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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar promotes the importance of reading to young children

Credit: photo by Jason Lewis

Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stopped by Kingsley Elementary School recently to kick start the “Read Across America” program. He spoke to the children about the importance of education, and reading at an early age.

The youngsters were extremely excited to meet Abdul-Jabbar after they watched a video presentation of his career. The video highlighted his feats on the basketball court, as well as his career as an author.

“When I talk to kids in these circumstances, I just want them to get an idea that they should start thinking now about what they want to do in the future,” Abdul-Jabbar said.  “Because usually if you wait until they get to high school age, it’s too late. They’ve already made some bad choices. A lot of times peer pressure and the influence of gangs is overwhelming.  So if you get a chance to impact them now, before those issues predominate, you get a chance to turn many of them into effective and productive scholars and contributors to their society.”

Abdul-Jabbar promotes the importance of literacy by sharing his latest book with more than 500 LAUSD students. “Stealing the Game,” (Disney/Hyperion Books) is the second installment of  his “Streetball Crew” series of young adult novels. The book is a fast-paced and entertaining story about teamwork, friendship, secrets, and having faith in those who have earned it.

“Reading is the key to all knowledge,” Abdul-Jabbar said.  “People who don’t read really don’t discover much about the world. The initial part of it is to get them to read and get curious about what’s around them.”

After Abdul-Jabbar spoke about the importance of education, the children were able to line up and ask him questions. When he was asked about his own education, he smiled as he pointed to his UCLA cap, and he spoke about how education shaped his life.

“I think that by getting kids to understand that education is the key for them in terms with what they’re going to do with their lives, that’s always a crucial first step,” Abdul-Jabbar said.  “Often times that’s all they need to start moving in the right directions.”

After the discussion, Abdul-Jabbar called up a few of the students and taught them his famous sky hook, which all of them found pretty exciting. Even though he is famous for his athletic abilities, he has a lot more to offer.

“I can do more than stuff a ball through a hoop; my greatest asset is my mind,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

A lifelong passion for history led to Abdul-Jabbar authoring eight best-selling books on various subjects ranging from sports to history to jazz and film. After growing up under the two biggest media spotlights in the world (New York and Los Angeles) during the Civil Rights era — he has a unique perspective on America’s political and social landscape. This has led him to make a significant impact on youth.

For more information on his non-profit, Skyhook Foundation, visit