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COMMUNITY: O's players pay surprise visit to Handsworth School

9 May 2017

Handsworth Primary School in Chingford had a surprise visit from a couple of O’s first-teamers recently when defenders Callum Kennedy and Tom Parkes popped in to see pupils that had written to them as part of the school’s initiative to help encourage reading and writing.

The Secret Book Club is the brainchild of Year 4 form tutor Fiona Buckley and is designed to show how powerful the written word can be.

In an effort to prove it, pupils were asked to write to their favourite players inviting them to visit the school although most were sceptical that they would even receive a reply.

Fiona explains: “I had originally come across the idea when I met Dan Lea, the Deputy Head, at Gearies primary school last year. He had run the book club very successfully and I felt it ticked a lot of boxes in terms of reaching out to boys who were losing interest in Literacy as a subject.

“Research consistently shows that many boys become completely apathetic towards writing by the age of 10.

“The Secret Book Club aims to imbue them with a love of writing, to make them realize that writing does have a purpose, their words really DO have power and that these words can effect change in their school. As they mentioned in their letters to the players they voluntarily gave up their lunchtimes to work on their book.

“Their book was based on a chapter from a book called Karlsson on the Roof by Astrid Lindgren. The idea behind this is that the boys would work with a quality text and they would adapt, edit, revise and rewrite it to make it their own. They can then use all these skills that they developed in the SBC on work that they produce day to day in the classroom.

“The book release generated amazing excitement and the boys couldn't believe it when they saw the crowds around the stand they set up and how children delighted in finding a copy in unexpected places. They really were shocked and delighted that something they had written could create such an amazing buzz!!

“To keep that feeling going, to cement their new-found self-belief and to take things to the next level, I asked them to write to you. Could their words have enough power to persuade a player to visit the school? And the rest is history!”

The players were so impressed with the written invites that they decided to fulfil the requests and consequently met their invitees along with other class mates who had no idea the footballers were going to be part of their school day!

“Education is so important,” said Kennedy, “We are more than happy to meet the children. I thought the personal letters were great and said to Howard (Gould – Community Liaison Officer) immediately that I’d visit the school. It’s a wonderful initiative and I hope it will inspire the children to continue to study hard, work with their teachers and believe in themselves”.

Kennedy and Parkes also spent time kicking a ball with the Secret Book Club members as an extra-special treat before answering questions from the whole class followed by the obligatory photos and autographs.

Fiona added: “Thank you so much for a wonderful visit. The staff were really impressed by the players' professionalism and warmth. They were well briefed on their visit ensuring that they mentioned the boys' book club and spoke enthusiastically of their own reading experiences. They were very complimentary to the boys on their reading project and spent half an hour playing football with them.

“Callum and Tom then answered questions from the class thoughtfully and with great consideration for the school's growth mind-set ethos, focusing on goals, perseverance and grit. The children were absolutely ecstatic, but for the six boys in particular, this experience is certain to have long lasting effects on their self-esteem and achievements in the future.

“All in all, Tom and Callum were wonderful ambassadors for the club and exactly the type of role models we would like our children to aspire to. We would love to work with you all again in the future!”

The members of the Secret Book Club also had personal messages for the players:

Luke: “Thank you for coming. It was a fantastic day. It was funny when you kicked the ball over the fence into the house!”
Buba: “You played very well and I wish I could be like you. You are a very good shot. It doesn't matter if you lose or win, it matters how you play. Your skills are very good. Please come again!”
Deen: “It was really nice meeting you. Playing football with you was my favourite part and thank you for signing autographs in our books for us!”
Aaron: “I was over the moon to meet you because I really wanted you to come to our school!”
Eden: “Thank you for coming to our school it was THE BEST DAY!!!!!!!”
Ilyaas: “I thought the visit was so good because I had never been to a real football stadium or met a real footballer until you came. Seeing you in reality and playing football with you was awesome!”

Please check out this link to see full details of this amazing story: http://www.handsworthprimary.org.uk/ClassPages.aspx?c=009

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