(Media release from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning):

Picture this: Me, Malcolm Mitchell, the Super Bowl Champion, sitting in a classroom with my heart pounding like a drum as my teacher announces the day’s reading activity—round-robin reading. My stomach still churns with unease. I shift nervously in my chair, my eyes darting around the room, searching for an escape route that does not exist. As our teacher began to assign passages to students, my palms grew sweaty, and my throat as dry as the desert heat.

My greatest fear was not poverty, the color of my skin, or fleeing tacklers after a Tom Brady reception. My greatest fear was reading aloud. The fear of reading is an unspoken, but very real, phenomenon that does not discriminate. It extends beyond the simple apprehension of reading challenging texts; it is a dread that can hinder personal and professional growth, limit access to information, and impact self-esteem. This process starts by the time a child enters Pre-K.

Statistics show children with the lowest reading scores account for 65 percent of all children who do not graduate from high school. That could have been me. Due to my athletic ability and several people believing in me, I was able to attend The University of Georgia. On campus is where my literacy challenges became apparent. In order to maximize my potential, I needed to improve my ability to access information. I decided to dedicate myself to reading as much as I had to football. As part of the Georgia Football’s community outreach initiatives, I visited schools – primarily elementary schools – to read children’s books to students. There I saw firsthand what an impact stories and the ability to read them had on young learners.

That is what Georgia’s Pre-K Week is all about. Every year elected officials, public servants, and former professional athletes get together to read to students in Georgia Pre-K classrooms. In its 30-year history, Georgia’s Pre-K has served more than 2 million four-year-old children in the state of Georgia. Third party longitudinal studies show that Georgia’s Pre-K improve school readiness for the 60% of four-year-old students that attend the program statewide. This concludes that participating students are less likely to experience the same feelings of stress and anxiety that I felt when asked to read aloud.

For me, reading unveiled new horizons and helped break through barriers that others predicted would hold me back. But reading is just a ticket in the door. High quality early learning experiences have been shown to help lower the possibility of students being help being held back, reduce dependency on public welfare systems, and lower involvement in the criminal justice system (everything that plagued my community).

This year, I want to encourage you to join me, Voices for Georgia’s Children, and the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning for Georgia Pre-K Week (October 2-6) and read to a child at school or at home.

Trust me, it is more rewarding than winning a Super Bowl!


The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) is responsible for meeting the child care and early education needs of Georgia’s children and their families. It administers the nationally recognized Georgia’s Pre-K Program, licenses child care centers and home-based child care, administers Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, federal nutrition programs, and manages Quality Rated, Georgia’s community powered child care rating system.

The department also houses the Head Start State Collaboration Office, distributes federal funding to enhance the quality and availability of child care, and works collaboratively with Georgia child care resource and referral agencies and organizations throughout the state to enhance early care and education. For more information, go to www.decal.ga.gov