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Willie Mason plays ‘Willie-ella’, Benji Marshall is one of ‘The Three Little Tigers’ and Billy Slater and Cameron Smith are ‘Hansel and Gretel’ in a special ‘Footy Fables’ book launched today as part of the NRL’s unique partnership with Australia’s leading education publisher Macmillan Education.

NRL stars Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs), Ben Creagh (Dragons), Chris Lawrence and Lote Tuqiri (Wests Tigers) were at Rugby League’s Learning With League Centre today to unveil the ‘Footy Fables’ book, in which they star.

Written by boys education and literacy expert Suzan Hirsch and illustrated by former Panthers player and NRL Museum Manager Frank Puletua, ‘Footy Fables’ features a host of NRL players in rewritten popular fables and other short stories.

In an Australian sporting first, Macmillan Education’s partnership with the NRL marks the first time the award-winning ‘Primary Publisher of the Year’ has teamed up with a national sporting organisation to produce curriculum-based reading resources for school children.

In the first year of the three-year partnership, Macmillan Education will also publish ‘Rugby League Reads Magazine’, one of the innovative curriculum-based resources that has been part of the NRL’s successful Rugby League Reads program since its inception in 2010.

NRL General Manager of Community, Culture and Diversity, Ms Trish Crews, said the Rugby League Reads program was launched to engage primary students in reading and to break down stereotypes that sport stars, especially Rugby League men, do not need or like to read.

Since its introduction, Rugby League Reads has been used by more than 300,000 students (141,645 in 2012) across Australia, but the Macmillan partnership will see the program taken to another level with a push into schools throughout Australia, New Zealand and other international markets.

“When we launched Rugby League reads a few years ago we set out to engage children in reading and give them something they were interested in to read about,” Ms Crews said.

“We wanted children to understand that reading can be fun and that their Rugby League heroes also love to read.

“The partnership with Macmillan will ensure we expand our reach even further, giving more children access to the resources than ever before.

“It also shows that the NRL is serious about education and committed to using the profile of the game to making a difference.”

Macmillan Education Australia Managing Director, Mr Stewart Gill, said his company was excited about the partnership with the NRL, which marks the first time they have teamed up with a national sporting organisation in Australia.

“Harnessing the highly successful Rugby League Reads branding, we are able to contribute our significant expertise and knowledge about current initiatives and educational trends, to develop innovative resources for curriculum markets,” Mr Gill said.

“The single most important aim of our publishing is to improve educational outcomes. And there lies the strong synergy between the work of Macmillan Education and the NRL’s One Community Division: making a positive difference to people’s lives.

“We have no doubt that these resources, which excite students’ interest and engagement while addressing purposeful teaching and learning outcomes, will exceed market expectations of product affiliated with both brands.”

In 2010, independent research conducted by the Australian Catholic University on the benefits of the Rugby League Reads resources found that 85 per cent of teachers surveyed strongly agreed resources positively affected the engagement of male reluctant readers.

Key findings from the ACU’s research included:

• 78 per cent of all male students and 25 per cent of all female students were more motivated in reading sessions in the classroom when using the Rugby League Reads magazines.

• 75 per cent of male students’ voluntary reading increased due to their exposure to the Rugby League Reads magazines.

It also found the use of Reading Captains makes a substantial impact on students’ attitudes and reading habits. Each of the 16 NRL Clubs has a Reading Captain and all are involved with program in their local communities.

Dragons skipper and Reading Captain Ben Creagh said: “My parents always read to me so I grew up loving books, which has proved a bonus for me later in life throughout my studies at the University of Wollongong.

“I really enjoy visiting schools and reading to the children and just showing them all the benefits and fun that comes from reading.

“It is so important for children to develop good reading habits at a young age and most importantly to enjoy it. It will make such a Bold difference to their lives and if we can help to inspire them to read then that’s great.”

NRL Club Reading Captains

Broncos David Hala

Bulldogs Josh Reynolds

Cowboys Johnathan Thurston

Dragons Ben Creagh

Eels Ben Smith

Knights Kurt Gidley

Panthers David Simmons

Rabbitohs Jason Clark

Raiders Sam Williams

Roosters Anthony Minichiello

Sea Eagles Daly Cherry-Evans

Sharks Paul Gallen

Storm Ryan Hinchcliffe

Titans David Mead

Warriors Jerome Ropati

Wests Tigers Chris Lawrence

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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