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story.lead_photo.caption Malcolm Mitchell, wide receiver for the New England Patriots, talks with the students Thursday at Theron Jones Early Literacy Center. Mitchell was in Texarkana to tell students about the importance of reading and to develop a love for reading in all children through the initiative Reading with Malcolm. Photo by Evan Lewis / Texarkana Gazette.

Super Bowl-winning football player Malcolm Mitchell spoke to students at three Texarkana Independent School District elementary schools Thursday about the charm of reading.

Mitchell, a wide receiver for the New England Patriots, told the students that books are a form of magic that can take them anywhere they want to go.

"I thought that reading wasn't that important," Mitchell said to students at Highland Park Elementary. "When I got to college, I understood that in order for me to be the best person I could possibly be, in order for me to reach every goal I set for myself, in order for me to succeed, I need to read."

Mitchell founded nonprofit youth literacy initiative Read with Malcolm to introduce book ownership to students in whose households reading is not a priority, and to improve literacy in schools with below-grade-level reading skills.

A magician performed tricks, and Mitchell read his book "The Magician's Hat" to the students, who were each given a copy. The story is about children who go to the library and meet a magician with a magic hat. He tells the children to think about what they want to be when they grow up, and when they reach in the hat, they will get a book on that career. One girl wants to be a dentist, and she pulls a book on teeth. A boy who wants to be a star athlete retrieves a book on football.

The final boy, who disbelieves the magic contained within the hat, tells the magician he wants to be a dog when he grows up. He reaches in the hat and pulls out a book on space travel, realizing the hat knew he wanted to be an astronaut.

"I honestly and truly believe you can be whatever you want to be," Mitchell told the children. "I believe you can accomplish whatever goal you set for yourself, regardless if it's football or sports-related, you can be whatever you want to be. I promise reading will help you succeed. Whatever you want to do, whatever you want to be, you have to read."

"The Magician's Hat" has been distributed to more than 18,000 students in schools, children's hospitals and community service organizations. For more information on the program, go to
readwithmalcolm.com.

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