League heroes star in children’s book series

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Some of the biggest names in rugby league are profiled in the latest installment of Legends of League – the successful book series developed by ACU researcher Suzan Hirsch to encourage kids to read.

Suzan, a specialist in literacy for children, has worked closely with the National Rugby League (NRL) since 2007 on an initiative which encourages primary school-aged children to engage with reading. The Rugby League Reads program uses NRL players as role models for reading in primary schools, and provides quality rugby league-focused magazines, written by Suzan, linked to the English syllabus.

The Legends of League biography series joins the Rugby League Reads library of publications that have been used by more than 500,000 children since the program began. These include magazines and Footy Fables – launched last year and featured in more than 1,000 school libraries.

“Rugby league players often prefer to read sporting biographies and students identified that they would like to do the same – the Legends of League series gives students this opportunity,” Suzan said.

“Until now, the sporting biographies on the market were aimed at adults. Through the lives of the rugby league players, students will realise becoming a first-grade player is not an easy journey – determination, hard work and passion is required and every player’s journey and life story is different.”

Manly Sea Eagles hooker Matt Ballin launched the Legends of League series (for years 4-6 students) during a visit to Mona Vale Public School last week, where he talked to Year 6 children about the importance of reading.

Ballin, who is studying to be a high school PE teacher and is an apprentice mentor for the NRL’s Trading Up program, said he had no hesitation in being part of the game’s successful Rugby League Reads program.

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“I place a huge value on education and programs like Rugby League Reads show the NRL is serious about education and committed to using the profile of the game to making a positive difference to people’s lives,” he said.

“As a dad I know how important it is to engage children in reading and what better way to do it than through rugby league.”

The series, published by Macmillan Education, features biographies of 18 high profile players and outlines how they became first-grade rugby league players. Themes of cultural diversity, mateship, education, community, health and wellbeing, and family underpin the biographies, allowing teachers to integrate these resources in the classroom curriculum.

Suzan lectures in boys education, literacy and education studies at the University’s Strathfield Campus. She and colleague Associate Professor Jan Long have researched the impact and effects of the Rugby League Reads resources on boys, girls and teachers across 10 schools in NSW.

Key findings from the research included:

  • 78% of all male students and 25% of all female students were more motivated in reading sessions in the classroom when using the Rugby League Reads magazines;
  • 75% of male students’ voluntary reading increased due to their exposure to the Rugby League Reads magazines;
  • the use of Reading Captains from all 16 NRL clubs makes a substantial impact on students’ attitudes and reading habits.

(Source: Australian Catholic University)

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Date Created: April 16, 2014 Date Modified: April 17, 2014