Literacy - Pitch-perfect role models
What it's all about
As a football-mad children's author, I've talked to children aged 8 to 14 in schools around the country since writing the Jamie Johnson series of children's books, writes Dan Freedman.
These are stories of an ordinary boy who dreams of becoming a famous footballer, aimed particularly at reluctant readers.
Boys and girls are intrigued by the fact that I got to meet and interview stars of the pitch - including David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sir Alex Ferguson and Lionel Messi - in my former role as editor of the Football Association's website. But the most important message I can give them is how much I love reading and writing books. When I was their age, I refused to read anything.
So what changed? How did I end up going to university to study politics and philosophy but graduating in English literature? It took me not studying English to realise how much I missed it.
But I also had two very important male role models: my primary teacher Mr Baldwin, and an English teacher, Mr Hitchcock. The former made me stand against a brick wall and kick the ball by myself for hours every break time, to develop my ability to play with both feet. The latter was simply encouraging and supportive. When I would tell him I could not write the essay he had asked for, he would gently enquire about some of my ideas, and reassure me that they were valid and I should explore them. He gave me the confidence to believe in myself.
Footie focus: Help to develop sports journalists of the future with lbrowne's football writing exercise.