NRL stars Mitchell Pearce, Luke Lewis, Trent Merrin, Ben Creagh, Robbie Farah, Terry Campese, Sam Thaiday, Tim Mannah and Matt Ballin are among the "Legends of League" whose personal stories have been shared in a Rugby League book series launched for children.
The "Legends of League" biography series is the latest addition to the NRL's library of publications that have been used by more than 500,000 children since the Rugby league Reads program started in 2010 to encourage more children to read; and "Footy Fables", launched last May, is in over 1000 school libraries.
Sea Eagles hooker Matt Ballin, who will play Tim Mannah's Eels at Manly's Brookvale Oval this weekend, launched the "Legends of League" series (for years 4-6 students) during a visit to Mona Vale Public School today where he talked to Year 6 children about the importance of reading.
Ballin, who is studying to be a high school PE teacher and is an apprentice mentor for the NRL's Trading Up program, said he had no hesitation in being part of the game's successful Rugby League Reads program.
"I place a huge value on education and programs like Rugby League Reads show the NRL is serious about education and committed to using the profile of the game to making a positive difference to people's lives," Ballin said.
"As a Dad I know how important it is to engage children in reading and what better way to do it than through Rugby League."
The Legends of League series provides students with biographies of 18 high profile Rugby League players and their journey to first grade Rugby League. Themes of cultural diversity, mateship, education, community, health and wellbeing and family underpin the biographies, allowing teachers to integrate these resources in the classroom curriculum.
Written by boys' education and literacy expert Ms Suzan Hirsch, the new curriculum-based biography series follows the release last year of "Footy Fables" to launch the NRL's three-year partnership with seven-time award-winning "Primary Publisher of the Year" Macmillan Education.
"Rugby League players often prefer to read sporting biographies and students identified that they would like to do the same - the Legends of League biography series gives students this opportunity," Ms Hirsch said.
"Until now, the sporting biographies on the market were aimed at adults. Through the lives of the Rugby League players students will realise becoming a First Grade player is not an easy journey - determination, hard work and passion is required and every player's journey and life story is different."
Macmillan Education also publishes "Rugby League Reads Magazine", one of the innovative flagship resources that has been part of the NRL's Rugby League Reads program since its inception.
The partnership takes the Rugby League Reads program to another level with a push into schools throughout Australia, New Zealand and other international markets.
NRL Interim General Manager Mark Deweerd said the 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.
"The partnership with Macmillan is great for Rugby League; as the Primary Publisher of the Year for the past seven successive years their reach and profile ensures we can give more children access to our resources than ever before," he said.
"It has also enabled us to produce high quality resources that are curriculum based and like no other on the market."
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.
2014 NRL Club Reading Captains
Broncos Jordan Kahu
Bulldog Josh Reynolds
Cowboys Johnathan Thurston
Dragons Dan Hunt
Eels Mitchell Allgood
Knights Robbie Rochow
Panthers David Simmons
Rabbitohs Beau Champion
Raiders Brett White
Roosters Jake Friend
Sea Eagles Brenton Lawrence
Sharks Michael Gordon
Storm Ryan Hoffman
Titans Matt Srama
Warriors Ben Henry
Wests Tigers Curtis Sironen