MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Final Four is coming to Minneapolis in 2019, and the NCAA is pushing a statewide reading initiative.

“Read To The Final Four” will include students across the state, with the goal of instilling the value of reading into young people.

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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter teamed up to let third graders at Phalen Lake Elementary know how they could be part of one of the biggest sporting events to come to the Twin Cities.

“You know what excited me? I love to read, and through ‘Read To The Final Four,’ we all get a chance to be a part of the Final Four,” Mayor Carter said.

The NCAA and the Minneapolis Final Four Local Organizing Committee are promoting the statewide, year-long reading initiative.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (credit: CBS)

“Youth have to have proficient reading by third grade,” said Katrice Albert, NCAA executive vice president of Inclusion and Human Resources. “Studies have shown that by the third grade, students learn to read, and then after third grade they read to learn.”

The program is open to students who will be in the third grade in the 2018-2019 school year.

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Phalen Lake Students got a book bag with a book inside to kick off the initiative.

Organizers hope to get students to reach their reading goals, especially during summer vacation.

“We know the ‘summer slide’ is a real thing, and many of our students kind of shut down and learning sometimes stops during the summer months,” said St. Paul Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jo Gothard. “So we’re hoping that we can build individual skills and a routine that reading is a part of everyday life.”

Students can sign up now and have access to more than 5,800 digital books. Tracking of minutes read by students begins in the fall.

The top 68 schools with the highest average reading time will qualify for a tournament-style bracket competition.

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The NCAA says it is excited to use the Final Four as a way to promote the values of reading. Click here for more information on the initiative.

Reg Chapman