Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett was supposed to spend Saturday afternoon playing video games with 60 children at the West Chicago Public Library.
But he flipped the script and opted to spend most of his time reading to them instead.
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"With the first group I was playing video games, but then I felt like there was not too much substance in it really, so the second group I was like, 'We should read a book instead,'" said Bennett, who read to the kids from "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein. "It had a lot of fun and creative stuff that they could be engaged in. ... You don't get that many chances to encourage them to read. And they play video games all the time. I just like creativity and imagination."
Children had a chance to hang out with Bennett Saturday afternoon through the library's "Read to Succeed" winter program. The catch was the kids had to qualify by reading eight books of their choice between Jan. 4 and Feb. 17.
The library promoted the program on its website and though West Chicago Elementary District 33.
Getting the Bears star to appear wasn't an issue.
Shelley Campbell, the library's public relations specialist, knows him through her daughter, Jennifer, who is best friends with his wife, Siggi, from their days at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
"He was thrilled to help the kids, to help motivate the kids for the Winter Reading program," Campbell said.
Bennett is an author himself. He wrote the children's book "The Wanna-Bees" and a forthcoming collection of short stories called "Books That Make No Sense in the Place of Make-Believe: Dinosaurs, Astronauts and Cupcakes."
Saturday afternoon, Bennett started out playing Madden NFL Football on the Xbox with some of the kids, then read them poems from the Silverstein classic.
The children took turns reading and sitting on his lap, and along the way they picked up lessons about life, love, taxes and manners.
"The first place to look at when you want to blame someone is in the mirror," Bennett told the kids. "Then your parents."
True wealth, he said, is in your mind, not in your pocket. Knowledge is power, and the more information you have and the more you read, the more valuable you will be in society, he said.
Some still wanted to play video games, but Bennett didn't give in to the pressure.
"We're going to read books. You know why? Video games, they destroy your brains," Bennett told the kids.
Heather Karlson of West Chicago appreciated Bennett's last-minute substitution and said it also worked better for her children Jakob, 8, Linnea, 7, and Torsten, 4.
"I love it, I thought it was a good example," she said. "A good example of a role model