Real Men Read program promotes leadership and literacy in Matteson

MATTESON, Ill. (WLS) -- A Thursday tradition at Matteson Elementary School is bringing men from around the Chicagoland area together.

The Real Men Read program brings male volunteers into grammar schools to read to students. The program started five years after Chicago Sun Times columnist John Fountain spoke out in a column with a simple request for men to "come and read."

"I know there is a difference we make every Thursday that we come here by trying to be the change that we want to see," Fountain said. "So, what greater difference than to be a possible role model, figure or father figure or mentor to kids who need it."

Students are greeted with a warm welcome every Thursday from volunteers like Richard "Mr. Ricky" Siska, who's been volunteering since the program's first day.

"I read John's column in the Sun Times and I came because I only live about four blocks from her, and I didn't even realize the school was here until I read John's column," Siska said. "These little kids see you in the hall and they say 'Mr. Rick, Mr. Rick how are ya?,' they respond and they know that somebody really cares about them," Siska said.

Men and young men take part in the weekly ritual, including seniors from Southland College Prep, who rotate volunteering every week. First time volunteer reader Josh Small said he is excited for the opportunity.

"I heard that it was an amazing organization to give your time to younger students and to show them how important being role models are is a very imperative thing in our community," Small said.

The volunteers' efforts are paying off, and Thursdays are quickly becoming the highlight of the week for the students, like third graders Anton Dickens and Michael Akuamoah.

"I like the stories that they bring because they bring very good stories," Dickens said.

"They read and I really like to read a lot," Akuamoah said.

The Real Men Read program is always looking for more dedicated readers to join them each and every Thursday. For more information about becoming a Real Men Read volunteer, visit the Matteson School District 162 website.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.