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Readers of the World: England (and the Premier League)

June 30, 2012
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Two Readers of the World posts in two weeks? Don’t say we don’t spoil you here at The Reader Online…this time around it’s a special edition, timed to coincide with the big finish to Euro 2012 (you know, that little football tournament that’s been on for the past three weeks). Unfortunately, the Three Lions weren’t victorious, but England’s pursuits in getting young football fans interested in literature is a different success story altogether. And now over to our commentator, Niall Gibney:

It’s time once more to resume our trip around the Readers of the World. Last time we visited West Indies for another sport-themed trip; for this installment we’re not going too far in our special football edition of ROTW…

Okay well I guess I just took the opportunity to write about England in this ROTW and some of you might be a bit unhappy that I’m not going to mention Shakespeare, Wordsworth or Dickens and instead I’m talking about Cahill, Walcott and Shwarzer. Okay, so it is not quite as intelligent but still highly valuable in an effort to get some UK kids into reading – which I think is something we can all agree with.

The idea of the scheme Premier League Reading Stars is to get children who might not usually engage with reading the chance to develop into avid readers. They do this by downloading a literacy pack from The National Literacy Trust’s website and watching videos were the professional footballers set special ‘reading tasks’ with which the kids must complete to get rewards. Now I know what you’re thinking, does it really take some of the world’s most disgustingly highly paid football stars to infuse our next generation with a love of reading? In some cases that’s a yes, which is quite sad when the teacher alone should be enough to instil a love of reading in children. An article on The Guardian’s website spoke of a piece of research which pointed to academic standards falling during a major national sporting competition – I’m not usually the one to blindly follow any piece of research just because the men with the money said it was so, but yeah I can understand this statement – I mean from an 11 year old Liverpool lad’s perspective… “Why bother reading miss?” “The footys on!!” < now I can’t say that I entirely blame them as the Euros are real and live, whereas to the kid a bit of literacy hour is drab and dead.

Everton star Tim Cahill with The B.F.G

So the idea then our oh so constrained teachers is to bring the real, live and exciting tournament in to the world of literature – just like Tom Palmer has with his series of football books and most especially his latest offering called Black Op (almost the same name as the Call of Duty series) (that really popular army game your boy child is most probably playing on as soon as the school bell goes.) Black Op is set in Poland the week before Euro 2012 and brings the world of espionage into the world of football, two things which interest most boys. Though this is probably another stereotyping cop-out surely it’s got to be miles better than these impressionable youths having nothing at all to read? It’s fair and common knowledge that we would rather they were reading some of the greatest, most mind-expanding literature available but to be realistic that’s just not going to happen (at least not at first): it’s all about ‘the hook’. Here at The Reader Organisation we think they are on the right path, as I’m sure our Glasgow based project worker Patrick Fisher has probably read his fair share of football related books with kids and also the Wirral team had a major World Cup 2010 reading drive which was really successful. I think it is really hard in this modern age and we all probably have to jump on the band wagon a bit and at first fight the perceived ‘uncoolness’ of reading before the kids even open a book never mind enjoy it… but then when its actually opened – shhhhh children don’t tell anybody but you might just enjoy it!

Oh yeah and I almost forgot – Go England prove us wrong for a change! [Ed: at the time of writing, the dream was still in sight…but the penalty shoot-out wasn’t.]

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