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Tuesday 07 May 2013

Gove lauds Premier League Reading Stars

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove attended event encouraging literacy in children

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove is impressed with the impact the Premier League's Readings Stars programme has on encouraging kids to engage with books

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has praised the Premier League for helping improve the literacy rate among young people through its "fantastic Reading Stars initiative".

Gove paid a visit to Smithy Street Primary School in Whitechapel on Tuesday to help launch Premier League Reading Stars 2013, an innovative National Literacy Trust programme which is helping pupils to make up to a year’s progress in reading in just 10 one-hour sessions.

“It’s wonderful that this initiative has yielded such success so quickly”
Michael Gove

Premier League Reading Stars (PLRS) uses children’s passion for football to support their reading. Each Premier League club select one of their players to become a Reading Champion to talk about their favourite books and set reading challenges via online videos.

Children in schools and libraries take part in a 10 week reading intervention with Premier League-branded pens, badges, reading journals and wall charts. The National Literacy Trust has found that only one boy in four reads outside class every day and that three out of four teachers are concerned about boys’ underachievement in reading.

However, a new research study into the effectiveness of the PLRS programme by the charity has found that it is having a dramatic impact on participating pupils, with 75% making six months’ to a year’s progress in reading in just 10 weeks and the same percentage saying that they now read because they know footballers do.

Along with former Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers star Graeme Le Saux and Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore, Gove sat in on a session with Year 5 schoolchildren taught by Jim Sells of the National Literacy Trust, who helped engage the class with a serious of football-related literacy challenges and the Secretary of State for Education was quick to hail the programme’s good work.

  • Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove attends a Reading Stars presentation

  • Gove talks about reading and football at Smithy Street Primary

  • Richard Scudamore and Michael Gove vie for the Reading Stars 2013 Challenge trophy

  • Children's author Dan Freedman uses football to engage with Year 5 pupils

'Fantastic' programme

"It's been fantastic," said Gove after helping his 'Team Ronaldo' side overcome Scudamore's 'Team Gerrard' to win the PLRS Challenge Trophy 2013 set by Sells. "It's a great school and what's fantastic is the way they've engaged so enthusiastically with the Reading Stars programme.

"If you have someone like Charlie Adam saying there’s nothing he likes more than relaxing and reading, that does have an effect"
Michael Gove

“It’s wonderful that this initiative has yielded such success so quickly. In 10 years more and more boys are reading with enthusiasm and passion across the curriculum and it’s a real tribute to the Premier League’s commitment and the enthusiasm of its stars that they’ve been prepared to give up time to inculcate a sense of reading culture into the next generation.”

Gove, who said that one of the first books that made an impression on him as a youngster was ‘Goalkeepers are Different’ by Brian Glanville, explained that by using football as a hook with which to draw children, particularly young boys, into reading, the PLRS initiative was helping solve an age-old problem.

“For some boys reading is seen as something girls or the speccy swots do and if you’re one of the lads then it’s not cool to be seen with a book,” he said. “One of the best ways to counteract that is to show that the people who are the role models for many of today’s young people are unashamed about saying that they enjoy reading. So if you have someone like Charlie Adam, who is hardly a softie on the field, saying that there’s nothing he likes more than relaxing and reading widely, then that does have an effect.

“It doesn’t matter what children read when they are at primary school just as long as they are getting into something,” Gove said. “It can be fiction or non-fiction, a magazine or a book. Provided you kindle that enthusiasm, the love of reading will take children on to a higher and higher level with every year that passes.”

The National Literacy Trust’s study found that 10 times as many children who took part in the programme made progress in reading compared with those who did not. “To date Premier League Reading Stars has helped over 44,000 children,” Scudamore said. “The schools we work in are those that have the most to gain from the programme; they have low achievement in literacy and high numbers of children from poorer homes.

“I’m very proud that we are both partners and sponsors of this effective programme. Now we’re having an even wider impact as everyone can watch their football heroes reading online and answer their challenge questions to win rewards.”

  • Graeme Le Saux and Education Secretary Michael Gove with the Premier Legaue trophy

  • Graeme Le Saux, Michael Gove and Richard Scudamore with Smithy Street pupils

  • Richard Scudamore talks books with his team during a classroom challenge

  • Scudamore and his team go through some of this year's Reading Stars books

Such a role model, Le Saux, was one of the first Reading Champions when the project was launched a decade ago and he was excited by the progress that has been made since.

"Reading is how we learn and it’s absolutely vital to a child’s development”
Graeme Le Saux

“The fact that 10 years since I first got involved the Arts Council are involved and Michael Gove has come here from the government is a testament to the significant progress Premier League Reading Stars has made,” he said. “There’s nothing better than coming into the school and watching the kids coming through the 10-week course and seeing the direct benefits that Premier League players up and down the country are having on children after engaging with them to read.

“Using the power of football to motivate boys particularly, but girls as well, into reading and not being distracted by other forms of entertainment is a really useful message and you only have to look at the statistics to see how once a child has the connection through a process like this then you can really reap the benefits. Once you’ve got them hooked in you can deliver important messages to them. Reading is how we learn and it’s absolutely vital to a child’s development.

“When you have role models you like to emulate them and when you have 20 Premier League clubs committing one player to this programme the power that it has is amazing. Young people who weren’t previously interested in reading suddenly look at their hero and think, ‘Wow’, if he’s reading I’m going to read. Once the stimulus is there children can go on and develop their skills and maybe even become writers themselves.”

Dan Freedman is a prime example of someone who overcame an initial disaffection for reading as a youngster because he was interested in football. Football magazines and the back pages of newspapers were the catalyst for his engagement in reading and he is now a children’s author.

Football obsession

Freedman gave a talk to the children of Smithy Street School before reading out a passage from one of his books, ‘The Kick Off’ to the undivided attention of his young audience. “I write about football and Reading Stars is all about encouraging kids to read through their love of football,” he said. “When I was younger my parents were always trying to get me to read and as a stubborn boy who was interested in the material I was being offered it became a psychological battle where I was determined not to read.

“However, at the same time I was obsessed with football and anything I could get my hands on to do with football I would read and take in. All my vocabulary came from reading about football. It’s now gone full circle and now my books are meant to bridge that gap.

“If you walk into these schools or go into a library and see someone with a copy of your book you realise the power of these stories and books in general and football, because football is the catalyst for them to pick up a book. As an author to feed that new hunger for reading is fantastic.”

Premier League Reading Stars is funded by the Premier League and Arts Council England.

The videos of the player reading challenges and more information for schools can be found by clicking here>>.

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