This NBA Referee is a rock star reading role model!

We all have role models in our lives, whether they’re parents, teachers, or other members of the community—people who inspire us and have a lasting impact on our habits, goals, and decision making.

With this in mind, it is imperative that students see THEIR role models reading books and enjoying them! In fact, research from the Kids & Family Reading Report™: 6th Edition found that parents are kids’ #1 source of encouragement to read books for fun, followed by teachers and school librarians. To emphasize the power of reading role models, Scholastic and the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) teamed up to preset TIMEOUT for Reading, a unique mentoring program designed to deepen literacy and instill a love of reading in students through NBA referees volunteering in 6th grade classrooms.

Since November, NBA referees have been visiting schools in NBA cities across the country as part of TIMEOUT for Reading to read to students, distribute free books, and promote the importance of literacy in their personal and professional lives.

We recently caught up with NBA referee J.T. Orr after a visit at the Harvard School of Excellence in Chicago to ask him about his experience in the program and how he embodies a reading role model both in the classroom and at home with his family.

Check out the conversation below!

What was one memorable moment from the TIMEOUT for Reading visit in Chicago?

The book we read, Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, is a collection of very short stories, each describing an individual participating in a community garden. Each character is diverse and appears to have nothing in common with the others. Following every chapter, we would have a discussion regarding the person we just read about. My memorable moment from the visit at Harvard School of Excellence would be the great interaction we had while communicating how we felt about each character—it was interesting to see how the students felt more connected to certain characters than others.

Why do you think reading aloud, is so important?

Reading aloud with a child is so important at any age because it helps build self-confidence! In the 6th grade classrooms I visit through TIMEOUT for Reading, I’ve found that students reading aloud with their peers helps them learn to project their voices and provides more opportunity for them to become comfortable speaking in public. With public speaking being many people’s number one fear, this can be a very valuable vocational skill.

As a parent yourself, do you have any tips for other parents on how to be an impactful reading role model?

I feel it's important to not only encourage your children to read, but to allow them to see you reading. In fact, I think it's just as important (if not more important). Our girls read for 30 minutes when they get home from school every day and I occasionally join them. We take turns reading and they seem to really enjoy the time together.

Do you have a favorite reading memory with your family?

Our girls are teenagers now, so the books they're interested in have content that allows us to have some really good conversations. And, because we're using the book as foundation for the discussion, it's not as awkward as just bringing up the topic cold. I love hearing their opinions on teenage subject matter.

Image via Bernadette Grant-Hill