Anne Frank or Des Lynam? Footballers pick their top reads

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The Independent Culture

For the Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy it was the moving story of Anne Frank's incarceration in war-torn Amsterdam. Chelsea's Eidur Gudjohnsen, on the other hand, decided to show solidarity with his author team-mate John Terry.

Otherwise, the Premier League footballers chosen to front a new campaign to persuade more children and their families to read are much like the rest of us. Roald Dahl is their favourite children's author, and Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, features most on their lists of adult writers.

Each Premier League club has been asked to pick one player to act as a "reading champion" in the coming year, and those players have chosen the book that has given them most pleasure to read. All the players' choices will then be available at libraries near each club.

The footballers' choices make interesting reading. Van Nistelrooy, for instance, chooses Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. Arsenal's Philippe Senderos chooses The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. He said: "It is a simple tale with a valuable message. The moral of the tale is to follow your heart to achieve your destiny, which I think is significant to all - whatever age."

Many players chose books with a football or a sporting flavour - including Birmingham's Stephen Clemence, who picks It's Not About The Bike, cyclist Lance Armstrong's inspiring tale of how he beat cancer, and Mark Delaney, from Aston Villa, who chooses Des Lynam's autobiography, I Should Have Been At The Office.

Eidur Gudjohnsen chose team-mate John Terry's My Season - the account of Chelsea's success last year. "I loved reading through all of the memories of a brilliant season for both me personally and the whole team," he said.

The Reading Stars scheme is supported by literacy experts and the Arts Council England, as well as football bosses. Dave Richards, chairman of the Premier League and Football Foundation, said: "We hope to be able to use footballers' favourite book choices as a way of inspiring families to read together. The programme gives players the opportunity to act as positive role models."

Many of the libraries in the scheme have started reading clubs where books can be read aloud to promote family reading sessions. All of those who take part will get the chance to meet at least one author.

The footballers' choices are revealed just a week after their managers were asked about their favourite books for a survey by the National Football Museum.

Meanwhile, the Government's campaign to tackle football hooliganism in advance of this summer's World Cup may be jeopardised by the content of school textbooks, according to research.

Dr Keith Crawford, of the International Centre for Applied Research into School Textbooks in Lancashire, said the concentration of history books on the two world wars had given most pupils a negative image of Germans. "The only Germans they have ever heard of are individuals such as Adolf Hitler, other members of the Nazi party and the occasional footballer," he said.

Playing by the book

* Arsenal: Philippe Senderos - The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

* Aston Villa: Mark Delaney - I Should Have Been At Work by Des Lynam

* Birmingham: Stephen Clemence - It's Not About The Bike by Lance Armstrong

* Blackburn Rovers: Brad Friedel - Mrs Frisby And The Rats of Nimh by Robert O'Brien

* Bolton Wanderers: Kevin Davies - The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

* Charlton Athletic: Darren Bent - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke

* Chelsea: Eidur Gudjohnsen, left - My Season by John Terry

* Everton: Lee Carsley - The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by C S Lewis

* Fulham: Moritz Volz - The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

* Liverpool: Stephen Warnock - Gazza - My Story by Paul Gascoine

* Manchester City: David James, below - War Game by Michael Foreman

* Manchester United: Ruud Van Nistelroy, right - The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank

* Middlesbrough: Chris Riggott - The Power Of One by Bryce Courtenay

* Newcastle United: Steven Taylor - Keeper by Mal Peet

* Portsmouth: Lomana Tresor Lua Lua - Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

* Sunderland: Stephen Caldwell - Matilda by Roald Dahl

* Tottenham Hotspur: Stephen Kelly - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling

* West Bromwich Albion: Thomas Gaardsoe - Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

* West Ham United: Paul Konchesky - The Kray Twins - The Final Countdown by Colin Fry

* Wigan Athletic: Matt Jackson - Danny, Champion Of The World by Roald Dahl

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