It was always football for Valdosta native Malcolm Mitchell. Starring on the field as a wide receiver, his passion for the game was undeniable. The University of Georgia (UGA) didn’t miss their opportunity to utilize his ability to catch a pigskin, and awarded him with a full ride to college. Unbeknownst to most, Malcolm made it through high school reading far below the level at which he should have been. If you read his bio, you will learn that he didn’t grow up in a household where reading was encouraged, nor did he have any books of his own. It was his athletic ability that would carry him through the next few chapters of his life until the magic happened.
Malcolm admits that he struggled in school, no one really understanding the depths of what was happening. One day, while perusing the aisles of the Athens Barnes and Noble, Malcolm accidentally met the person who would ultimately show him how to unlock the joy found on the pages of a book, which would completely change his life. By happenstance, Kathy Rackley was perusing as well. A conversation with her led to Malcolm being invited to Kathy’s book club, where the written tale well told about a guy who struggled to read became a published author, keynote speaker, foundation creator, and a story of hope for young people with literacy challenges.
We met Malcolm at The Read United/Reading Rally at McAllister Elementary, a program brought to the students by The United Way of the Coastal Empire. “He’s a pretty great storyteller, says Brianne Yontz, Bryan County Area Director of United Way. “Working his young crowd about the joys found in escaping into a story.” He brought each of the students a copy of The Magician’s Hat.” As an NFL fourth round draft pick to the New England Patriots, his stardom as a rookie season Super Bowl Champion precedes his presence, even though he says his successful football career is not the success he is most proud of.
After a few months of book club, Malcolm was hooked on reading, and began dreaming of writing a book of his own. He says he had stories inside that he needed to get out. Before Malcolm graduated from UGA, he published his first book, The Magician’s Hat. A book about a book with magical powers! People liked the book, and seemingly fell in love with his story as an author, too. As his professional football career began, Mitchell launched the Share the Magic Foundation, whose mission is “to unlock the potential of young lives through literacy. By introducing book ownership to students in households where reading is not a priority and inspiring below grade-level readers through innovative and inclusive literacy programming, students at risk of academic failure are empowered to read to a better future.” He travels the country as a literary crusader now instead of a professional athlete.
“In our partnership with Malcolm, The United Way is proud to bring Malcolm Mitchell’s Read United/Reading Rally to every 2nd-grade student in our region. The hour-long program combines a traditional author’s visit and a high-energy pep rally with Malcolm Mitchell! Through a truly innovative reading experience with a real magician, students receive one of Malcolm’s books,” says Yontz.