SOLON — Ann Bell knows there’s nothing more exciting than a child reading.
As a reading recovery teacher with the Iowa City school district, Bell has made it her mission to help struggling readers find joy in the printed word. If she has to write her own stories to spark students’ interest, so be it.
In 2005, Bell founded Reading With Our Future Fans, an early childhood reading program launched in 2005 which motivates readers with skill-appropriate books centered around their favorite collegiate sports teams and athletes.
The program was inspired about six years ago by a young student who loved the Hawkeyes.
“Football was all he talked about,” Bell said.
She wrote a book about Iowa football. He loved it. So did the next group of students who saw it. “They begged to read it,’” Bell said. “I knew I was onto something.”
Bell worked with the Fred Mims, the University of Iowa’s associate athletics director of student services and compliance, on the first book. When she decided to write more, she contacted an attorney who helped her obtain compliance guidelines from the NCAA. The Iowa Student Athlete Advisory Committee has adopted the reading program as a community service project.
UI athletes take pictures for Bell, who uses the images to craft her stories. The partnership, Bell said, gives students an inside look at the life of a college athlete.
“Our athletes are thrilled to be part of the project,” committee spokeswoman Nancy Parker said. “They love to see how what they do can be a story that captivates students.”
Bell has written nearly 30 books about Hawkeye sports, geared toward readers ages 5 through 7, are classified into four levels: emergent, beginning, transitional and independent.
“The goal is to motivate students, get them excited about reading,” she said.
And they are. One teacher told Bell a student loves his copy of “First Down, Iowa!” so much, he carries it everywhere.
“That makes this worth it,” said Mike Bell, Ann Bell’s husband. “This could end tomorrow and it would be a success because of that story.”
The program is slowly expanding,adding stories about Bell has written three stories about the University of Michigan Wolverines and . Books centered around Iowa State University athletics.will be added to the RWOFF Web site soon.