The Book List: Must-read children's books, according to Premier League footballers

Every Wednesday, Alex Johnson delves into a unique collection of titles

Alex Johnson
Tuesday 15 May 2018 16:24 BST
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Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin celebrates the joy of reading by taking part in a campaign to boost child literacy
Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin celebrates the joy of reading by taking part in a campaign to boost child literacy (Getty)

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Topsy and Tim by Jean Adamson and Gareth Adamson
(Brede Hangeland)

Paddington by Michael Bond
(Dean Hammond)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
(Paddy McNair)

Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
(Kyle Bartley)

Aim high: ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is recommended by Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Aim high: ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is recommended by Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Getty)

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
(Russ Martin, Rene Gilmartin and James Ward-Prowse)

A Very Special Mouse and Vole by Joyce Dunbar
(Darren Randolph)

Demolition Dad by Phil Earle
(Brad Guzan)

The Keeper: The Unguarded Story of Tim Howard, Young Readers’ Edition by Tim Howard
(Leighton Baines)

The Three Little Pigs, Ladybird edition
(Hector Bellerin)

Midfield wizardry: Charlie Adam is spellbound by a trip on the Hogwarts Express
Midfield wizardry: Charlie Adam is spellbound by a trip on the Hogwarts Express (Getty)

Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo
(Duncan Watmore)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
(Charlie Adam, Freddie Woodman, Ryan Mason and Adam Bogdan)

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
(Boaz Myhill and Ruben Loftus-Cheek)

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss
(Patrick Roberts)

Oxford Reading Tree Read With Biff, Chip, and Kipper: First Stories
(Callum Wilson)

Since the 2002-03 football season, the National Literacy Trust has run its Premier League Reading Stars programme, inviting top-flight footballers from each of the leading clubs in the UK to pick their favourite books and encourage children, especially boys, to read. Above are their favourite children’s titles from the 2015-16 season (in brackets the footballers who chose them).

The scheme certainly works. Nearly two-thirds of children who take part say that seeing Premier League footballers reading and talking about books made them want to read more, while there is a 50 per cent increase in the number of children who enjoy reading at the end of the programme. Three out of four pupils’ reading levels increased significantly, as did their enjoyment and confidence. More than half of those who take part then go on to visit a library as a result.

Save the page: Brad Guzan is partial to comedy
Save the page: Brad Guzan is partial to comedy (Getty)

“You might not realise it, but education is very important for a footballer,” says Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin. “As an academy player you need to study until you are 18. And you never know, you may have an injury so it’s important to have a good education. Like in football, don’t ever give up. If you haven’t found the right book for you, keep going, you will.”

Choices in previous years have included Muhammad Ali’s autobiography The Soul of a Butterfly (Bacary Sagna), Lord of the Flies (Boaz Myhill) and The Iliad, chosen by goalkeeper Rob Green. “Reading is such a big part of all our lives, everyone should try to make a bit of time each day to read more,” he says. “You should never be scared of a book either. Reading classics like The Iliad might seem daunting, but if you take your time, they really are interesting to read and you gain such a lot from trying them.”

Indeed, in previous years the books have included Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Darren Bent) and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (Ruud Van Nistelrooy). And of course the football element can appeal to authors too. Darren Shan was delighted when his book Zom-B Angels was picked by Tottenham Hotspur’s central defender Jan Vertonghen. “I was particularly pleased about this choice,” he said, “as this is the team I support!”

‘A Book of Book Lists’ by Alex Johnson, £7.99, British Library Publishing

Tap here to buy

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