing up, including Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go, Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and Maurice Sendak's *Where the Wild Things Are.
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"I loved reading when I was a kid," Staley said. "My mom is a librarian so she read me books all the time. It's good to come back here and read to the kids. They love it!"

After the reading, the players and students worked together to create their own handmade books to tell a story about what the word 'respect' means to them.

The players also participated in recess time and then autographed copies of Chrysanthemum for each of the children to take home as a memento.

"It was really cool to sit there and read the book to them, and watch how excited they were for us to be here," Toledo said. "The smiles and excitement are what makes it all worth it."

The 49ers Foundation also made the day a little brighter for the Bring Me a Book Foundation by presenting a $10,000 grant to support initiatives like Kindergarten Kickoff.

"The 49ers actually made the $10,000 donation so that we could donate the bookcase libraries and the First Teacher's Training for the parents that we'll have. That encourages the parents to read to their children to complement the teachers reading to them in the classroom," Judy Koch, founder of the Bring Me a Book Foundation, said. "We are here to support what the 49ers want to accomplish: that all students have books."

Providing support for organizations like Bring Me a Book is important to the 49ers, and having the players find these initiatives as significant is icing on the cake for the 49ers Foundation.

"The 49ers Foundation is all about helping the community and we have a strong interest here in the Bayview Hunter's Point area because we actually play our games in the shadow of this area." 49ers Foundation Director Reg Duhe said. "As you can see, these kids are really enthralled to see the 49ers players and to see the commitment that adults really care about them."

While the kids were excited to be read to by their favorite players, it was mutually rewarding for everyone involved.

"It was unbelievable: after we finished the book, all the kids came up and gave me a high-five and a hug," Finley said. "It doesn't get much better than that."

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