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Falcons Hartsock marks Dr. Seuss' birthday by reading to Jones classes
Ben Hartsock of the Atlanta Falcons reads a Dr. Seuss book to Jessica Sturm’s second-grade class at Jones Elementary School. - photo by Tom Reed

Although Stephanie Chavez has read Dr. Seuss’ "Fox in Socks" before, she didn’t mind hearing it again Friday because a special guest was reading it to her second-grade class.

"I like reading," said 8-year-old Chavez, a student at Jones Elementary School in Gainesville. "My favorite book is ‘Mr. Brown Can Moo’ (also by Dr. Seuss)."

As a way of honoring Monday’s birthday of children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-91), aka Dr. Seuss, Jones Elementary officials invited community members to come in and share one of their favorite Dr. Seuss books with one of the school’s classes for the Read Across America event.

Although having any guest reader is a treat for students, the students in Jenny Erwin’s and Jessica Sturm’s second-grade classes got an extra special treat. Their guest reader was Atlanta Falcons player Ben Hartsock.

"You have such a huge responsibility (as a professional athlete) to give back to the community," Hartsock said. "The kids want somebody positive to look up to. This is a huge honor and I don’t take it lightly."

After Friday’s visit, the students in the two classes Hartsock visited probably know more about the Falcons tight end than even the most die-hard football fan.

While the average sports fan could probably rattle off his career highlights and statistics from his days at Ohio State, even the most avid fan likely wouldn’t be privy to the fact that Hartstock’s mom was a teacher and that he could recite the children’s book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" almost from memory.

After reading "Fox in Socks" to the students, Hartsock fielded questions from the second-graders about everything from his favorite book to his favorite subject when he was in school.

"I always liked going to school and learning. My favorite subject was science," Hartsock told the students. "I was a biology major in college. I had to really work at it and study because it was tough, but I’ve always loved science."

Even though Hartsock was there to read a book to the children, he also was able to impart a little extra knowledge to the 7- and 8-year-olds about the importance of staying physically active.

"It’s important to exercise so you can be healthy. When I was you guys’ age, there weren’t a lot of video games, so I spent a lot of time outside playing with my friends," he told the kids. "And now that I’m in the NFL, all the guys are strong and fast, so I have to work out a lot so that I can be strong and fast, too."