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Kicking off a reading habit

Genre: Sports
Age group: 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-18
Audience: Parents

Last updated: 14 June 2024

Young boy diving in football goals

Big football tournaments like the World Cup, Champions League and European Championships are a great opportunity to engage your football-mad child with reading. We’ve pulled together some tactics to help you use football – or any other sport your child is passionate about – to develop their reading!

First off, don’t worry, if we work as a team we can make improvements.

Secondly, practice makes perfect. We don’t expect children to be good footballers instantly, without taking them to training, going to mini-matches, kicking a ball about in the park and watching others play. They need to practice their skills, build up their ability and gain confidence – so why should reading be any different to football?

There are lots of ways that, as parents, you can start to develop a passion for reading by using football as the catalyst.

Regular reading

If you want to instil a love a reading in your child or reignite their passion, they need to see you reading a variety of texts regularly and be able to talk to you about what you’re reading and why; whether that’s stories online, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines or reports. Just the habit of reading regularly will show young people how reading can be a joyful part of everyday life and that it doesn’t have to be an onerous task.

Start small

Kick off your reading journey with something small like match reports. These can vary in length and complexity depending on the publication which also allows the reader to develop their reading ability and stamina. Tabloid newspapers tend to produce shorter match reports than broadsheet newspapers and the BBC Sport website(this link will open in a new window) has plenty of examples as well as live feeds from games that you can read together. Watch a match together and ask your football fanatic to either tell you or write a match report. You can then compare it with another report and see if the main points come across.

Football mag-ness

If longer texts are an issue then football magazines such as Match or Match of the Day will allow readers to complete pages or more in-depth articles without the same pressure that can come from reading longer books. This can be developed into longer form articles in magazines or websites such as FourFourTwo(this link will open in a new window), World Football(this link will open in a new window) or The Athletic(this link will open in a new window). Some of these will be available in your local library. BBC Sport website(this link will open in a new window) is free to access as are the Football Association websites of all the home nations.

Expand the field

Once they have started to build up their reading confidence, it is a good opportunity to bring an element of fiction into their reading. This could be done by using comics such as Roy of the Rovers(this link will open in a new window) and by looking at some of the classic editions on their website. Discuss if you or a grandparent used to read the comic, how the game has changed, what rules are different and how that affects the storylines. Your child may prefer to read some more non-fiction and there is a wide range of short player profile biographies on the likes of Rapinoe, Kane or Ronaldo to satisfy their cravings for even more football knowledge.

A team effort

If your child is keen to move onto reading chapter books, then there are a huge range of great ones to choose from. Take a look at our football book lists(this link will open in a new window) for reading inspiration. Just as you’d go for kickabout in the garden or park, a good way to show continued support, no matter your child’s age, is to keep reading together. That way you can help them through harder passages to develop their reading skills. Importantly, the bonding opportunity also helps to make reading more special. Make it fun by doing reading passes – you read a paragraph, then they pass it back to you. Or let the winner of the penalty shoot-out read the final chapter.

The confidence and enjoyment gained from reading shorter chapter books will push them on to reading longer books or perhaps an entire series of books like the Jamie Johnston books. You can use our free Bookzilla app to find more books on football available from your local library or bookshop.

Whatever the child’s reading journey, there will be fouls, bad tackles, and missed passes along the way. But great goals, amazing tekkers, top teamwork, and endless trophies of reading enjoyment await.