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Feature

Erasmus James and some children

Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Erasmus James, right.

Lineman shares love of reading

Book drive donations go to African American Read-In

December 2, 2005

Heads turned Tuesday, November 29, at a Cub Foods store in north Minneapolis. Normally focused cashiers paused to smile and point and customers left half-bagged groceries at checkout lanes to join fans gathered in the lobby to get the autograph of Minnesota Vikings 2005 first-round draft pick and starting defensive lineman Erasmus James. But this was no ordinary sports autograph session; it was a book drive. James teamed up to share his love of reading with the African American Read-In (sponsored at the University of Minnesota by General College), Cub Foods Broadway, the local nonprofit organization Increasing the Peace Feeding the Least, and the Jordan Area Community Council. Books donated at the drive will be distributed to participants at this year's 17th Annual African American Read-In on February 5-6, 2006 (see sidebar) and to the Network for the Development of Children of African Descent.

The African American Read-In

The Read-In is a General College literacy initiative to increase reading and writing skills in African American students and encourage reading and writing across the curriculum. To celebrate Black History Month in February, schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens host Read-In events in their communities the first weekend of that month. Hosting a Read-In can be as simple as bringing together family and friends to share a book, or as elaborate as arranging public readings and media presentations that feature professional African American writers. Host packets and more information are available at the African American Read-In Web page. For more information, contact Read-In coordinator Ezra Hyland at hylan003@umn.edu or 612-626-4780.

Sherman Patterson, safety coordinator for the Jordan neighborhood, responded to a parent who was shocked that a football star would hold a book drive at a Cub on Minneapolis's north side. "It is Erasmus's desire to work in an area that is often overlooked," said Patterson. "By coming to Cub, as opposed to a traditional sports outlet, he was assured of meeting real community members, not just sports fans." Cub store manager Ed Anderson echoed the importance of having positive figures come into the community. Cub Foods donated more than 50 books and magazines to the drive.