Frank Lampard was the special guest as the Premier League and National Literacy Trust combined to host a fun and interactive celebration of children’s reading at Stamford Bridge.
Held in the Centenary Hall, the event saw Lampard, who has written his own collection of children’s books, share his love of reading with pupils from local schools – Churchill Gardens, St Joseph’s and St Augustine’s – who are taking part in the National Literacy Trust’s Premier League Reading Stars programme.
Now in its 11th year, the programme uses children’s passion for football to motivate them to enjoy reading, with each Premier League club selecting one of its players to become a Reading Star, where they talk about their favourite books and set reading challenges via online videos.
After a welcome speech by Emma Wilkinson, head of communications and community affairs at Chelsea Football Club, the children engaged in an entertaining football literacy quiz, compered by Tom Palmer, author of over 30 children’s sports books.
Lampard, along with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, author Cressida Cowell and Palmer, then went around the room, spending time with each group and answering questions.
The Chelsea midfielder believes the event is hugely significant in terms of encouraging children to take up reading.
‘It’s very important and there’s great work being done by Chelsea, the Premier League and all the reading ambassadors from various clubs,’ said our all-time highest goalscorer.
‘As footballers, we have a responsibility to give something back and the club has done brilliantly in hosting this event.
‘I try to encourage my own children to read. It doesn’t have to be for hours every night, but if you can make them do a little bit each day I think they enjoy it. You see the knowledge they gain from it and reading’s such an important life skill.’
Scudamore, meanwhile, explained how the event provides inspiration for the youngsters.
‘It’s very important and we’ve been doing this since 2003,’ he said. ‘The clubs nominate a player and the player then chooses their favourite books. We now have a 10-week process where we can measure the young people’s reading skills over that time.
‘The clubs do lots of work and it’s excellent that players give up their time to promote the programme.
‘Frank Lampard is here and it’s an inspirational day for the children, it’s not like an ordinary day at school. It’s cold and wet, the kids are inside having fun and the smiles on their faces when he walked in were inspirational.’
Lampard, to the delight of all who were present, handed out signed cards and posed for group photographs, before the children took part in a penalty shoot-out.
What was already a memorable afternoon for the youngsters came to an end when they were taken on a tour of Stamford Bridge, rounding off a day they are unlikely to forget any time soon.