READING is a vital skill that every parent wants their child to learn, yet almost half of UK mums and dads admit they lack the confidence and know-how to help improve their child’s reading at home.
But there is help at hand, both through a programme which uses footballers as role models to change children’s attitudes towards reading, and through a new guide highlighting fun ways to help kids learn to read.
National Literacy Trust research has found that less than a third of young people read outside school every day.
As a result, it’s joined up with the Premier League to run Premier League Reading Stars, an annual initiative which has enlisted the help of 20 Premier League footballers to use children’s passion for football to motivate them to enjoy reading.
Sarah Thorne, 38, from Southbourne Grove, Westcliff, is mum to Alex, nine, and Amelia, six.
She said: “I think it’s great this national advice is forthcoming. I try really hard to get my kids engaged. From a young age, I read to Alex and encouraged him to read. He did take it on board but I did have difficulty choosing the right books to get him interested.
Now, of course, it’s anything about football. He loves it. I can get him to read for up to 30 minutes just by choosing the right books.
“I have learned this with Amelia and she does get switched on with the right type of books, like the Paper Dolls. And, of course, anything with a Frozen theme.
“I think parents sometimes also lack time. They don’t know what books to choose, so they just choose books in the house. I think it’s great that this advice is now available. It will really help parents.
“Watching your child grow in terms of reading skills is amazing.
I think it’s so important that parents put in the time and not just think that schools are doing it for them.”
On the campaign website, players including Frank Lampard, Adam Lallana, Joey Barton and Boaz Myhill explain why they enjoy reading and how they’ve decided on their favourite adult and children’s books. The players have also set literacy challenges for participating children, allowing them to unlock statistics, tips and videos from each footballer as they progress through the online programme.
Schools and libraries involved with Reading Stars are also delivering weekly football-themed “fixtures”, or literacy sessions, focusing on different types of reading, such as newspapers, fiction, non-fiction and the internet.
Several of the Reading Stars themselves, including Lampard, who is the author of the Frankie’s Magic Football children’s books, are reading role models and have chosen books which they enjoy reading at home to their children. The players are also calling on dads to take an active role in reading to their child and supporting their literacy.
Manchester City midfielder Lampard says: “As a dad, literacy is a cause close to my heart. I love reading with my girls, and would really encourage other parents to keep reading with their kids, because your influence is so important, and the skills that children get from reading are priceless.
“Even ten minutes a day is valuable, and a great time spent with them.”
Jim Sells, manager of the Reading Stars programme at the National Literacy Trust, agrees that just ten minutes a day reading with children can make a huge difference to their reading – and be great fun.
“Find out what they like, help them find suitable reading material, and spend ten minutes a day reading with them,” he advises.
“Just that short time will make a massive difference, and it will probably be some of the best minutes of their day.”
For slightly older children who need more motivation to read, the Reading Stars programme, hopefully combined with a bit of reading with mum or dad, could be exactly what’s needed to spark their interest.
“Parents have a huge impact on their child’s motivation and ability to read and it’s great to see so many of our Reading Stars, who are also dads, share their love of reading and books,” says Sells.
“Using football as a hook to get children to enjoy reading gives them a significant uplift.”