Gamecocks run in to kick start the event.

Gamecocks reading to the children.

Reading was at the forefront as University of South Carolina football team members, and, cheerleaders, partnered with Richland Library on July 20 at Drew Wellness Center for the annual Pigskin Poets event.

For 22 years, Pigskin Poets has been promoting literacy and the importance of reading during the summer. Football players, cheerleaders and Cocky joined together to promote reading, no matter your age. Over 100 excited, little Gamecocks came to the event. The event is also part of the library’s summer learning challenge where the idea is to prevent children from falling into what is commonly referred to as the “summer slide.”

“We want to keep folks’ minds active, keep their brains flowing this summer so they’re both physically and mentally active,” said Emily Stoll, community and media relations coordinator at Richland Library.

The event started with the football players breaking a banner as they run into a room filled with young fans cheering them on. The football players then ran into the crowd of children and embraced them with high fives and big smiles. The books chosen for the players to read to the kids this year were Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Yo! Yes? The event continued with games and autographs being signed by the players for the young fans.

The goal is for the players to show that reading is an important part of learning and can be done at any age. Offensive lineman, Donnell Stanley, came back for his second year because of his experience the year before.

“I just always love giving back to the community. Anything with the kids is always fun for me, so I love being here,” said Stanley.

Darion McCloud, professional storyteller and creator of the event, said it’s hard to pick out one particular moment that is his favorite.

“One thing, it’s just a great event. It’s a lot of fun. Football players have a certain cache in the public and to see them interact with these kids and literature being the focus; the center bringing all of us together, it’s a great drive for literacy,” said McCloud.

Samantha Hansford, Columbia resident, has been bringing her daughter for the last four years and said it’s the highlight of their summer.

“For them to show children that reading is important, even football players, even cheerleaders, even Cocky read. I think it’s really important that we instill that in our children, and to have people like the Gamecocks come out and do this is just a great event every year to come out to.”

Stoll says that they hope to continue the event as long as it’s making a great impact on the community and everyone’s having a good time.