I have never been one much for live action sports, either on person or on TV. But, I must admit that as a child growing up during the 1990s, I did remain glued to the television whenever one of three competitions was broadcast: track and field, gymnastics, and figure skating. So, naturally, I was pretty excited when Pages & Chapters received notification four days before Christmas that the organization had been selected as part of the Get Up campaign alongside the 2017 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships that took place January 14 through 22 in Kansas City. Get Up recognizes individuals and organizations who promote strength and perseverance to get back up upon falling, no matter what the circumstances may be.
“What an amazing opportunity” were among the first words that came to mind when I received that initial email. It was exciting not only for Kansas City and the Sprint Center, as the last time the U.S. Figure Skating Championships took place in our city was 1985, but also for Pages & Chapters to receive that level of regional and national attention. More than 70 individuals were able to attend the U.S. Figure Skating Championships’ Men’s Short Program on Friday, January 20. There were so many exciting moments throughout the evening. Valerie Smith and Taylor Stitt, as well as one of our Pages & Chapters families from Académie Lafayette, received recognition from ice skating legend Scott Hamilton and Kansas City Mayor Sly James, as well as copies of Kristi Yamaguchi’s October 2016 children’s book publication, “Cara’s Kindness.”
Nothing compares to seeing ice skating live and in person compared to on TV or even a jumbotron. It isn’t until you are there, and in person, that you see just how fast the skaters are going, and how much routine they are able to accomplish in just a couple of minutes for the Short Program. I often would wince as it seemed they were going to hit the wall, but the 21 male skaters never did. Many of them did, however, fall at least once in their routines. Most of the audience, naturally, let out a collective, “Oh!” or “Ah!” These were the moments, though, in which I most wanted to clap.
Yes, it was absolutely impressive to witness 17-year-old Nathan Chen’s record-smashing Short Program performance. As the recording of Chen’s competition indicates, a good portion of the audience was already on its feet, erupting into applause, before he fully completed his routine. But, I also was awestruck when a competitor fell or did not land a spin with 100 percent accuracy, because he kept going. I can only imagine how jarring or even physically painful some of these moments must feel, with thousands of eyes watching it live, and millions more watching it through broadcast. It reminded me of why Pages & Chapters was a part of the Get Up campaign in Kansas City in the first place: Literacy is all about getting back up and trying again and again.
Literacy is a multi-faceted concept that is not always limited just to knowing how to read well. Reading, too, has five essential components – fluency, phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension — that come together to benefit the whole. Much like a competitive sport like figure skating, reading requires an individual to concentrate greatly and to apply great focus – and, a certain amount of failure and falling, so to speak, is necessary to continue to help one grow and improve.
The Short Program in figure skating relies heavily upon technical skill scoring systems, just as reading can be tracked through words read per minute and other measurements. These numeric values are great in tracking progress from a quantitative perspective, but those more “qualitative moments” of trying, falling down, and standing back up to begin again also deserve recognition.
Written by Adrianne DeWeese
Adrianne serves as the chairwoman of Pages & Chapters Board of Directors.