Upson a reading champion

Matthew Upson has lent his support to the Barclays Premier League's innovative Reading Stars project that encourages families to pick up a book and read more often.

The campaign is kicking off its sixth season and the England defender is the club's chosen 'Reading Champion'. The 28-year-old's favourite adult book was 'Slaying the Dragon', written by Olympic athlete Michael Johnson. Upson, who picked John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men as his book for children, said: "I like reading because you can interpret what you read in your own way and it also broadens your knowledge. Michael Johnson is someone I respect as an athlete and the way he talks about his achievements can be applied to any walk of life."

All 20 Barclays Premier League clubs have chosen their Reading Champions and each team has adopted a library that will receive free copies of all the titles. Families who take part in sessions at the library have the chance to meet their Reading Champion, a local author and get involved in a series of football-based literacy games throughout the initiative. The other books selected cut across a range of genres. For example, former West Ham United goalkeeper David James, now at Portsmouth, chose 'Why is Snot Green?' by Glenn Murphy and Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt selected Frederick Forsyth's 'The Day of the Jackal'.

Results from last year's project indicate that Premier League Reading Stars is working, with 97 per cent of children who took part saying that they will read more regularly as a result and 90 per cent of parents said they would go to a library more often. The scheme has been developed as part of a partnership between the National Literacy Trust, Arts Council England, Football Foundation and the Premier League, and will be supported by a series of family reading groups at libraries across the country.

Sir Dave Richards, Chairman of the Premier League and the Football Foundation, said: "With Premier League Reading Stars, we hope to be able to use footballers' favourite book choices as a way of inspiring families to read together. It gives players the opportunity to act as positive role models and shows that by using the power of football we can successfully change people's attitudes to reading."

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said: "Parental involvement in reading has more of an influence on children's achievement than many other factors - including how rich or well educated their parents are. Football has the power to capture the imagination of parents and children alike, so it's fantastic to see such great support for reading from players and clubs."