MISSOULA, MONT. - The Missoula Osprey with help of their partners United Way of Missoula County & Sylvan Learning kicked off the clubs biggest and most successful community program, Hit the Books in 31 area elementary schools on Monday.
The Osprey started the Hit the Books Reading Program in their inaugural season in 1999 and has seen participation grow over time. 5,276 students spanning 246 classrooms are participating in the 2014 edition of Hit the Books, where annually nearly 50,000 books are read.
"Hit the Books is one of the best reading programs in all of professional baseball," said Osprey Vice President/General Manager Jeff Griffin. "The program is incentive based designed for Missoula-area students to set goals and follow through with achieving them over a seven week period."
"Learning should be fun and reading should be a joy for all kids," said longtime supporter and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Missoula County Susan Hay Patrick. "We are happy to partner with the Missoula Osprey on Hit the Books to help give over 5,000 Missoula County kids not only baseball tickets, but a love of reading that will benefit them for a lifetime."
Hit the Books is set up like a baseball game, meaning there are nine innings (three books equals one inning), where students receive a different prize for each inning completed. Every student that participates gets a letter of achievement, a free ride at the Carousel of Missoula and is entered to win a Kindle Reader and a summer of tutoring at Sylvan Learning. Other prizes include Osprey themed school supplies, an exclusive dessert party with team mascot, Ollie and ticket vouchers to an Osprey game. Over $100,000 in prizes was awarded to area students in 2013.
The program culminates with a celebration at one of eleven Osprey home games designated as Hit the Books Nights, where students are honored for their achievements.
"Sylvan Learning is excited to partner with the Missoula Osprey to encourage young children in our community to develop a love for reading," said Michael Hoag, Director at Sylvan Learning.
"The program wouldn't be what it is today without the support of our partners," said Griffin. "We are also very proud of all of time the students and teachers put in to make it a success. Educators tell us the program helps motivate students as summer vacation approaches."