Theo Walcott, Owen Hargreaves and Joey Barton are among the football stars helping to promote reading this year through The National Literacy Trust's annual Premier League Reading Stars programme.
Each of the 20 players, one from each of the Premier League clubs, has chosen his favourite adult and children's titles, with choices including seven books by Roald Dahl, plus authors such as J K Rowling, Julia Donaldson and Dan Brown. Other choices include classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, chosen by Tottenham Hotspur player Niko Kranjcar; The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, chosen by West Bromwich Albion's Paul Scharner; and Dracula by Bram Stoker, chosen by Joey Barton of Queens Park Rangers.
More recent titles were chosen by Norwich City's David Fox who picked Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre as his adult title, and Liverpool's Charlie Adam who chose May I Have Your Attention Please?, James Corden's 2011 memoir.
Theo Walcott picked his own children's book, TJ and the Hat-trick, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling as his adult title, with Fulham player Mark Schwarzer choosing the children's title he co-authored, Megs and the Vootball Kids, as well as Destined to Live by Ruth Greuner. Stoke City Carlo Nash is the other author in the squad, choosing his book Family Adventures in Style, written with Dr Jill Nash, as his adult title.
The website will showcase 20 films featuring the players, who set 100 literacy challenges and explain why they chose their books and what they enjoy about reading. Children are offered prizes to complete the challenges, with a child who completes all 100 given the chance to win some signed memorabilia.
National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas said: "Our research shows that a quarter of boys (28.3%) say that a sportsperson could inspire them to read. So getting footballers on board gives us a new and powerful strategy to get boys reading."
The programme, launched today at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium by player Theo Walcott and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, is delivered by the National Literacy Trust and funded by Arts Council England and the Premier League, and has run since 2003. This year, it has been funded to work with 1,000 schools and libraries in need, and will reach 30,000 young people. Any school or library can fund their own resource pack to take part.
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