Retired New England Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell visited M.R. Weaver Elementary Aug. 29 to spread the message about his love of reading.
Mitchell’s appearance in the school’s auditorium was preceded by each child receiving a copy of his book, “The Magician’s Hat.” In it, a magician reveals the magic contained within books to a group of children. Along the way, they learn that reading offers the answer to their most heartfelt wishes.
While Mitchell earned a Super Bowl ring playing for the Patriots, he describes his proudest accomplishment as his work as an author, public speaker and founder of the Share the Magic Foundation, which promotes reading among elementary age students. “We focus on book ownership and creating digital platforms for teachers to encourage their students and just overall sharing the love and motivation for literacy,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell describes the journey that led him from athlete to author. “I grew up in a low-income environment and it was easy for me to gravitate to sport, but I didn’t fully understand the importance of an education,” he says. “I figured in order for me to maximize my potential, I should be a reader. I had never read a book.” He describes his first attempt to become a reader as a failure. “I went to a bookstore. I picked up a book. I opened it, and I said forget this, I’ll just keep playing football.”
Mitchell’s mother had other ideas and inspired him to continue improving. “There’s a difference in being the best football player you can be and being the best person you can be, and being the best person you can be lasts a lot longer,” he recalls her telling him. Mitchell’s passion for reading began to draw attention during his collegiate football career while he was recovering from an athletic injury. During his downtime, he began reading voraciously and quickly went from struggling to read at a junior-high level to joining local book clubs, reading to local school children and writing poems and short stories. Now, he has authored two children’s books and is recognized for his award winning Read With Malcolm literacy efforts.
Mitchell’s tour of Louisiana schools was arranged by the Rapides Foundation as part of their Geaux Read Tour, which focuses on childhood literacy. Joining him on stage were M.R. Weaver students and staff and his friend John Logan, a magician with whom he performed while playing for the Patriots.
Having experienced a long journey toward literacy that extended into his adulthood, Mitchell is an enthusiastic emissary to students who need encouragement while learning to read. During his three-day visit to the state, he’ll speak to elementary students across nine parishes. He estimates he’ll visit around 4,000 students during his tour of Louisiana schools. “I’ll be here, visit as many schools as (they) like, give out as many books as we possibly can and hopefully encourage kids to find a love for reading,” he says.