Encouraging kids to develop a love for books and reading is the job of every adult. The simplest way is by setting an example. Unfortunately, some adults couldn't be bothered, such as our sitting president, who has been famously quoted as saying that he doesn't have the time to read books. That's the sort of excuse a middle school student makes. Somehow, his predecessor found the time to not only read books, but to shop in independent bookstores and release his annual summer book list.
Fortunately, there are other adults kids look up to who have a different attitude. One of them came to Chatham Elementary School last week: New England Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. The Pats rookie has made it his mission to share his love of reading with kids and encourage them to make reading a lifelong habit. Before a rapt audience of elementary school kids last Friday, Mitchell acknowledged that he wasn't someone who took to reading easily, struggling with it for many years. In his freshman year in college he only read at a junior high level, but he persevered. He became hooked on books and reading at first through J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and from there became a voracious reader, joining a community book club and making it his mission to promote literacy.
While still in college at the University of Georgia, Mitchell wrote “The Magician's Hat,” which uses books to encourage kids to follow their dreams. Mitchell read the book to Chatham students last week and also performed magic tricks with official Patriots magician John Duke Logan. Thanks to Mitchell, Art of Charity, the school's PTO, the Chatham Bars Inn, and the Chatham Fire and Police Departments, every student in the school received a free copy of “The Magician's Hat,” a gift that will no doubt lead to more than one child discovering the joy of reading.
Reading is not just the key to knowledge; it opens up every door imaginable. Books make life richer, encourages empathy and understanding and provide endless entertainment at little or no cost (thanks to public libraries). While formats and delivery methods may change, books will always be there to enrich and inform our lives. And with the encouragement of high-profile folks like Malcolm Mitchell, future generations will be ready and willing to make the time to proudly assume the mantle of book reader.