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Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell preaches the importance of reading

PLAINVILLE, Mass. – Last year, when New England Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell held inspirational reading rallies, he did so coming off the exhilarating thrill of a Super Bowl triumph in which he played a key role.

This year, as he kicked off what promises to be a busy week for him Sunday across three different states, the feeling is a bit different as Mitchell didn’t play at all in the 2017 season as a result of a knee injury.

Nonetheless, he says he feels great physically.

And of course, his message remains the same, which ties in to what he endured in 2017.

“Reading can help you overcome adversity, can help you overcome hard times, situations that you might have been placed in and had no control over. I believe reading helps us become the best we can possibly be,” Mitchell said Sunday at the Unlikely Story bookshop, about 15 minutes from where the Patriots play at Gillette Stadium.

“This entire season I missed, it was a very adverse situation. That obviously wasn’t something I wanted. It happens in football, just like situations happen in life that you have no control over. I read during that time. It encouraged me to keep going. And this mission, for the second year, will be even bigger than last year regardless of how football season went. It’s two different missions: Become the best football player I can be, and make sure kids understand the importance of reading. One won’t affect the energy I put in the other. They’re both very, very important to me.”

As for the football side of things, Mitchell said, “I’m feeling great. This offseason will be big. Obviously I missed all of last season and I won’t shy away from the importance of making sure I’m ready when we start OTAs.”

Mitchell read his book, called “The Magician’s Hat,” to an audience of several hundred on Sunday, and also shared some inspirational words.

“I was a kid from the projects in Valdosta, Georgia. The day I decided to read I became more than that,” he told the audience.

Mitchell also told the story of how he struggled reading while at the University of Georgia, but that his decision to overcome that (the first book he read was "The Giving Tree") and join reading clubs was critical in his life.

Mitchell wrote “The Magician’s Hat” while at Georgia, and this year he has partnered with Scholastic to republish it with new illustrations and expanded text.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, in this new vibrant way,” he said. “I’m just excited for kids to look inside and see the powerful message.”

That will continue Monday, when Mitchell will be in Boston alongside Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Mayor Marty Walsh to help young readers from five different elementary schools tackle the literacy gap.

He then heads to New York, Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, to cap a weeklong celebration of reading in conjunction with his youth literacy initiative, Read with Malcolm, and nonprofit Share the Magic Foundation. The reading rallies are designed to boost reading skills and access to books for students under-resourced communities.