In England there is such a thing as the Premier League Reading Stars which is a a scheme set up jointly by the Natural Literacy Trust, the Arts Council of England, the Football Foundation and the English Premier League to encourage children to read more. Local libraries are involved:
All clubs have adopted at least one library, who receive free copies of all the recommended titles. Families who take part in sessions at the library have the chance to meet their Reading Star and a local author, as well as getting involved in a series of football-based literacy events throughout the initiative.
According to the website 93% of children involved reported that their reading levels increased. So it seems a working and worthwhile cause.
Each year a player from each club in the English Premier League (which has many many Australian players within it) has to give his choice of favourite book (and these become the aforementioned recommended books.
The choices recently from Australians have been:
Tim Cahill – My Autobiography, Shane Warne (why would you recommend this for kids??)
Mark Schwarzer – Scarves, Sombreros And Penalty Shoot Outs, Wallace And Schwarzer
Some choices from English players also in the World Cup are a little more inspiring:
Wayne Rooney – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
David James – Moneyball, M Lewis
Robert Green – The Iliad, Homer
Australia still wins however in the literary stakes as Mark Schwarzer also co-authors children’s books. Now isn’t that good to know.
We need to organise a similar scheme in Australia. There is to me, seemingly not enough cross promotion of libraries and mainstream media personalities. Though I am not convinced we are desperate enough to require to further promote many of our sporting stars (and I can only imagine what our Rugby League and AFL players book choices would be). We already have a Prime Minister who regularly promotes reading and we do have BooksAlive!, but I would contend that this is a bookshop (booksales) rather than library (reading) promotion.
On the other hand there is no crisis, see the latest ABS statistics 72% of young people read for pleasure (and only 63% do organised sport)