Aspiring footballers at Everton have been taking time off-the-pitch to learn about the importance of reading, thanks to the author behind the Jamie Johnson series of books.
Dan Freedman was invited to meet the youngsters at Finch Farm, after the Club was selected by the Premier League to pilot a new education programme, LiteracyPlanet.
The online platform will be used to teach key skills and encourage reading as a form of relaxation off the pitch, with the young Blues being one of only a small number of Clubs selected for the pilot.
Dan, who has now released eight books in the Jamie Johnson series and recently seen them adapted into critically acclaimed Children’s TV drama by the BBC, met with players from the Under-9s and Under-10s to discuss importance of ‘off the pitch education’.
Everton welcomed Dan to Finch Farm, after learning that his most popular book, Born to Play, was based on an event at Goodison Park, where Wayne Rooney stole the show from the penalty spot as a young mascot.
Commenting after the session, in which all of the players received their own signed copy of Born to Play, Dan said: “Whatever your passion is in life, it can drive your achievement. Football was my way of understanding the world and being able to express myself and these young players can do the same.
“They’ve been really receptive to that. I think it’s so important that the experience these young footballers gain at Premier League academies is a positive influence on their life and education, over and above what happens with their football career.”
David Porter, Head of Academy Education and Welfare, invited the author to kick-off the new scheme. He said: “I met Dan at a conference where he did a presentation about his books and the importance of literacy and reading – I thought it was perfect with what we were looking to do with LiteracyPlanet and the age groups to which his books are targeted.
“Our younger boys have already had a taster of LiteracyPlanet and it’ll form a part of the evening education sessions for the under-9s, 10s and 11s.
“I often say to players of all ages, that reading is so important. The hectic life that young, elite athletes lead means sitting with a good book is a great way to relax and take your mind off big games and injury.”