Matt Taylor urged youngsters to improve their reading skills at a recent community event.

The popular West Ham United midfielder visited Rainham Library in Essex to speak to a group of local schoolchildren about how becoming a bookworm can be an enjoyable experience.

Around 50 youngsters had taken part in a summer reading scheme organised by the library and were invited to meet the West Ham United No14 as a reward for completing a number of books and activities. The scheme had a sporting theme, with the children reading an array of different books on the subject.

Taylor spoke about his memories of reading at school before revealing that his favourite childhood book was the Roald Dahl classic James and the Giant Peach.

"My most vivid memory of books when I was at school were the Roald Dahl books," said Taylor, "purely because they were written in such a way that they got me hooked into the story straight away. It was all about adventure and had great animation to go along with it.

"As a child, your imagination runs wild and these books were perfect foil for that. James and the Giant Peach, which I think a lot of children still read today and I would still read it as an adult, was great. It was a book that certainly fired my enthusiasm to read more."

Matt Taylor

It was then the turn of the children to question Taylor on subjects ranging from what inspiration he got from reading to how he became a footballer.

"There were some good questions out there, it was better than a press conference!" he joked. "Kids tell you how it is, you know where you stand with them. I have three children of my own, so I really enjoyed speaking with them and hope that they got as much out of this visit as I did.

"Hopefully, I have helped a few more children to want to read a few more books and enjoy reading.

"Reading is a life tool - when I get into my car in the morning I need to read the road signs so I can travel into training. In all walks of life we need to read and write. If you can, it opens all doors of opportunity to you, so if we can encourage kids to read then that is one more life skill they will have to spur them on to do more."

Taylor's visit proved popular with the children, their parents and guardians and library staff alike.

Rainham Library manager David Dennison said: "We enjoyed meeting Matt and the children certainly enjoyed meeting him and getting the chance to ask him questions. For them to see that someone they look up to in a sport like football was talking to them about reading was also really good.

"The scheme we ran in the summer resulted in great achievements for a lot of the children and the reward for their hard work was to be here at this event and hopefully, at the end of it, encourage them to read more and enjoy it."