WrestleMania XXV Reading Challenge kicks off
The winds blew as tumbleweeds swept through the dusty roads of an abandoned Texas town, a scene eerily reminiscent of a black and white country-western film. However, instead of dueling cowboys, WWE Superstars were enforcing something else — reading. ECW Champion Matt Hardy, MVP, Mark Henry and Raw Diva Layla were named spokespersons for the WrestleMania XXV Reading Challenge, beginning Oct. 12, and running through Jan. 12. (PHOTOS)
"I think it's really cool that as positive role models we're promoting the importance of reading," said Hardy, during a break from the photo shoot for the poster used to promote literacy. "Reading sometimes gets neglected, and what we want to do as WWE Superstars is remind teens that reading is cool and important for their future. Reading prepares you for being a successful adult in the real world. I wouldn't be where I am today had it not been for reading."
The WrestleMania Reading Challenge enters its fourth year, and WWE is again tag teaming with the Young Adult Library Services Association, the youth division of the American Library Association, and approximately 1,800 local libraries across the country to get teens to engage in reading.
For SmackDown's MVP, being named one of the national spokespersons for this year's challenge didn't come as a surprise.
"It was a natural selection. I'm better than everyone else. My intelligence is higher than everyone else's. My reading ability and reading comprehension is through the roof," said the former United States Champion.
"Teens should read for the same reasons they should've 200 years ago. There's information in books that can broaden your horizons and stimulate your mind," he continued.
In the U.S., teens in grades five through 12 are eligible to sign up for the program. Each teen will be asked to read a combination of 10 books and magazines. Students who turn in their completed reading logs will receive a WWE miniposter. Students can then enter a bookmark contest. Local libraries will choose the best bookmark submitted from each age group. A panel of judges will choose 15 finalists, five from each grade category and different regions of the country. The seventh through 12th graders will go on to compete in the national finals in Houston, the host-city of WrestleMania XXV.
Along with attending the finals of the challenge, WWE will also host the finalists at WrestleMania, held on April 5 at Houston's Reliant Stadium. The libraries sponsoring the finalists will each receive a $2,000 donation.
This year also marks the second year the program will be in the U.K., as WWE teams with the National Literacy Trust. With 2,500 schools competing, students have to write an essay persuading their favorite WWE Superstar to read one of the five books they read for the challenge. Six winners from the U.K. will win a trip to WrestleMania, but will not compete in the finals.
Layla, who has known people who were unable to read, mentioned the importance of getting teens to pick up a book and push themselves to the next level.
"If you're going to be a mechanic, a wrestler, a singer or a dancer, you have to read first," the Raw Diva explained. "If you don't like a certain book, find something or someone you are interested in — pick up a book about someone you love watching or a celebrity you admire."
Mark Henry, a University of Texas graduate, was honored to be named a spokesperson and be able to have the photo shoot in his home state.
"Reading helps you create imagination, which is essential to an individual's growth. A lot of people set limits for themselves when they don't read. They only experience what they hear and watch rather than what they see with their minds," Henry stated. "Reading has always kept my mind sharp and kept me entertained," the former ECW Champion continued. "Reading has enabled me to focus in my everyday life. Why starve for attention when you can go to another world all together by reading?"