Footballer Marcus Rashford has launched a book club to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds and encourage them to read.
The England and Manchester United striker previously campaigned to ensure children eligible for free school meals were still given food during the holidays amid the pandemic.
The book club will see Macmillan Children’s Books donate 50,000 free books through children’s food charity Magic Breakfast to reach children in more than 850 primary schools across England and Scotland.
The aim of the club is to work closely with schools to get books into the hands of children from disadvantaged backgrounds to encourage reading for pleasure among children who do not have access to books at home.
A survey by the National Literacy Trust in 2019 showed that 383,775 children do not own a single book.
The 50,000 books will be divided between the primary schools Magic Breakfast currently supports, including mainstream schools, pupil referral units (PRU) and special educational needs (SEN) schools.
Each school will be offered an allocation of books to distribute among children to own and take home.
The book club will launch in June 2021 with illustrated time travel adventure A Dinosaur Ate My Sister by Pooja Puri, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan.
The next book will be launched in the autumn.
Rashford said: “For too long, the joy of reading has been restricted by whether or not a family has the contingency budget to purchase books.
“The children who often miss out are those on free school meals and users of breakfast clubs, who more than likely need fiction, and non-fiction, to escape reality from time to time.
“We haven’t been affording these children the option of reading for fun but that changes today.
“I’m really happy to be partnering with Magic Breakfast to get our books in the hands of children that need them most. I’m proud to have Pooja join us too.
“She writes in a way that is engaging, escapist and authentic. Pooja is super talented and I’m a big fan, and I’m sure that the recipients of her book A Dinosaur Ate My Sister will soon be fans of hers too.”
Rachael Anderson, head of schools at Magic Breakfast, which offers healthy breakfasts to around 170,000 children each school day, said: “Now more than ever, families are facing hardship and for too many it’s a struggle to put food on the table – these children often miss out on the joy of brand new books at home to own and re-read.
“We also know the benefits of breakfast in school extend further than filling hungry tummies, it is a special time that also enables children to build friendships, learn through play and sit and read a good book.
“We know children at our partner schools will be delighted to have a Marcus’ Book Club book of their own to take home and keep, and this will help inspire a new generation of children to discover the joy of reading.”
Rashford will publish his own illustrated non-fiction children’s book, written with Carl Anka, on May 27.
You Are A Champion: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice And Be The BEST You Can Be is aimed at children over the age of 10 and seeks “to equip them with mental resilience and grit”.