More than half of Philadelphia students beginning fourth grade could not read on grade level in 2012.
Cornerback Brandon Boykin isn't okay with that, so he and Eagles Youth Partnership are teaming up with the READ! By 4th Campaign to tackle childhood literacy.
Boykin met with about 25 students at Prince Hall Elementary School on Wednesday morning to announce the collaboration between EYP and READ! By 4th, as well as talk to the second-grade students about the importance of reading, and reading a lot.
The Georgia native explained to the students gathered that, when he was their age, he was a quiet kid because he lacked confidence. When he got really good at reading, that all changed.
"When I was a kid I really wasn't vocal," Boykin said. "But my mother was a nurse, and when I used to go to her work her co-workers would read to me, and I used to read to them. I used that to develop that confidence just by reading to them, and once I understood that I was a really good reader, that helped me in so many more areas.
"It helped me be a better communicator, it helped me talk more in class, it helped me want to be a better student and it helped me want to be a better learner."
He understood that the students might be a little intimidated and awestruck by meeting a Philadelphia Eagle. But he's just like them, he explained.
"I'm just like you guys in the fact that I still learn every single day," Boykin explained. "I'm still learning today. And just a couple years ago I was just like you, in grade school, learning and aspiring to be a football player or whatever I wanted to be. I think that you guys need to understand that every single day of your lives, you're going to be learning and you're never too old to learn."
One of the key parts of learning every day is having the ability to read, and read well, which also allows you to become a great communicator and do some much more, Boykin explained.
With the added emphasis on reading, Boykin told the students he knows it's easy to get distracted by technology. So he introduced to them his #DoThe22 slogan.
For 22 minutes a day, Boykin wants kids all over Philadelphia to read. No technology. No screens. Just reading.
"We're going to shut down Instagram, we're going to shut down Twitter, we're going to shut down all of those things and we're going to communicate, we're going to read and we're going to interact for 22 minutes," Boykin explained to the students. "That's the promise that you're making me today. For 22 minutes a day, you guys are going to read. You guys are not going to play video games. You're not going to watch TV. You're going to sit and communicate and read."
And he wasn't asking the students to make the effort without doing it himself.
Boykin does the same thing every day.
"My fiancée and I, for the first 30 minutes when I get home, we shut down all communication, whether it's the TV, whether it's Twitter, whether it's Instagram - all social media," Boykin said. "We sit and interact and talk with each other about what's going on that day. The good, the bad - just getting those communication skills together."
After he finished speaking, Boykin signed posters and gave out books and bookmarks to the students to jumpstart them "doing the 22."
But at one point Wednesday, Boykin took a second to make sure that, hashtags and autographs aside, the students knew just how important working on their reading is.
"I told your principal that I was going to come back to see you guys again, but that's only under one condition," Boykin said with a smile, "and that condition is if you guys promise me that you are going to read. If we're making an agreement, I'm going to raise my hand and say I'm going to come back and see you guys, and you've got to raise your hand because you're committing to me that you're going to read, okay?"
Every student raised his or her hand. Some raised both. The kids at Prince Hall Elementary School were ready to tackle reading.
In fact, on their way out of the library Wednesday, a few students had already started doing their 22.