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Miller encourages children to read

Selma High School graduate and current Oakland Athletic Jai Miller was in town Saturday to teach children the importance of reading through the Reading is Fundamental program. The program hosted a special breakfast at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center where Miller, Santa, Clifford, Curious George and Franklin the Turtle all met Selma area students. Miller said he is always excited to have the opportunity to work with young people. -- Rick Couch, photo

No matter what career path you choose, reading is important.

Selma resident and Major League Baseball player Jai Miller stressed this to students from the Black Belt Saturday morning at the Reading Is Fundamental breakfast at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center.

Miller, Santa Claus, Curious George and Franklin the Turtle all served as guests of honor at the book giveaway and breakfast Saturday morning that saw a large number of participants.

Miller, who is currently with the Oakland Athletics, said he was excited when RIF coordinator Nancy Sewell contacted him about the breakfast.

“It’s great to get a chance to come here and do something for the kids,” he said. ‘Whenever they ask me there is no hesitation. Ms. Sewell got in touch with me and I told her I’d be there without a doubt. Just let me know where and when.”

Bringing in Miller, Sewell said, is like bringing home a member of the family.

“I feel like he is one of my grandsons,” she said.

During the program Miller read to a number of young children who made their way up to the stage. He also stressed the importance of becoming a strong reader and how it will benefit them in their future.

The program was a partnership between RIF and the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, also known as the Zeta Omega chapter, the Selma City Council, Dallas County Commissioners and volunteer helpers from Selma’s Digital Divide AmeriCorps.

Zeta Omega president Juanda Maxwell said children always respond to Selma residents who have walked the same school halls as them and moved on to do great things.

“We are so proud of him and we always look to hear from him because he is a product of the city school system and we are sure at some point he benefited from RIF,” she said. “We always like to hear from and have our young people come back to help with our community service projects.

“By having him here it lets the kids know that they can be anything they want to be, but you have to excel in your academics,” she said.

The opportunity to reach young people, Miller said, is an honor. Making a difference in the lives of children from his hometown is something he always enjoys.

“Anytime you can do something for the kids, I always look forward to it,” he said.