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Cave Man Club

The Cave man Club at Whispering Meadows Elementary School encourages boys to read with mentors and sports. Video by Cathie Rowand

Whispering Meadows Elementary fourth-grader Levi Weber reads “Henry Aaron’s Dream” alongside Homestead High School senior and baseball player Tyler Zimske. The boys gather weekly under the tutelage of Karin Soat and others to spark interest in reading.

Opening up a rich, new chapter in boys’ lives

Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
TinCaps General Manager Mike Nutter reads “Casey at the Bat” to boys in the Cave Man Club on Monday at Whispering Meadows Elementary School. The club promotes reading by incorporting sport mentors and sport activities.

For one boy, cracking open a book became his introduction to the magical boy wizard Harry Potter.

For another, one flip of a cover was his entryway to the 1941 Major League Baseball season, laid out in vivid and colorful detail through drawings of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

Another boy was entranced by the pages that detailed the goings on in the Emerald City located in the realm of Oz; another was deep into the goings on in the head of Duck Dynasty’s Si Robertson.

For Karin Soat, it didn’t matter so much what the fourth- and fifth-grade boys were reading at Whispering Meadows Elementary School on Monday afternoon.

The fact they were reading anything at all is what really mattered.

“You give them a basketball, and they’ll have the opportunity to play,” the Whispering Meadows teacher said.

“Well, we’re giving them a book to give them the opportunity to read, and not just at home alone in their room,” she continued.

The group of 24 or so boys who gathered at Whispering Meadows under the tutelage of Soat and other teachers is dubbed the Cave Man Club.

With study upon study showing that many grade-school boys are reluctant to read, Soat and others at Whispering Meadows conceived the Cave Man Club to get boys at that school into the printed word.

Every Monday, the group meets in “the cave” in a loft above the school’s library.

Usually, topics that might appeal to the boys are suggested for reading – for the month of January, it was baseball.

But the boys can essentially read what they want.

Along with some time with each other and books, Soat and the others bring in various guests and speakers to talk to the children.

Last week, members of the IPFW baseball team came to read with the kids and talk about the importance of academics.

Monday afternoon, members of last year’s Homestead High School’s baseball team came to speak about how education and reading helped them later in school.

“OK, who read over the holiday?” Soat asked the children at the start of Monday’s meeting.

Several kids raised their hands, and when Soat began talking about reading one of “The Hunger Games” books their eyes lit up.

“I liked the action and the fighting,” one boy gleefully said.

“I liked the suspense,” another chimed in.

“My favorite part was the bees,” Soat said. “In the book, I thought that was so well described.”

Shortly after, it was announced that someone had brought popcorn and juice down to the cafeteria, news that elicited an excited gasps and ohhhhs from the boys.

They quickly ran down the stairs, grabbed books of their choice and headed out and to the tables of the cafeteria, where they munched on snacks and devoured the little stories in their hands.

One boy talked over George Washington Carver with a Homestead ballplayer.

Another read about Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play in the Major Leagues during the modern era.

A teacher handed out a sheet of baseball trivia to the kids, which led to more excitement.

And led to more reading.

Soat hopes to bring blogging into the fold at some point, allowing the kids to share their ideas of reading outside of school and give each other ideas of books to read about.

For now, though, she loves seeing what they’re doing.

“They’re excited to read,” she said.