UH men's basketball game Saturday will benefit local literacy work

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The nationally-ranked University of Houston men's basketball team plays a national-televised contest against Wichita State on Saturday. But, this game is more than just the Coogs' conference home opener.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson and his staff will be wearing green lapel pins and wristbands during Houston's fifth annual #Fight4Literacy game organized by Coaching for Literacy. All the money raised at the sold-out contest will stay in Houston and go to locally-based Literacy Now.

"If you just donate $10, we can provide two books to a child in the Houston area," said Carleen O'Reilly, the executive director of Coaching for Literacy. "We also provide tutoring and resources, like a literacy kit to help kids get excited about reading. When you have Coach Sampson agreeing to wear the lapel pin and the green wristbands, then people start the conversation. They wonder what's going on, why they are wearing that and learn why it's important when you start hearing the statistics."

The statistics are alarming. The Texas Education Agency reports more than 60% of Houston-area third graders do not read at grade level. The opportunity to impact his community with more than wins and losses is why Sampson said he is involved.

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body," Sampson said Friday on a Zoom call with ABC13. "Being able to do something like this, I think, is great. It makes our kids understand the importance of being role models and taking that seriously. There are a lot of young kids that look up to ours, and when they can see them outside the court, they realize they're a lot like them."

That's why Saturday's tilt is not just a game, and also why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

As the presenting partner of the #Fight4Literacy, International Paper has guaranteed a minimum donation of $10,000.The company will also match local donations up to $5,000. Last year, the game raised $15,725 for local literacy efforts.

Additionally, fans can help raise funds to improve literacy in the Houston area by supporting participating businesses. On Saturday, Nekter Juice Bar will raise awareness about the issue of illiteracy and donate a portion of their sales to Literacy Now. All fans have to do is mention Houston's #Fight4Literacy Game at checkout.

Houston's game vs. Wichita State tips off at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Fertitta Center.
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