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Listen to Rick Knapp


As pitching coach for the Tigers, it’s Rick Knapp’s job to make sure his players are prepared. He teaches them how to stay focused and always be their best at game time. As a dad, Knapp applies the same lessons — especially when it comes to reading.


“As a parent you need to take the lead,” Knapp says. “At a young age both of our children were introduced to reading, and my wife and I were both active in reading to them to prepare them for their future and for what they have to do when they are in high school and college.


“There is no better way to prepare them,” he adds. “They are going to follow the parents’ lead in reading, and when they see you read, see you creating enjoyment, it can’t help but rub off.” Knapp remembers one time when his daughter, Leah, asked him to read “The Little Mermaid” for a bedtime story. “She was about four years old, and was a little bit ahead of her time, reading-wise,” Knapp says. “It was a little bit later than usual, so I tried to paraphrase the book, and she stopped me and said, ‘Daddy, that is not what the book says.’” Unlike Leah, Knapp wasn’t much of a reader as a little kid. But when a teacher in fifth grade encouraged him to read books he was interested in, instead of just books he was told to read, his opinion changed.


“She really let me experiment, and read things that I wanted to read and do book reports on things I wanted to read,” he says.


Of course, Knapp wanted to read about baseball players! One of his favorite books was about Minnesota Twins player (and later batting coach) Tony Oliva. Knapp even followed in Oliva’s footsteps: Before he joined


the Tigers, he worked for the Minnesota Twins. “I found baseball books about where players lived and how they grew up and the things that they did as kids,” Knapp says. “I found it absolutely fascinating that Tony Oliva wore his hat everywhere, because that was me. I always wore a baseball hat everywhere we went.”


Getting hooked on reading in fifth grade is still paying off for Knapp, even after 28 seasons as a player and coach in professional baseball. “Today, I’m reading journals and I’m trying to get statistical information,” he says — and it all comes back to reading. “Reading creates resources for you that you never would have imagined.”


USE THE NEWS


Reading aloud is an important skill — and not just at bedtime. It helps build the number of words you know and it helps you use words in an effective way. Find a story in the newspaper that shows some action. It can be a sports story, a news story or a feature story. Read through it and think about which words should be stressed to make the listener feel the action of the story. Practice reading your story aloud in a whisper. Then read aloud in groups or to the class. Discuss how the stories helped listeners feel part of the action.


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