Leiah Groom-Thomas, Director of Education for F3, will take the lead on developing and expanding F3's Soccer & Literacy Branch, which includes F3 After-school and Summer programs as well as a Train the Trainer Program. Leiah is in the final stages of receiving her PhD in Reading and Literacy in Early and Middle Childhood from The Ohio State University. Her research expertise includes young children’s literacy and comprehension skill development. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Leiah was a teacher at Grace Christian School in Blacklick, Ohio where she also assisted in organizing and operating various camp programs.
The objectives of the program are to foster a love for reading, generate enthusiasm for the game of soccer, and develop an understanding of teamwork and leadership.
Soccer & Literacy
The first Soccer & Literacy Program took place in June 2019. Final Third Foundation, in partnership with Columbus Recreation and Parks Department (CRPD), held a week-long Summer Camp at Eakin Elementary each morning from 9am - 12:30pm.
The program was a success, with a total of 26 participants. Every child played soccer, read many chapters of Born to Play (a soccer novel series for children), and participated in art and writing projects. Eakin Elementary staff have asked F3 return to the school and expand its programming to provide after-school soccer and literacy programs.
In order to improve the quality of the program, Leiah Groom-Thomas, Director of Education for F3, took the lead on developing and expanding the Soccer & Literacy Program. In March 2020, after-school programming began at Eakin Elementary School just before the COVID-19 Pandemic. Since then, F3 has partnered with a local nonprofit, Urban Resurrection Community Development Corporation (URCDC), to provide an eight-week virtual soccer and literacy program while using the Born to Play novel and curriculum. So far, the program has been a success.
Each day, partipants work on footwork and soccer skill exercises that last for 30 minutes. Afterwards, Mrs. Groom-Thomas reads the Jamie Johnson series novel, Born to Play, and engages with the children using the Born to Play Teaching curriculum. Areas of focus include:
Peer-to-peer reading and writing
Vocabulary and Comprehension
Group discussions about literary elements and character development
Life Lessons and critical thinking
"One of the most valuable aspects of this program has been facilitating reading and literacy instruction through discussion-based pedagogy based on what we are reading. Our conversations have been rooted in various life lessons and experiences that a lot of kids can relate to, regardless of their individual background knowledge or prior experience. Kids are engaged with the reading and therefore have a vested interest in discussions. We talk about how to handle adversity, how to engage in problem-solving activities using critical thinking and reflection, using textual evidence to support claims, and contextualizing new vocabulary and learning concepts to bolster reading comprehension. So far, it has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to continuing this work in the coming weeks," says Groom-Thomas.
Sandra Harris, Executive Director for URCDC, said “The program has been outstanding with the planning and execution of the literacy lessons and soccer skills instruction. All of the responses have been appropriate and adjustments have been made as needed. F3 is very respectful of the children and conducts themselves in a professional manner at all times.”
Jamie Johnson Series
The Jamie Johnson Series follows a young boy who lives and breathes soccer. He's got amazing talent and the desire to make it to the top. He's not perfect, but then none of us are. In each new book of the series, we follow Jamie on every step of his journey as he aims to fulfill his dream of becoming one of he biggest soccer stars in the world.
Born to Play
Born to Play is the first in the series. It is not a "how-to" soccer book - it's a great story with ups and downs, twists and turns. It will get the kids thinking, and they will learn life lessons. Schools throughout the country are adopting the book and its teaching curriculum.