West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown is used to giving impassioned speeches to rooms full of people. Thursday’s audience, however, was a little different than the usual view for the first-year Mountaineer coach.
Rather than a room full of football players, it was a room full of reading advocates as Brown was the featured speaker at West Virginia Read Aloud’s Read-A-Palooza event at the University of Charleston.
The event, which took place in the Riggleman Rotunda on UC’s campus, had the theme of “Join Team Read” — not a hard sell for Brown. The WVU coach was raised by educations with grandparents on both sides that were teachers, a father and mother-in-law that were both in education, a father who was a high school coach and principal and, perhaps most importantly in Brown’s development as an avid reader, a mother who was an elementary school librarian.
“My dad was a high school coach and a principal, so for so many of these articles on background they want to know about how my dad was a coach and now I’m a coach,” Brown said during his speech. “Tonight it’s kind of about my mom. She was an elementary school librarian. So much of who I am and what I stand for at this age and at this time in my career goes back to my mom.”
Brown spoke to the crowd of about 100 people on the UC campus for several minutes, telling stories of talking to his mother about the event among others, before bringing WVU play-by-play radio announcer Tony Caridi to the podium for a question and answer session.
Caridi, who in addition to calling Mountaineer football and basketball games on the radio is also the author of 2016 children’s book “Where, Oh Where, Oh Where Could We Go?”, asked questions of Brown for several minutes before the new West Virginia coach had to leave.
“I say this to our players and I’ll say this here: I think education sets you free,” Brown told the crowd. “I really do. If you want to control your own destiny in this day and age, you’ve got to be educated. The foundation of any education is reading.
“It provides the opportunity for life-long learning.”
According it its website, Read Aloud West Virginia’s mission is, “to change the literacy culture of West Virginia by keeping reading material in the hands and on the minds of our state’s children. Motivation is the critical first step in developing any skill and Read Aloud works to motivate children to want to read. Our goal is to involve families, the medical community, businesses, civic groups, and the society at large in building a culture that values reading.” The organization provides programs such as placing volunteers in classrooms to read to children, book distribution and public education, among other endeavors.