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Library Lifeline part 9: Using your pupils’ love of sport to encourage reading for pleasure

22 Nov 2022

Professional_ Jamie Knight (Freestyle Footballer) [Credit_ Chris O'Donovan].jpg

Welcome to the ninth blog in our series, Library Lifeline, written in association with the School Library Association. This series is designed to support anyone working in a school library by answering their questions directly. If you have a question that you’d like to ask our ‘agony aunt’ – the School Library Association’s Member Development Librarian, Dawn Woods – then please email us at and your question may be the focus of a future blog!

Football and reading non-fiction for pleasure

This week’s question focuses on an issue that teachers and librarians often face when trying to engage their more reluctant readers with reading for pleasure.

I have a number of pupils who would rather be running around outside, playing with a ball, than sitting in the library. How can I use this interest as a hook to lead them into reading about sport?

School Librarian

Football Facts

This is a good question because it taps into an often underutilised source of reading inspiration.

There are many stories about all kinds of sports, but why not use this month of Non-Fiction November and the Football World Cup as a motivator to explore information books on sport and more specifically football, both which are fantastic ways to entice children into reading for pleasure.

At the National Literacy Trust there is a whole team dedicated to encouraging children's literacy through their love of sport. Find out more about their work and access free sports and literacy-related resources.

It’s worth remembering that reading for pleasure is not just about cosying up with a fantastic story – for some, reading non-fiction is a great source of enjoyment.

There is an incredible range of information books at the moment and there are some great series covering favourite sports stars from all backgrounds. These include the following series:

These books are not lengthy but help children see the dedication and the effort that athletes give to their chosen career.

There are also books of statistics – fastest athlete, quickest goal, most goals, furthest distance covered, which teams have consistently won or lost. It’s also a good idea to find out about any tie-in books which many publishers produce around the time of any major sports tournament. Such books often highlight the teams and players, stats and also information on the countries involved. Check out our booklists for recommendations!

Using pupils’ love of football across the wider curriculum

This further information can be utilised in class and linked into the curriculum.

  • A study in geography – where are these countries? A quiz on locations of previous tournaments using country clues and the library resources to answer
  • The history of games – brilliant during the Olympics for Ancient Greece
  • Maths can link into forecasting results with probability and how many points your favourite team needs to stay in the tournament.

Often you don’t even have to devise these yourself. Check out these resources to help you plan activities and book chat around sport.

During a major tournament successful author Tom Palmer often posts an ongoing story chapter by chapter according to who gets knocked out and any significant linked events and has done this for football tournaments.

Join the World Cup Reading Challenge!

And if you're still in need of some motivation to enjoy sport and reading, join the National Literacy Trust's very own World Cup Reading Challenge accompanied by attendant book lists and wall charts.

The School Library Association have a football booklist available to all too.

You can complement all of this activity with a free football-themed live event event led by Nick Sharrat from Man City on 9 December aimed at KS1 children.

Enlisting extra reading encouragement from your school community

Think about staff members whom you can enlist to instigate book chat and talk about what they are reading themselves to inspire those pupils who need a little extra inspiration around reading for pleasure.

Non-Fiction November and a major world sports tournament make for the perfect opportunity to create a real sense of community around sport and reading. You could take small steps or implement initiatives that can have a big impact on the excitement and buzz created around football and reading in the long term.

This could include

  • Encouraging coach-led book chat at the end of PE lessons
  • The school sports team captains talking in assemblies about titles they have read related to their sport
  • Do you have a local football club whose players might pop in to do brief book chats or listen to pupils read? This is a popular initiative when in place, and can really create a wider community feel around your school’s reading culture
  • Ask your Pupil Librarians to make a display on sports books in your school library. Add a gallery of photographs of the book jackets, and incorporate fun props and football paraphernalia to further bring the display to life

With a little effort, book chat around football and non-fiction can be an excellent way to engage all pupils with the library and its activities, including those who previously did not think that the library could provide them with recreational reading linked to their passion for sport.

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