Hockey players prove they read, too

First Posted: 11/12/2014

The Back Mountain Memorial Library’s Children’s Room was abuzz on Tuesday night with the antics of Tux, mascot for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey team. The affable penguin was accompanied by the team’s Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations Mike O’Brien and star players Matt Murray and Alex Boak as they welcomed guests at the library’s very popular Story Time.

O’Brien took the opportunity to observe Veterans Day, reminding the children of those who had so willingly served our country as he led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Murray, a goal tender, said his love for both skates and books started early. He first remembers being on the ice at the age of 5. He said reading was an important part of achieving success throughout life.

He also stressed the importance of teamwork.

“In sports and in life, it is necessary to work with others to accomplish a goal,” he said.

Boak, a defenseman, can often me found on the team bus – reading!

“Reading helps with homework, helps you do well on tests, all the way through college and beyond,” said Boak.

Boak’s favorite book? The entire Harry Potter series.

To the delight of over 50 area residents, the players read aloud three children’s books geared to movement and team spirit with plenty of lively input from Tux. Not only did the mascot clap, dance and do hand motions, he also did a perfect flip amid cheers from young attendees.

Debby Kirkwood took her grandchildren Emma Simon, 10, and Maverick Simon, 2, to the event for an opportunity to emphasize the importance of reading and enthusiasm for the Penguins during their 16th year of play.

“They are doing really well this season,” said Kirkwood. “We are already looking forward to spring playoffs,”

Kirkwood said some of her favorite memories of her grandchildren are trips to a hockey game before they were even a year old.

Emma Simon, clad in an autographed Penguins jersey, often celebrates her birthday at the arena.

O’Brien treated the children to “Miracle on Ice” by Michael Sandler, the story of the 1980 Winter Olympics at which the American hockey team earned a goal medal by defeating the Russian team.

The book shares the inspiring story of their Coach Herb Brooks, who, in the midst of public doubt the American team could beat the Soviets who had trained together throughout their lives, told his team, “this moment is yours.”

O’Brien emphasized the value of encouragement and positive words.

Nine-year-old Kaden Coyne had the chance to play “catch” with Tux during the reading of “Can I Play, Too?” by Mo Willems, a story encouraging children to include others during play.

Lisa Bealla said she and daughter Brooke live close by and are regulars at library events.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to come out on a beautiful night and enjoy the library,” said Bealla.

Following the reading time, Tux, O’Brien and the team members stayed to sign autographs and to encourage youngsters to read and be fearless in pursuit of their dreams, whatever they are.

Youngsters also had an opportunity to win a Penguins cap or a team bobblehead doll.

Many attendees also took a picture with Sunny Cuddles, a very large teddy bear that greets children as they enter the children’s room. Sunny was dressed in Penguins gear especially for the event and many of the youngsters gave the fuzzy guy a quick squeeze.

Children’s librarian Janet Bauman said the library is proud of the Story Time program which affords youngsters an opportunity for reading and a chance to get to know others.

“The Penguins team have participated in the reading event for many years,” said Bauman, “and we look forward to them continuing for many more. It’s certainly a favorite with children and adults.”

Those who wish to obtain more information about Back Mountain Memorial Library programs may call the library at 570-675-1182.

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