MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Final Four will be in Minneapolis in 2019. (You can watch it on WCCO.) Even though it’s more than six months away, a Final Four reading initiative began Friday morning.

Gopher basketball players paid a visit to third-graders at Pillsbury Elementary School in Northeast Minneapolis. Senior Jarvis Johnson and Freshman Jarvis Omersa stopped by the school and read some books to the kids, and took time to talk about the importance of reading and how it helps them as student-athletes.

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The event was one of six taking place across the state this morning. College basketball players also read to students in St. Paul, Duluth, Bemidji and Morris.

To date, nearly 200 schools across Minnesota have signed up for the “Read to the Final Four” program. The 68 schools with the highest average time spent reading will qualify for a bracket-style competition where they can win prizes.

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“I wish I read more when I was younger,” Omersa said. “Because everybody I talked to that says they love reading, they all read when they were younger a lot.”

The initiative has a goal of getting a total of 15 million minutes read between all the students involved.

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In addition, third graders will have access to nearly 6,000 digital books as part of the competition. It’s a full court press when it comes to getting kids to read.

John Lauritsen