Footballer Marcus Rashford has followed his free school meals campaign by launching a book club to help children enjoy the escapism of reading.
The Manchester United and England star has teamed up with Macmillan Children's Books to promote reading and literacy.
Books were "never a thing we could budget for as a family", he said.
"I only started reading at 17, and it completely changed my outlook and mentality." He said reading shouldn't be for "just those that can afford it".
The 23-year-old continued: "I wish I was offered the opportunity to really engage with reading more as a child.
"There were times where the escapism of reading could have really helped me. I want this escapism for all children."
Macmillan said the scheme would see a large number of books being given away to children from vulnerable and under-privileged backgrounds.
Rashford added: "We know there are over 380,000 children across the UK today that have never owned a book, children that are in vulnerable environments. That has to change."
A spokeswoman for the publisher said it would work with Rashford and charities to "find the most effective mechanisms to reach the children who need them".
Rashford's life stories
The project will begin with an illustrated non-fiction book called YOU ARE A CHAMPION: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice And Be The BEST You Can Be, which will be aimed at children aged 11-16, and published in May 2021.
Each chapter will start with a story from Rashford's own life and will cover such topics as the value of education, positive mentality, understanding culture, and female role models.
Carl Anka, a journalist for sports media group The Athletic, and Katie Warriner, a performance psychologist, will help write the book.
Rashford will then publish two fiction titles for readers aged seven upwards. Meanwhile, the Marcus Rashford Book Club will give away books from the publisher's existing roster "with the aim of championing the works of creatives from all backgrounds".
Rashford said: "My books are, and always will be, for every child, even if I have to deliver them myself. We will reach them."
"Let our children read that they are not alone and enable them to dream. Equip them for obstacles and adversities they might face. Allow them to relate to characters by making sure people of all race, religion and gender are depicted correctly and representative of modern society.
"No matter where you grow up, talent should be recognised and championed. Under the Marcus Rashford Book Club young writers, illustrators and creatives will be seen and they will be offered a platform to shine."
The striker has received national praise for highlighting the issue of child food poverty, and his campaign resulted in a government U-turn to announce free meals would be provided to disadvantaged children over the Christmas holidays. He was awarded an MBE last month.
Source : BBC News, 17 Nov 2020