The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had this to say about us:
Chess for kids a smart move
Program teaches game, life skills
By Leslie Everton Brice
For the Journal-Constitution
January 14th, 2007
Within the world of childhood sports and activities, a quiet revolution is taking place.
Baseball, football, basketball, soccer, swimming, gymnastics: These are sports that might typically fill a child’s extracurricular time.
More and more kids are discovering chess as an alternative activity.
And in metro Atlanta, you can attribute at least some of that newfound interest to a program called Kid Chess.
Developed by Justin Morrison, the program has grown about 30 percent a year since it opened in 1998. Morrison, a former management consultant, was a champion chess player in high school, a three-time Georgia High School champion from 1976 through 1978, as well as Southeastern U.S. champion in 1996 and Georgia Junior Champion in 1978.
“I really kind of lucked into this business,” said Morrison. “At the time I started, I thought I’d like to coach basketball or chess.”
He opted to teach chess at an after-school program. The class became “incredibly popular,” Morrison said, and he started to realize he was onto something.
Today, he has a staff of 35 – most of them instructors, with teaching as well as chess backgrounds. About 2,800 kids are involved in Kid Chess after-school programs and home school programs. Another 2,000 to 4,000 come to chess camps or take private lessons.
“The kids just really love playing,” he said. “Chess has been shown to improve reading and math test scores, and, of course, parents love that. But our main focus is making it fun and entertaining, while teaching kids life lessons: sportsmanship, problem solving, concentration and other skills that are really important for them to learn.”
Kid Chess is a part of after-school programs in about 45 public schools in Cobb, Fulton, Cherokee and Gwinnett counties and in Atlanta city schools and private schools.
So far, the program has produced two students who have won individual National Grade Level Championships and five Georgia Grade Level champions.
Morrison says success is based on developing a love for the game.
“At the end of a school day, a lecture [class] is the last thing a kid needs. So we looked at more interesting ways of teaching.”
Kid Chess uses cartoon lessons, developed by a cartoonist on staff, to teach ideas.
“We found cartoons were very effective. The kids see them as a break from learning – they think they’re just watching cartoons!” Morrison said.
His wife, Kristi Morrison, is a former teacher. Her teaching background and his chess background were essential ingredients to the formation of the Kid Chess concept, he says.
The couple’s 6-year-old son, Brett, has been playing chess since he was 3.
“I want [Brett] to play sports, to do well in school, and to have fun – as well as playing chess,” Morrison said. “We’re not trying to develop pro players here. Chess is best in moderation, as a part of a child’s overall activities.”