S’MORE summer reading camp students traded their books for hockey sticks last week when a few rookie players from the Nashville Predators stopped by.

The program was one of eight non-profit organizations to receive a visit from rookie players from the Nashville Predators Development Camp on June 27.

“Our players love to give back to the local communities who give us so much support,” said Andrew Serpico, youth hockey and fan development coordinator with the Nashville Predators Foundation. “They really enjoy this.”

The four-week S’MORE program sponsored by the Literacy Council of Middle Tennessee stresses reading and comprehension and is free of charge to students who qualify.

Twenty students were enrolled in the inaugural program last summer, according to Literacy Council Executive Director Sandy Lovett. This year, the program serves 33 students from Gene Brown, Whitten and Lakeside Park Elementary Schools.

“It was so successful last year, they were asked to increase the number of students this would be offered to, if possible,” Lovett said. “The teachers tracked their literacy levels and there was improvement across the board throughout the year.”

Lovett said students are recommended by their school counselors as those who would benefit from a program that keeps reading skills at the forefront during the summer months. The program is funded by local individuals, businesses and organizations.

Linda Varnado of Community Church, where the program is held, coordinates with vendors and sponsors to provide free meals and snacks.  

“Every day a different restaurant brings us lunch,” she said. “We’ve had an outpouring from the community. It’s just been awesome because that’s the only way we could offer this free of charge.”

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