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Malcolm Mitchell kicks off literacy for young readers

Author Malcolm Mitchell, left, joined Director of Instructional Service & Policy Sarah Welch on stage as they took questions from Fannin County students.

By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer

“The dreams that are within you brings out the magic in these books. Follow your dreams and it will take you where ever you want to go,” Malcolm Mitchell said.

Hundreds of preschoolers, kindergarten, first and second graders filled the Performing Arts Center Aug. 22 for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Mitchell and his “Read with Malcolm” foundation.

Mitchell, a retired wide receiver New England Patriots Superbowl winner, University of Georgia graduate and most of all, an author with a message of magic with words.

As a child, Mitchell struggled learning to read, grappling with a fear of words. A native of Valdosta, he came home as a child telling his mother football wasn’t going well and “I can’t read.”

As he followed his mother to the kitchen, she taught him a valuable lesson.

She said, “Malcolm, you need to look deeper. In life we’ll face challenges and adversity.”

She told him a tale of a carrot, an egg and coffee beans, each going into their own pots of boiling water.

They all came out changed into a different form except for the coffee beans that did not allow the water to change them.

While his challenge in life wasn’t boiling water, it was reading. Once he arrived at UGA Mitchell transformed, tackling his extreme challenge and turning it into a tool to help him become a better person.

“Once I discovered the magic of reading, I decided to make it a commitment of mine to share with as many people as possible,” he said.

Each student sat through a set of tricks performed by a magician waiting to follow along with Mitchell as he read his book “The Magician’s Hat.”

John the Magician, performing for 15 years, astounded the audience with tricks that included pulling a string of colored cloth from his once-empty hands, changing a blank book to a colored-illustrated one and calling some students on stage to perform a cup trick with an appearing ball.

Lastly, Mitchell came on stage as they called a student named Albany to help in an upside down cup trick on her head that changed orange juice to an orange.

Mitchell discovered over years of observation that books were magic, using words to take us to places we always dreamed of going.

“Reading can be fun and an adventure. Reading helps you escape and takes you to other places,” he said.

Mitchell’s message was clear, books open up a world beyond football, making any possibility part of someone’s future. Winning “Children’s Author of the Year” from the Georgia Writer’s Association in 2016 opened his future beyond football.

Now he’s on a mission telling young readers, “The only boundaries are those we create for ourselves. Dreams will only be postponed by each person’s own doing.

Follow your heart, follow your vision and follow your dreams, for they will take you wherever you want to go,” he said.

His youth literacy initiative allows “Read with Malcolm” to transform the lives of young readers by encouraging reading as a priority to improve literacy in schools with students below grade-level reading skills.

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