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Raven Matt Birk Pledges Reading Room for Battle Grove Elementary

The North Point Village school found itself at the center of the pro football universe when the Pro Bowl center used the occasion to announce his retirement.

Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk this morning pledged to stock a reading lab at Battle Grove Elementary School this and then used the occasion to announce his retirement from the National Football League.

Birk will donate a "Reading Oasis," a community reading lab, to the North Point Village school.

The six-time Pro Bowl Player and Super Bowl XLVII champion first visited Battle Grove in December, when he donated 350 books, according to a statement from Baltimore County Public Schools.

At that time, he befriended 10-year-old Larry Bryant, a Battle Grove fifth-grader. He gave Larry tickets to the Dec. 23 Ravens game against the New York Giants, and on Friday announced that the donated reading lab would be known as the "Larry Bryant Reading Oasis."

"I thought (Battle Grove Elementary) was a fitting place to do this," Birk told the school's fifth-graders, according to the school system statement. "I've enjoyed playing football, but I've enjoyed coming to schools over the years and being with young people just as much. You guys give me positive energy."

Birk's HIKE Foundation, started in 2002, strives to impart hope, inspiration, knowledge and education to at-risk students by providing one book for each student at selected schools.

Battle Grove's Reading Oasis will serve as a community reading source, according to Battle Grove Principal Jennifer Gounaris.

The school pledged to find space to house the resource center, and Birk pledged to fill it with books, according to school system spokesman Charles Herndon. The center, most likely to be housed in a classroom, is expected to have about 100 books per grade level when completely stocked.

Birk told students he envisions the center as a "warm and comfortable place  where you and your parents can come and read."

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