Club hosts Premier League Reading Stars event
Theo Walcott with Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall
Arsenal Football Club played host to the launch of Premier League Reading Stars at Emirates Stadium on January 6, 2011.
Eighty schoolchildren from local Islington primary schools joined Theo Walcott, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall for the launch of the scheme which uses the motivational power of football to encourage children to improve their literacy skills.
Players from all 20 Premier League clubs set literacy challenges and talk about their favourite books, sharing their love of reading online at www.premierleaguereadingstars.org.uk
At the event at Emirates Stadium the young guests participated in a quiz hosted by children’s author Tom Palmer, with help from Theo and the Duchess who then announced the winners and presented the victorious quiz team with trophies and prizes. The winning team then took penalties with help from Theo Walcott with the Duchess of Cornwall spectating.
Theo Walcott said: “It was great to meet the Duchess of Cornwall, she made me feel very comfortable and was very relaxed. She even asked how the bump on my head was! But in all seriousness, this is a great scheme to come together on and encourage children to read and I am very happy to be a part of that through supporting the scheme and through my own books which are based on my own experiences as a child.”
Other guests included Minister of State for Schools, Mick Gibb MP and Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore.
The project, which targets primary and secondary pupils who are not reaching the expected levels in literacy for their age, sees every Premier League club nominate a player as their Reading Star. The player selects their favourite children’s and adults’ book to create a twenty-strong book recommendation list. Any child with internet access can watch the unique films in which 20 high-profile Premier League players set 100 literacy challenges and explain why they picked their favourite books and what they enjoy about reading. Children completing challenges win prizes, while a child completing all 100 will get the chance to win some signed memorabilia.
Premier League Reading Stars, which is delivered by the National Literacy Trust and is funded by Arts Council England and the Premier League, has been in existence since 2003. Since then over 100 Premier League players have supported the project, 15,000 children and parents have participated, and over 50,000 books have been read. Evaluation shows that 96% of children have said they will read more regularly because of participating in the project, with 71% of them saying that they now read more because they know that footballers read.
This year, the project will work directly with over 35,000 young people, with the potential for tens of thousands of reading challenges to be completed.
Previously the programme worked locally to the clubs with families in a small number of public libraries. Now, thanks to new investment, the project is being expanded online so that it reaches millions of people all over the world, and also into hundreds more schools and libraries in England.
Jonathan Douglas of the National Literacy Trust said: “Our new research has found that 56% of boys only like reading a bit or not at all.* With this in mind, it is essential to capture boys’ imagination and help them to develop a love of reading for pleasure. Premier League Reading Stars targets both boys and girls who may not currently enjoy reading, but who do have a passion for football.”
The choices of the players’ books range from best-sellers to the classics, thrillers to history. Once again there are familiar names such as Roald Dahl, JK Rowling, Dan Brown and Julia Donaldson, but the likes of Paulo Coelho, Bram Stoker, Harper Lee and Alexandre Dumas also make an appearance. Three of the players are authors in their own right: Theo Walcott, Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer and Stoke City’s Carlo Nash.