For­mer NFL player makes read­ing fun at Es­sex li­brary

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­pub.com

On Thurs­day, June 29, for­mer wide re­ceiver for the New York Jets and Wood­lawn High School alum Tavon Ma­son vis­ited the Es­sex branch li­brary to im­part his love of read­ing on the area’s youth.

Ev­ery sum­mer, the for­mer foot­baller trav­els to lo­cal li­braries as part of his “Tavon Ma­son Loves the Kids Read­ing Pro­gram” where he reads his fa­vorite sto­ries and teaches chil­dren the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion and lit­er­acy.

“One of our big ini­tia­tives is just to go around and read

to the kids,” he said. “We want to try to make lit­er­acy fun again, kids these days don’t want to read books any­more, they just want to...” he said, pan­tomim­ing typ­ing on a cell­phone.

The chil­dren gathered around Ma­son ex­cit­edly as he be­gan to read the first book, “Don’t Let the Pi­geon Drive the Bus!”

“Who here likes to read?” Ma­son said. He was greeted with a flood of tiny hands shoot­ing up into the air.

In be­tween sto­ry­time, Ma­son would en­cour­age the chil­dren, and even some of their par­ents, to stand up and do some ex­er­cises like jump­ing jacks and sit-ups to shake off their ex­cess en­ergy.

The fi­nal book Ma­son read was his own, “Tavon Does It All.” Fea­tur­ing a car­toon draw­ing of Ma­son, the chil­dren’s book was writ­ten two years ago af­ter Ma­son wanted to use his own story to in­spire fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. In­side the book’s cover in a photograph on him in foot­ball uni­form at Wood­lawn High School, an old re­port card, and a copy of his col­lege diploma.

“I know it’s sum­mer, but school is very im­por­tant,” he told the in­tently lis­ten­ing crowd of chil­dren.

As a youth ad­vo­cate, Ma­son says that par­ents and teach­ers have to play a pos­i­tive role in their chil­dren’s’ lives, by sup­port­ing them and push­ing them to suc­ceed.

“’Dare to be great”’ is the slo­gan we use at our foun­da­tion. I know peo­ple say to shoot for the stars, but we want you all to go be­yond the stars, no mat­ter what any­one tells you, what they say you can’t do. I didn’t think I’d ever play in the NFL and I made it there, I grad­u­ated from col­lege, and I wrote a chil­dren’s book.”

Ma­son cre­ated the “Tavon Loves The Kids” Foun­da­tion in 2011 with the help of other ad­vo­cates in­volved with the Bal­ti­more County Pub­lic School sys­tem. Along with pro­mot­ing read­ing with these read­ing tours, one of their big­gest ini­tia­tives is to col­lect slip­pers for chil­dren in the hos­pi­tal. Ma­son has vis­ited sev­eral DMV area hos­pi­tals this year, sur­pris­ing the pa­tients with the gifts. Since 2012, the foun­da­tion has col­lected over 2,000 pairs of slip­pers. They also col­lect cloth­ing for the East­ern Re­source Cen­ter and the West Side Men’s Shel­ter along with toi­letries, books, cloth­ing, and food to sev­eral women’s shel­ters.

They also pro­mote causes like re­duc­ing child­hood obe­sity and pro­mot­ing healthy nu­tri­tion and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ma­son also vis­ited the Parkville-Car­ney and Sollers Point li­brary branches last week.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Tavon Ma­son Loves the Kids, visit www.tavon­ma­sonloves­thekids.org.

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