Malcolm Mitchell was succeeding on the field as a football player at the University of Georgia but wasn’t as successful in the classroom.
That’s when the star athlete joined a women’s book club in his college town and began his love affair with reading.
“I was looking for a group that would encourage and challenge my reading skills,” said Mitchell, now a wide receiver with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Known for his prowess on the field, he wasn’t the least bit embarrassed to also spend time discussing books with a group of ladies, all older — and, at the time, much better readers — than he.
“Football came natural. It’s a gift,” he said of his journey. “I had to work to read.”
Six years later, Mitchell remains in touch with many book club members.
“They are extremely supportive,” he said. “They treat me like family.”
Mitchell, 23, will share his story at the Bridgeport School Volunteer Association’s 50th anniversary celebration breakfast on Wednesday, May 17, at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn.
He will be the guest speaker at the event for SVA, a nonprofit organization that provides reading enrichment, tutoring, mentoring, and other programs to Bridgeport public school children.
Every year the SVA attracts well more than 1,000 volunteers from the greater Bridgeport region, including from Easton, Milford, Monroe, Shelton, Stratford, Trumbull, and Weston.
“I have learned that in order to succeed and be the best person you can possibly be, you need to be able to read,” Mitchell said.
He now is paying it forward with his Sharing the Magic Foundation, which promotes reading among young people. Mitchell spends considerable time during the off season traveling around the country to schools and other venues to talk about the importance of books.
“When teachers, parents or students share stories about their reluctant readers picking up books after hearing how reading has changed my life, it warms my heart,” he said.
The Georgia native grew up in a single-parent household that struggled economically. He focused on sports from a young age.
Mitchell earned a bachelor’s degree in 2016 and was drafted by the Patriots. He was a starter for the team last season as a rookie, and caught six passes in its Super Bowl victory. He’s also the author of a children’s book, The Magician’s Hat.
The Bridgeport SVA was incorporated in 1967 and recruits, trains and places volunteers in the Bridgeport schools. Its annual Read Aloud Day attracts 650 volunteers to read books to every pre-K to sixth grade classroom in the city.
Tickets to the Mitchell breakfast cost $50 (of which $20 is tax-deductible). For information, call 203-275-1120 or go to bridgeport.edu/svab. Learn more about Mitchell’s foundation at readwithmalcolm.com.