Redskins Read Program, team President Bruce Allen, First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe and author Rachel Renee Russell visited fourth and fifth grade students on Tuesday.
"We know you can't be hungry for knowledge if you're just plain hungry," said First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe after briefly speaking to a room full of fourth and fifth graders.
Indeed, one feeds the other, a theme that was repeated and reinforced Tuesday morning at Crestwood Elementary School in Fairfax County, where the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation teamed up with McAuliffe and Share our Strength to promote the importance of a nutritious breakfast and its correlation to academic success.
Joining McAuliffe on stage, and then later in a couple of lucky classrooms, for the Redskins Read "Breakfast with Books" assembly were Redskins President Bruce Allen and "Dork Diaries" and New York Times best-selling author, Rachel Renee Russell.
To celebrate the school's achievements in the reading program, each speaker congratulated the participating classes and offered more words of encouragement – to continue to eat nutritious meals in the morning and stay dedicated to reading in a current digital environment that can be challenging for many to do so.
"I read playbooks at a very young age," Allen said, recalling his own childhood. "We didn't have the distractions that kids have today. We didn't have a television and four hundred channels on the TV and things like that. I think if we can get back to some of the basics, it will help them in the future."
Before getting students to yell out "Beat Cincinnati" in preparation for the Redskins' next game, Allen handed out a football analogy for those in attendance regarding fundamentals – being mentally and physically in shape – and then awarded one class with special prize.
The Redskins and Share our Strength teamed up to promote the importance of a nutritious breakfast and academic success at the Redskins Read Breakfast and Books event at Crestwood Elementary School on October 25, 2016.
"They have such a great spirit here at the school and this program that we're involved in I think is helping the community and it energizes us to be a part of it," Allen said. "I want them to take care of themselves. There's a great opportunity in this community to do great things and I want to motivate them on personal responsibility on taking care of their mind and their body and I think they'll be fine."
McAuliffe, who has made healthy and affordable school meals a strong initiative during her time as First Lady, reflected on being an avid reader as a kid, too, obsessed with books about horses such as "Misty of Chincoteague" and "Black Beauty," among others.
"We hope that they take away that there are a lot of important people in this world that really care about their individual success," McAuliffe said. "An important part of that success is reading and having a great start to every day, which means a fortified nutritious breakfast every single day so they can perform their very best, because they are our future, children are our future here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It's something the governor and I care very deeply about."
Once the assembly was dismissed, she, Allen and Russell, along with her daughters Nikki and Erin, visited a couple of classrooms to answer more questions, hand out some breakfast – milk, juice, apples and cinnamon rolls – and read and listen to some passages from the "Dork Diaries" series, which offers stories about dealing with bullies and the challenges of adolescence.
Nikki, the book series' illustrator, sketched some classmates while Erin, a co-writer, read a chapter to the class. Later, the trio handed out bookmarks and posters and other themed memorabilia as a reward for the class's dedication to reading to start the school year.
"It was wonderful seeing kids and knowing that we're writing for kids, and hopefully employing seeing them in a positive way, it's the whole reason why we write," Russell said.
"I think it's important to inspire kids to aim high and to remember that no matter who they are, or what they're going through, that they are precious and important, that they shouldn't let any bully put them down, that they can learn and reach for the stars," Nikki said.