61 pupils from four primary schools in Greater Manchester, enjoyed a fun-filled rugby and reading event at AJ Bell Stadium with children’s author Tom Palmer, Sale Shark players, Jake Cooper-Woolley, James Williams and coach Elliot Lewis. 

The event was part of the National Literacy Trust’s Rugby Reading Champions programme, developed in partnership with Sale Sharks, delivered by their coach Elliot Lewis. The programme uses the power of rugby to improve the reading skills of children aged 9-11 in the city who are falling behind.

At the event, youngsters from Chesham Primary School, St John with St Mark Primary School, Tottington Primary School and Hazlehurst Primary School met children’s author Tom Palmer, whose rugby-themed book Combat Zone features in the programme. Tom was recently awarded the National Literacy Trust and ALCS Ruth Rendell Award, which honours the author or writer who has had the most significant influence on literacy in the UK in the past year.

Pupils were divided into groups and took part in a Q&A with Tom and the players, a tag rugby session and took a tour of the AJ Bell Stadium. The day ended with a final celebration in which participants received certificates.  

Sam, a pupil from Hazlehurst Primary School, said, “Getting to play on the AstroTurf made me feel like I was actually playing on the pitch. Over the course, I’ve felt like I’ve been getting better at my reading, especially my fluency and expression.”

Miles, a pupil from Hazlehurst Primary School, said, “I’ve enjoyed all of the activities. It’s really inspired me to read a lot more, and I really enjoyed that.” 

Tom Palmer, said, “It’s been great to tap into the children’s interest in rugby in order to help them with their reading. I’m so proud to be part of such a special and fun programme. Reading about sports was how I became a more confident reader. It’s possible to get even the most reluctant readers into reading, you just have to find the right thing for them! Elliot and the Sale Sharks team have been fantastic in delivering the programme and hosting this event. The children had a great time. Thank you to everyone involved!”

Rugby Reading Champions aims to address the literacy challenge in Manchester which saw a third (32%) of children in the city leave primary school this year unable to read at the expected level for their age. 

Over 10 weekly sessions, Sale Sharks coaches deliver exciting lessons which use children’s excitement around rugby to improve their reading skills and motivation. Each participating school received a kit bag filled with exciting new books, workbooks, posters and stickers for the pupils to take away. 

Elliott Lewis, Programme Leader at Sharks Community Trust, said, “Programmes such as ‘Rugby Reading Champions’ are a fantastic way to engage more young people in reading, so we’re thrilled to be working alongside the National Literacy Trust to deliver the initiative across some key areas of Greater Manchester.

“Focusing on improving literacy skills at a young age is essential if children are to reach their full potential in later life, so it was great to see so much support for this programme. The event was a huge success and it was brilliant to see so many pupils enjoying themselves and having fun with rugby, while also working hard to improve their reading abilities.”

Rugby Reading Champions is funded by England Rugby and Comic Relief through a Try for Change grant.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here