Powell's and Mitchell at Promise Night

Opinion

Reading Created a Path that Led Me to the Super Bowl

Malcolm Mitchell

Starting college, reading was not a priority. Maybe the ease of running a route, or the immediate gratification of catching a pass soothed enough.

Eventually I grew tired of always struggling in class. Putting as much effort into reading as I put into football practice became a necessity to grow into the person I so dearly wanted to be: A person who does not run from their inabilities, but embraces them, learns and uses each challenge to become better.

Earlier this year, I was very fortunate to be a part of the Super Bowl winning team. It is such an unbelievable honor to be a member of the New England Patriots. Football has always been one of the accomplishments of which I am most proud.

Malcolm Mitchell with children
Photo credit: Read with Malcolm.

My other proudest accomplishment has been becoming a better reader, inspiring kids to embrace reading in order to change their lives, and turning my love of reading into becoming a published author. A person that has found words to be just as soothing as a touchdown.

I even found a team to support me along the way.

Junior year of college, I joined a woman’s book club—becoming the only male, and the youngest in the group by an entire generation. But that did not matter. In fact, when someone called me a nerd, I wore it as a badge of honor.

General Colin and Alma Powell stand with Malcom Mitchell as he accepts his Promise Hero award.
General Colin and Alma Powell stand with Malcom Mitchell as he accepts his Promise Hero award for his work with literacy and youth at Promise Night. Photo credit: ©2017 ImageLinkPhoto.com

My mother taught me that it doesn’t matter where you come from, nor where your journey begins. The only thing that matters is that we wake with the interminable intentions to be better than we were before.

I truly believe in order to be the best person you could possibly be, you have to open up a book. You have to open your mind to the opportunities that the world has to offer. In order to reach your full potential, you have to read. In order to succeed, you have to read.

If football is all I am remembered for in life, I will have failed my mission: to help other people experience the power and magic of reading.

Read with Malcolm.
Photo credit: Read with Malcolm.

That is why I started the Read with Malcolm Youth Literacy Initiative. Our mission is to transform the lives of young students through literacy. Our main goals are to introduce book ownership to students in households where opportunites to read are not readily available, to improve literacy in schools with below grade-level reading skills.

Through school visits and Reading Rallies, we are able to personally share our core message that reading is a critical component and necessary skill for us to compete effectively in life and to fulfill our maximum potential.

So, as we celebrate International Literacy Day, I want kids everywhere to know: The most life-changing thing you could ever hold in your hand is… a book.

This story is part of the #Recommit2Kids campaign, marking the 20th anniversary of America’s Promise Alliance and calling the nation to recommit to action on behalf of children and youth.

Malcolm Mitchell is a wide receiver for the New England Patriots and founder of Read with Malcolm. In 2015 he wrote The Magician’s Hat about the magical power of books and has plans to release a new version of the story on Feb 27.