Muhlenberg College and Jefferson Elementary Dream to Read

By Bill Keller

Each year in early January, before the spring semester is underway, the Muhlenberg men’s and women’s basketball teams gather in the parking lot outside Memorial Hall. The teams aren’t preparing to depart for an away game, but excitement fills the air just the same.

Just 10 minutes later, the players arrive at Allentown’s Jefferson Elementary and are quickly prepped on the schedule for the day by staffers from Muhlenberg’s Office of Community Engagement. They’re here to participate in Dream to Read, a Martin Luther King Day of Service event that pairs the College’s athletes with local students. As part of the day’s programming, Muhlenberg students meet with children, read books that explore issues of equity and diversity, participate in a discussion of the books’ themes and messages and get to know some of their younger neighbors.

The first graders listen to Muhlenberg students read We March by Shane W. Evans, a book that explores the historic civil rights march on Washington, D.C., through the use of illustrations. Fifth graders hear Freedom on the Menu by Carole Boston Weatherford, a book told from the perspective of a youth observing the Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-ins. During each reading, Jefferson students are encouraged to ask questions and reflect on both the content of the book and their own personal experiences.

“Dream to Read is always a great time that our basketball teams look forward to during winter break. It’s a chance for us to engage with our community and makes being part of the Muhlenberg basketball team more than just basketball,” says Sara Dilly '19, a guard on the women's team. “We read and talk about Martin Luther King and the importance of working together to make the world a better place. It’s always fun to hear what the kids think, and we hope they enjoy the day as much as we do.”

The event is one of the many examples of the enduring partnership between Muhlenberg and Jefferson Elementary. Other collaborations include Jefferson Field Day, held at the College each May, and weekly visits from Muhlenberg students to assist with arts, theatre and other after-school programs.