Super Bowl Champion Hosts Reading Rally for Thomasville Elementary Schools

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Photo by Jill Holloway/The Thomasville Times-Enterprise

By Jill Holloway

THOMASVILLE- Students from Harper and Scott Elementary were in for a treat on Tuesday when they attended a Reading Rally at the Thomasville Center for the Arts featuring Valdosta native and former Super Bowl champion Malcolm Mitchell.

Mitchell was raised in Valdosta, where he played football and was named to the Under Armour All-American team his senior year. He went on to play for the University of Georgia, finishing as a top 10 all-time receiver.

However, Mitchell’s real achievements happened off the field.

During his time at UGA, Mitchell was recognized as the national captain of the All-State Good Works Team for his frequent visits to elementary schools to read to students and discuss literacy.

Mitchell was the first student to win this award at UGA and would go on to win the National Higher Achievement Award for his success beyond athletics. Mitchell’s love for literacy led him to receive a degree in communications in 2015 from UGA. In addition to adding a degree to his list of achievements, Mitchell was also able to say he published a book. In 2015, he authored his first children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat,” through a youth literacy initiative known as Read with Malcolm.

In 2016, Mitchell established his foundation, the Share the Magic Foundation, whose sole purpose was to transform children’s lives through literacy. The foundation is responsible for events like the Reading Rally, which was made possible through donations by local businesses and a matching grant from the Share the Magic Foundation, along with a Literacy Matters Grant from Congressman Sanford Bishop and Thomas County Family Connection.

During the event, all children in attendance received a copy of Mitchell’s children’s book, “My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World.” Additionally, children were able to understand the importance of reading, while interacting with a magician, who needed his instructions to perform tricks for the children.

Mitchell began the fun-filled morning by having children stand up and partake in his “warm-up routine” that he completed before every football game, allowing them to get all their wiggles out before the interactive experience.

Mitchell told the students that growing up he loved to play football more than anything. However, during his time playing his favorite sport, he said he learned a very important lesson.

“I learned that if I wanted to grow up and be the best I could be and accomplish my goals, even as an athlete, I needed to read,” he said. “I’m here today to encourage all of you to be the best readers you can be so you can grow up and accomplish your goals that you want to accomplish.”

Mitchell went on to say that even though he knew reading was very important and the key to success, he was afraid of books.

“I thought some words were too big; I thought some sentences were too long and I thought some books had too many pages,” he explained. “I learned though that if I practiced reading as much as I practiced football, it would get easier and easier.”

Realizing that reading could be fun and get easier, was magical to Mitchell.

“I learned that reading and books could take you anywhere to do anything,” he said. “So any time I travel and talk about reading I bring a little magic with me.”

Mitchell then introduced a magician, who interacted with the kids through a variety of tricks, requiring reading the instructions to make the tricks work. He additionally taught kids the importance of bookshops and the variety of unique reads they carry, including his magic book.

His magic book started blank before students threw imaginary markers at it to turn the pages full of colorful drawings.

Students were stunned to see the amazing transformation of a book that could be found at a local bookstore and the endless possibilities that one story could have.

Upon the conclusion of the magic show, Mitchell returned to the stage, where he read “My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World,” which was based loosely on his childhood experience.

The book detailed a child who was required to bring a book to class, but the student struggled to find a book that didn’t have confusing words and wasn’t too long or difficult. The trouble of locating a book to bring back to class, led to the student writing his own short story, filled with drawings detailing his journey to find “the perfect book.”

Mitchell then asked the kids aloud about some facts from the story, ensuring they understood what they read, before making them promise they would try and be the best readers they could be as they grew older.

Mitchell said he knows the students wouldn’t be able to progress their reading skills without age-appropriate books like the one he authored and is thankful to the community, who all donated to ensure each child had a book.

“We can yell read all we want, but if we don’t give them materials to read at home how can we expect them to engage?” he questioned. “Today, we were able to address that, so I’m thankful for the community support.”

Mitchell explained that with the community backing, he was able to bring the importance of reading to children of all backgrounds and cultures.

“One of the challenges I faced with reading was seeing its value culturally in a way that I understood,” he said. “Share the Magic Foundation shares why this skill is important and gives every one of a different background permission to engage because it is cool and it is fun and will make a difference in the outcome of their life.”

Director of Federal Programs for Thomasville City Schools Nathan Espy thanked Mitchell again for his attendance, saying it was such a blessing to give students the experience to hear from him.

“We wanted to create a memory for our kids and I’m thankful we got to do that today,” Espy said. “The kids were totally engaged and responded well to Malcolm and his team.”

With books in hand, the students cheered loudly for Mitchell as he exited and headed to his next Reading Rally, continuing to inspire students for years to come.

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Krystin Dean
GaFCP Communications Specialist

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