Chicago Bear encourages West Chicago kids to read at library event

WEST CHICAGO – Chicago Bear Martellus Bennett donated his time Feb. 22 at the West Chicago Public Library District as motivation to young readers to take part in the Youth Services’ Winter Reading Program.

Readers who met their program goal received the opportunity to play football with the Bears tight end on the library’s gaming systems.

The crowd of young patrons was divided into two one-hour sessions to meet with Bennett.

The first, consisting mostly of preteens, received autographs from the football player and took many pictures. They then faced off on Xbox, and Bennett’s team won each game, according to a library news release.

Patron Itzel Martinez brought a particularly special item to be autographed by Bennett: her personal copy of poet Shel Silverstein’s book “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” The gesture surprised and touched Bennett, the release stated.

Itzel and Bennett took turns reading their favorite poems from the book to each other.

The Bears player is writing children’s books to be published online later this year, according to the release. He also has signed a publishing contract for a short story collection for adults.

For the second session of slightly younger library patrons, Bennett convinced them to read – instead of game – with him.

As parents snapped away on their cameras, their kids took turns reading with him as he helped them with the tough words, and some sat on his lap as he read to the group, the release stated.

“The afternoon turned out to be even more than we imagined,” said Administrative Librarian Melody E. Coleman, who invited Bennett back to read his own work to young library patrons. “We are so very grateful to Mr. Bennett for his contribution to the success of our library program.”