How I Found My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World

I hope through my new book young readers will learn that there is a special book out there for everyone. Sometimes it can be hard to find, and sometimes the best stories are found within ourselves.


When I was a kid, if someone told me that I would grow up to become a published author and founder of a youth literacy foundation, I would have laughed and kept walking. Even now when I see the title of my latest picture book, My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World, I shake my head, not quite believing that book has my name on it. But the truth is, this story comes from my own personal experience as a struggling reader who found a path to loving books. My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World is the story of a kid named Henley, who goes on a search for a special book, but like me, he has a few challenges along the way.

It took me a very long time to find my personal reading voice and understand that there is no such thing as a natural born reader. At birth we are all given the physical ability to eat, sleep, cry, and use the restroom. We must learn how to talk, walk, and read. The rate and prowess at which we learn these skills are determined by our environment and social interactions. Therefore, it is no surprise that I grew up a striving reader, scared and embarrassed to recite the heavy words discovered on pages. It is no surprise that my physical attributes disproportionally outclassed my desire to learn. Growing up a superstar athlete with a secret fear of reading was my way of life until I turned eighteen years old.

In Valdosta, Ga., where I grew up, my community promoted two pathways to a better life for little black boys like me. Being an athlete and being an entertainer—those were the two. Both having very prolific identities that do not require a tremendous about of traditional education for success. I was no different than the other kids, so I did what felt natural. Play football and neglect school. School presented challenges every day and so did football practice, but overcoming physical adversity was on trend with my neighborhood’s culture. Reading books not so much.

Fortunately, through athletic scholarships and people who believed in me, I was able to go to college. That is where my reading struggles really reared their ugly head. Trips to the grocery store were stressful because there was so much reading involved in the simple act of buying food. I would misread labels and grab the wrong items. Once, I picked up applesauce thinking it was apple slices. I didn’t notice my mistake until I got home and realized that it was my inability to understand the differences in the wording on the labels that caused the mistake. Reading mishaps kept happening. I realized that I needed to make an important decision. If I wanted to be a better version of me, I had to become a stronger reader.

I learned that just like football, reading takes a lot of practice. I found a new team to support me along the way—I joined a woman’s book club. I always had a book on me, and I read every free moment I had. Once I found my reading voice, my interest in reading had no limitations—I read fiction, nonfiction, children’s stories, romance novels, sci-fi thrillers, and autobiographies. Just like Henley in My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World, I found a love of reading and writing that was hidden inside of me!

My journey with reading created a desire in me to inspire others who struggle with reading. So I started a nonprofit, Share the Magic Foundation, whose mission is to transform the lives of children through literacy. Through the Foundation’s Read with Malcolm literacy initiatives, we strive to accomplish our mission by providing books and innovative programming to students living in underserved communities.

I hope from this story young readers understand that reading plays an important role in our overall development, that in order to succeed you must read. I hope through my new book, My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World, young readers will learn that there is a special book out there for everyone. Sometimes it can be hard to find, and sometimes the best stories are found within ourselves.

Malcolm Mitchell is the author of The Magician’s Hat and the rookie who helped the New England Patriots win Super Bowl LI. Malcolm’s passion to introduce book ownership to students and improve literacy in schools inspired him to create innovative and inclusive Read with Malcolm literacy initiatives.

Share the Magic Foundation offers free Virtual Reading Challenges throughout the year that infuse the concept of a sports theme with reading as part of their Read with Malcolm programs. The next free national reading challenge is READBowl: The World Championship of Reading. Kicking off on January 11, 2021, READBowl runs for four weeks called “quarters” and culminates with Malcolm announcing the World Champions on February 7. Registration for READBowl opens November 12. Visit for information and registration.



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