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Basketball legend Shaq to help out with local efforts to promote early literacy

Courtesy photo

Shaquille O’Neal will make an appearance at Hoops for Literacy, an event that will emphasize the importance of child literacy.

Carla Eckels
Prisca Barnes, President and CEO of Storytime Village, holds up "Little Shaq." The books will be given away at the Hoops for Literacy game.

Basketball legend and businessman Shaquille O’Neal will take center court at Wichita State’s Koch Arena on Saturday, Sept. 10 as part of an effort to emphasize the importance of kids learning to read. The event, Hoops for Literacy, is part of a three-day conference hosted by Wichita’s Storytime Village.

“Shaq is coming to help us really push the importance of literacy,” says Storytime Village President and CEO Prisca Barnes.

In addition to being a celebrated athlete, Barnes says Shaq is also a children's books author.

“We will ... be distributing his books to children, and they'll get a copy of the book, 'Little Shaq,' to help build their home libraries.”

In order to inspire young people before the game, Barnes says Storytime Village is launching the “Ask Shaq” writing competition.

“What we want students to do is to be creative and think about what questions would you ask someone like Shaq O’Neal.”

Carla Eckels
Zamier Witherspoon from Gordon Parks Academy shares his questions that will be submitted to basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal. Questions will be selected and posed to the basketball legend at the Hoops for Literacy game.

Barnes says quite often someone can write a question to a famous recipient but also be unsure if the correspondence would actually reach them.

“We're going to send all of these questions to Shaquille O'Neal, but a few of them will get selected and we will feature them at the Hoops for Literacy game," Barnes says. “Their picture will be on the jumbotron ... [and] we'll get to celebrate these young people for being creative and participating in this writing exercise.”

The mission of Storytime Village is to inspire a lifelong love of reading for underserved children in Kansas from birth to age eight.

The conference begins on Thursday, Sept. 8, and will include several activities including workshops, art integration and town hall meetings.

“This conference, [which is] a part of the Kansas Literacy Festival, will focus on kindergarten readiness and early literacy as one of the solutions to third-grade reading proficiency.”

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.