As he watched and listened to a class of second-graders singing to Baby Shark, Mavericks’ guard Josh Richardson couldn’t help but think about when he was in elementary school.

Growing up, he had a favorite book that his mom gave him when he first started reading.

The Treasure Tree,” Richardson said. “It’s about these four friends, they’re all animals, who are trying to get to this tree and they have learn about each other and find keys to unlock it. It’s about their adventure.”

That book, along with a lot of guidance from his parents, helped formulate Richardson’s core values, which he said is to treat other people with respect and the way you’d want to be trea ted.

That was a primary message as Richardson met virtually with kids from Sidney Lanier Elementary School on Friday afternoon. He read a book to the kids, took questions, played a spelling game and, of course, sang along with Baby Shark.

Friday’s event tipped off the Mavs Reading Challenge, presented by Whataburger, a 40-day program designed to improve literacy throughout the DFW area. Mavericks’ legend Cedric Ceballos emceed the festivities.

When it comes to the three “R’s,” it’s hard to do the last two if you can’t do the first. Richardson stressed the importance of diving into a good book, starting with The Day You Begin, which early in the story, is about walking into a room where nobody looks quite like you.

After the reading, Richardson said to the kids: “I’ll say this book is about accepting others and not just judging people by the way they look. We’re all different.”

After a spelling game in which the kids had to identify misspelled words, Richardson introduced the kids on the Zoom call to his dog, Champ.

It was a fun hour, but Richardson said he’s longing for the time when he can do such things in person. Last month, he donated sneakers to a group of front-line medical workers, and had to do that with a recorded message, rather than being there.

“It’s different, definitely,” he said. “I’d much rather have been able to go to that classroom and be with the kids and high-fived them and all the little things and fun stuff. I love working with the kids.

“But right now, we’re going to have to settle for the Zoom calls. With the front line workers, I would have loved to have gone to the hospital and hear their stories. But Zoom calls and recorded videos for now, are all we have. Hopefully after we get past this, I’ll be right back out there in the streets as soon as it’s safe.”

Among the questions Richardson got from the kids was when he got involved in basketball and who taught him the basics.

To which, he said: “My mom actually taught me how to play basketball. She coached girls high-school basketball when I was growing up. She actually was my trainer until I got to college.”

He said he got started at age 7, roughly the same age as the second-graders to whom he was speaking.

It was a appropriate on a day that was meant for the kids.

For more info: The Mavs Reading Challenge presented by Whataburger is a 40-day program designed to improve reading literacy throughout the DFW area and encourage the love of reading for kids of all ages. The Mavs and Whataburger are challenging students (K-12) to read, or be read to, for a minimum of 20 minutes per day for 40 days. If participants log and complete the Mavs Reading Challenge by March 31, they will receive a Whataburger Certificate of Completion, a free Whataburger Jr. Coupon, valid at participating locations, and a Mavs swag bag. For more information and to sign up, visit

Twitter: @ESefko

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