Giving Back: Coaching for Literacy

Giving Back: Coaching for Literacy

“Frank, I need to ask you an important question, I’m not going to be upset or disappointed by your answer, I just need to know the truth… Can you read?” asked AAU Basketball Coach, John Wilfong. Frank Herron was blessed from a young age with a level of athleticism that could take him far, but it wasn’t just his athletic ability that caught the eye of Coach Wilfong. Wilfong noticed when they were out to dinner with the team Frank would always order by pointing to the picture on the menu or ask for the same meal as his teammate. After some observation, it didn’t take Wilfong long to inquire about Frank’s reading ability and to offer his help.


It was determined that, as a 7th grader, Frank was reading at a 2nd grade level. He decided to change the trajectory of his life by switching schools, receiving more academic oversight and becoming involved with literacy programs. Through hard-work and determination Frank was able to graduate from high school, pass the ACT and receive a full scholarship to play football at LSU. Today, Frank is the not only the first person in his family to graduate from college, he has also obtained a Master’s degree and plays on the practice squad for the Seattle Seahawks.


Fast forward to 2013, Coach Wilfong’s son, Jonathan, is at school when his teacher challenges him and his classmates to make a difference. Having seen the impact reading made on Frank’s life, Jonathan thought about how many other children just like Frank existed. It was from this thought and with the help from his friend, Andrew Renshaw, that the idea for Coaching for Literacy was born. Coaching for Literacy has two initiatives designed to help accomplish their mission to give every child in America the ability to read: Fight for Literacy Games and Fight for Literacy Week.


Fight for Literacy Games are comprised of different NCAA Basketball teams who have decided to show their support of literacy by picking a game in which they will get the opposing team involved, wear green for literacy awareness, and raise money through fan support. In October the participating coaching staff and players will “lead to read” with the children they supported through their Fight for Literacy Game. Fight for Literacy Week is when local businesses, stores, restaurants and high schools become involved leading up to the Fight for Literacy game. Participating businesses will choose one day during the week of the game to promote childhood reading at their locations and donate 10% of their proceeds from that day to local literacy efforts. Another way companies can get involved is by sponsoring Fight for Literacy games. For example, International Paper has shown their commitment to fighting for literacy by sponsoring six games across the country where their employees live, work and play.


Over the past 5 years Coaching for Literacy has conducted 125 Fight for Literacy games with 50 different NCAA basketball teams while donating nearly $300,000 dollars in funding to enable 92 literacy projects in 28 states directly impacting nearly 16,000 children across the nation. Learn more about Coaching for Literacy by visiting their website at or show your support by wearing green and using the hashtag #Green4Literacy.


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