UPTOWN — Former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije held a special reading event for youngsters at McCutcheon Elementary this week, saying "education is the great equalizer."
Monday, the defensive lineman-turned-author visited the school at 4865 N. Sheridan Road to read excerpts from his DreamKidz Adventure series, which promote positive social-emotional growth and academic excellence, for National Literacy Month, according to a press release from the event.
"Working in youth programming since I was in high school, I have seen how important it is to help children understand their potential," said Idonije.
Idonije, who read to about 100 pre-kindergarteners and first graders, appeared at McCutcheon thanks to a partnership between Chicago Public School and the Chicago Literacy Alliance, a collection of more than 100 groups working to meet the literacy needs of people of all ages and backgrounds.
"I believe every child has the potential to achieve remarkable things. Education is the great equalizer and reading is the first step on that journey to learn. We need to help our children cultivate a love of reading," he said.
After being drafted by the Cleveland Browns, Idonije played for the Bears from 2004 to 2012.
While with the Bears, he also created the comic book "The Protectors," which set football players as protagonists. The series, which debuted in 2012, had the underlying message that football players are meant to perform deeds beyond the football field, according to the NFL's Player Engagement website.
The reading was an "amazing opportunity" for students to witness a professional athlete share their love of reading, said McCutcheon's Primary Dean of Students Kalina Vnoucek.
"His energy and enthusiasm really comes through in his books. His passion for children's literacy is inspiring," she said.