The National Literacy Trust has teamed up with Leicester Tigers to launch Rugby Reading Champions– a brand new programme for primary schools in Leicester which uses the power of rugby to improve the reading skills of children aged 9-11 who are falling behind.
The programme is funded by England Rugby and Comic Relief through a Try for Change grant.
Last year, almost a third (31%) of children in Leicester left primary school unable to read to the expected standard for their age, compared with a quarter (25%) of children nationally . Research suggests that children who leave primary school unable to read well are more likely than their peers to struggle at secondary school, be unemployed and experience poor health .
To help address this local literacy challenge, Rugby Reading Champions will be delivered for free in 20 local schools over the next two years, giving 300 pupils the chance to improve their reading skills.
Over the course of 10 weeks, Leicester Tigers Foundation qualified coaches will deliver exciting rugby-themed lessons based around the five core values of rugby: teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship. Each school will also receive a starter kit filled with exciting new books and colourful resources including a workbook, posters and stickers for the pupils to takeaway.
Launched at the start of this school year, Rolleston Primary School in Glen Parva was one of the first schools to take part in Rugby Reading Champions. Alison Robinson, PE lead and Year 5 teacher at Rolleston Primary School, said: “The children have absolutely loved it and thoroughly engaged with the programme. They are so excited each week to turn up for lessons and have even asked for more books to read. The great thing is, it’s linking up PE and reading. The children who found reading challenging at the start of the programme have amazed me with their drive to pick up books and read a wide selection now. And it’s not just the kids – we’ve had great feedback from parents, who have seen their child pick up books and become engaged.”
David McDonald, education and engagement manager at Leicester Tigers, added: “We’re delighted at the response from students, teachers and parents in the schools we’ve visited so far. Rugby is a great tool to engage youngsters and we’re looking forward to reaching as many pupils as possible and improving reading skills across the region.”
Rugby Reading Champions is the latest programme from the National Literacy Trust to use the power of sport to improve children’s literacy skills. The charity has 20 years’ experience developing sport and literacy programmes that work: three in four children who took part in the charity’s reading intervention linked to football made at least six months’ reading progress in 10 weeks .
Jim Sells, Sport and Literacy Programme Manager at the National Literacy Trust, said: “We’ve seen first-hand how bringing sport into the classroom can level the playing field for children who have fallen behind in their reading. Rugby is an important part of family life in Leicester, so we are thrilled to be working with Leicester Tigers to get children who might otherwise be disengaged with reading excited about it. Rugby Reading Champions is bursting with inspirational materials to get children reading – from exciting videos from their role models at Leicester Tigers to bright and brilliant rugby-themed books and posters. Using the power of rugby, we hope to help 300 children in Leicester develop the reading skills, confidence and enjoyment they need to flourish at school and beyond.”
To support the programme, Leicester Tigers have created an exclusive video where players, including club captain Tom Youngs and teammates Mathew Tait and Matt Smith, reveal what their favourite books were growing up and the books they now read with their own children:
Local primary schools can register their interest in taking part in Rugby Reading Champions from today: literacytrust.org.uk/rugby-reading-champions/
 Department for Education: National curriculum assessments: key stage 2, 2018 (provisional)
 National Literacy Trust (2018) Literacy and life expectancy
 National Literacy Trust (2016) Premier League Reading Stars evaluation report 2014/15
Over 18 million copies of Primary Times magazines are distributed every year through primary schools in 59 regions across the UK and Ireland.