As a child, Wade Smith had to beg his mother to let him play football. It was years before she relented, but then Smith discovered he had a talent for the game. In his excitement, he let his grades slip. This part of his life, the lessons he learned and the people who helped him get back on track are the basis for Smith’s children’s book Smitty Hits the Play Books.
After receiving a degree in finance from the University of Memphis, Smith went on to play for several NFL teams, including three seasons with the Houston Texans.
During the NFL lockout in 2011 – when team owners and players struggled to reach a new collective bargaining agreement and the league shut down for 132 days – Smith decided to prepare for life after football. He started several businesses and created a foundation that promotes literacy, especially in underserved and minority areas.
One way the Dallas-based Wade Smith Foundation promotes reading is the Reading with the Pros program. Smith gives a talk to the student body about how reading can take them any where they want to go. With him are professionals from many fields including athletes, entertainers, police officers, doctors and fire fighters. The pros go to the classes to read and interact with the students after Smith’s address.
“It’s good for the kids to see someone like themselves because it helps them see they can do it,” Smith said recently during his session at the Texas Book Festival. That’s why the foundation works so hard to get a variety of professionals as these events. “I want every kid to see at least one person up there [on stage] they identify with.”
All proceeds from the sale of Smitty Hits the Play Books go to supporting the work of the foundation, which includes a scholarship program. The book is recommended for grades two through four and is the first in a series. For information about programs or to order a book, visit their website.