The NRL has launched the 'Rugby League Reads' program at Cronulla Library – an initiative to help primary school children realise the power and enjoyment of reading.
To coincide with the 70th anniversary of Australia's Book Week in August, the NRL's Rugby League Reads program has released a series of books and magazines, which are linked to the Australian curriculum, to encourage and inspire kids from kindergarten to sixth grade. With books ranging from how Dragons forward Trent Merrin deals with bullies to Parramatta captain Tim Mannah's hopeful tale about brushing his teeth, Rugby League Reads provides material for children to read for pleasure as well as use the profile of the NRL and its players to engage reluctant readers and relate with individuals they see play every weekend.
Veteran Sharks back-rower Luke Lewis was on hand at the program's launch and detailed how he would have loved to have had something like this as a kid.
Lewis, who is the inspiration behind 'Training with Luke' – one of the 24 books which have been produced for Rugby League Reads, believes it is an important initiative.
"I think the NRL has taken a great step forward in doing what they're doing to make a big point of it while also taking away from all the negative stuff out there too. I know 99 per cent of us players will stick their hands up to go out and help young kids," Lewis told NRL.com.
"I never read when I was at school - so I used to get nervous when the teacher used to say 'Luke can you read the next paragraph' because I was reading something I wasn't really interested in - but if they had this program around when I was a kid I would have definitely read a lot more then.
"To read about something you enjoy, you get that confidence [to read] and then if the teacher was to say 'can you read out what happened to the Cronulla Sharks on the weekend' then you're happy to do that because you're watching the game, you're reading about your team which you support and I think it's just a great idea."
Detailing how his brush with Matt Adamson while he was at school inspired him, Lewis said his participation in Rugby League Reads is a way of giving back to kids, like he once was.
Lewis added that he can see how the program could potentially "bring out the confidence in kids who may be quiet or shy" and while he admitted he only started reading books three years ago, thanks to teammate Wade Graham, it has proved a great activity to help clear his mind.
Graham, the Sharks Reading Captain for 2015, like Lewis is a big fan of Rugby League Reads.
Drawing from his huge interest in reading, the Sharks star is excited to see the potential of the program realised.
"It's just great to see the kids' interest generated through these books and to help them develop their reading skills," Graham told NRL.com.
"You see how excited they are all the time and kids are so impressionable and I think getting kids into reading while they're young is only going to help.
"It's all about them being happy and comfortable with reading. So if these books peak the kids interest then it's already a good development tool."
While Graham isn't a featured in the K-2 books, the Sharks back-rower features in the Rugby League Reads magazine alongside his fellow reading captains.
Aimed at older primary school children, the magazine is more complex in terms of featuring different styles of writing, diet tips and reading activities to partake in.
It's something which Graham can totally relate to considering his interest in reading came later on in his school life.
"I didn't start getting into reading a bit further down the track than the [K-2 books]. But the magazine I'm involved in caters for kids like me who started reading later in life," Graham said.
"It's a bit harder to read so obviously as the kids get older and develop their skills then they can move on to the magazine.
"For me it only took one book to start [reading consistently]. Before you know it for these kids, it will be two books, three books and then you're reading book on book on book."
Books in the Rugby League Reads series include:
When I'm Sad - selection of Knights players
Brothers in League - Morris Twins
A Cowboys Legend - Matt Bowen
Robbie's Story- Robbie Farrah
Eating Around the World - David Klemmer
Train Like a Bronco - David Hala
The Titan from Papua New Guinea - David Mead
Brush with Tim - Tim Mannah
Trent and the Bullies - Trent Merrin
Around the World - selection of Rabbitohs players