Malcolm Mitchell's 'giving tree' grows branches across New England

ROXBURY -- New England Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell had the undivided attention of youngsters at the Nathan Hale School on Monday morning as he explained to them why he has made it part of his mission to encourage them to read.

It wasn’t until he was at the University of Georgia, Mitchell explained, that he read his first book by himself. It was “The Giving Tree”, a children’s picture book by Shel Silverstein, and he picked it because it had a sticker on the front that caught his eye.

This was powerful stuff from Mitchell, the 23-year-old who played a starring role in the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI triumph and is now using his championship platform to speak to children across New England about the importance of reading and literacy as part of the “Read with Malcolm” program.

“I believe one book at a time could possibly change the world,” Mitchell explained. “If you can change one life, incrementally over time, it will eventually change the world because reading will definitely change the way one thinks.”

Monday morning’s visit, coupled with a “Teacher’s Night Out” event this evening, kicked off a busy week for Mitchell that includes 12 advocacy events -- stretching from Boston to Cape Cod and Hartford, Connecticut.

When Mitchell visits schools, he hosts “reading rallies” and is joined by Steve Gross, chief playmaker of The Life is Good Kids Foundation. Each student receives a copy of the book Mitchell wrote, which is called “The Magician’s Hat.”

Mitchell and Gross energetically read the book to students, and with Mitchell imploring the youngsters to “discover the magic of reading”, he also is joined by John Logan, a Patriots employee with a background as a magician who performs tricks.

“Growing up, I didn’t read much. I got to college and understood the importance of it, and I saw how much it changed my life and helped me,” Mitchell explained. “Now it’s a mission of mine to make sure every kid does the best they can do to be the best they can possibly be, and I believe through reading they can do that.”

After his rookie season, Mitchell believes the time is right for the program to take off in New England.

"At [Georgia], I was able to give back a lot to that community because I was embedded in it for such a long period of time. When I got drafted [by the Patriots last year], I knew I needed to focus on the main goal, making the team, and doing the best I could," he said. "With the offseason now, it’s my plan to spread the message that reading can change the world as long as I can, until I’m back to it."