Marcus Rashford launches Book Club to give kids the bedtime stories he never had because his mum was too busy working
GROWING up on a tough housing estate, Marcus Rashford didn’t realise other children were read bedtime stories until he saw it in movies.
As his hard-working mum Melanie toiled day and night to put food on the table, books were lower down the list of priorities.
The England star exclusively told The Sun: “I wasn’t to know that it was a normal thing for somebody to be read a bedtime story.
“It’s something I’d only seen in films. But films are films, not reality.”
It wasn’t until he was 17 that the Manchester United forward began to experience the joy of reading books which he credits with helping shape his character.
Now, fresh from inspiring a double Government U-turn on free school meals, Marcus is turning his campaigning zeal to encouraging youngsters to read by setting up his own book club.
I wasn’t to know that it was a normal thing for somebody to be read a bedtime story.
The 23-year-old revealed: “I just wish I was offered the opportunity to really engage with reading more as a child, but books were never a thing we could budget for as a family when we needed to put food on the table.
“My mum used to tell me stories and she’d make me laugh but we never had books to read together. I thought of books as part of school and that was it.
“There were times where the escapism of reading could have really helped me.
“I want this escapism for all children. Not just those that can afford it.”
MAKING HIS MARC
Today he’s using the pages of The Sun to announce the Marcus Rashford Book Club which aims to get youngsters reading – especially those from vulnerable and under privileged backgrounds.
Speaking via a Zoom interview after missing out on England’s Sunday evening match against Belgium with a shoulder injury, he revealed “I only started reading books when I was 17 and it completely changed my outlook and mentality.
“It showed me different parts of myself that I didn’t know existed.
“I think that if I’d read books when I was younger it would have made me grow up a lot quicker. I feel books can help children become what they want to become.
“Looking forwards, books will be a priority when I have children.”
As he outlines his latest dream of getting kids reading, Marcus speaks with a calm and persuasive sincerity.
I feel books can help children become what they want to become.
The campaigner believes that social media-obsessed young people should take breaks from their phones and try and engage with a book.
Mature beyond his years, Marcus revealed: “Sometimes it’s important for me to just switch my phone off and leave what I call ‘that world’ because it overrides so much.
“People are always on their phones. I have it with my nephew, he’s always on his phone or he’s always gaming.
“I just try and make sure he’s aware that even one hour a day, or half an hour a day, if you read just 10, 20 or 30 pages, it will all add up.
“If we can start to do that a bit more reading and a little bit less on things like phones and iPads, then I think it’ll help children a lot."
TURNING A PAGE
Teaming up with Macmillan Children’s Books, Marcus will help choose books that he thinks will appeal to young people while making sure children from all backgrounds are represented.
The tomes will appear in stores with the Marcus Rashford Book Club stamp and he’ll promote them on his social media channels.
For those from underprivileged backgrounds, he’ll team up with charities to give away books for free, saying: “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.
“My books are, and always will be, for every child, even if I have to deliver them myself. We will reach them.”
My books are, and always will be, for every child, even if I have to deliver them myself. We will reach them.
He’s also writing his own non fiction work, in partnership
with football journalist with Carl Anka and performance psychologist
YOU ARE A CHAMPION: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice and Be the BEST You Can Be – will be published in May 2021 with his book club to follow.
And he’ll also pen two children’s fiction books aimed at the over sevens which are due to be published in 2022.
Sam Smith, Marcus’ publisher from Macmillan Children’s Books, said the company was “thrilled” and “proud” to be working with the “can do” player.
She added: “We hope when people hear how important reading is to Marcus that it will not only inspire a new generation of readers but also writers and illustrators.”
Marcus says one reason he believes he didn’t connect with books at schools was because he didn’t often see characters in their pages that he could relate to.
He added: “Children need to be able to picture themselves being that character in a book.
“We’re definitely going to have characters that come in all different shapes, sizes, religions, colours, everything.”
His favourite book – which he’s read four times – is Relentless by basketball trainer Tim Grover which breaks down “what it takes to be unstoppable”.
Rashford – his eyes alight as he enthuses about the power of books – is a man who while reaching the glittering peak of Britain’s most popular sport has never forgotten where he’s from.
A tattoo on his midriff shows a little boy under a cherry tree with a football at his feet.
Behind him is an etching of the terraced home where Marcus grew up on the tough Northern Moor estate in the Wythenshawe area of Manchester.
The youngest of five siblings from a single-parent family, Marcus tells me: “I go back to my area pretty much every day.
"It’s normal for me, and it’s normal for my community to see me there, so I feel like that link is so strong it will never disappear.
“So I never lose sight of where I come from, because I truly believe that it made me the person I am, and was probably the biggest factor to help me get to where I am today.”
His book YOU ARE a CHAMPION – written with football journalist with Carl Anka and performance psychologist Katie Warriner – will include a chapter on female role models.
I never lose sight of where I come from, because I truly believe that it made me the person I am.
Marcus says his single mum Melanie – who worked a variety of jobs with family members sometimes relying on food banks and soup kitchens – is very much his heroine.
The footballer added: “I’d seen her go through things day to day that children shouldn’t really see.
“I saw how hard she worked, how strong she’s been to make herself a life.
“And then I see her now, where she’s comfortable, she’s happy, but she still rings me every day to speak to me about things that I’m doing.
“And she wants me to keep going no matter what people are saying.”
'I KNOW WHO I AM'
On Sunday, Marcus reacted on Twitter to a newspaper story which described him as a “campaigning football star” and detailed how he had bought five properties worth £2m this year which are expected to be used as buy-to-let investments.
The star wrote: “Ok, so let’s address this. I’m 23. I came from little. I need to protect not just my future but my family’s too.
“To do that I made a decision at the beg of 2020 to start investing more in property. Please don’t run stories like this alongside refs to ‘campaigning’.”
Seeing comments and hearing stories about me won’t stop me.
Marcus told The Sun: “I have my own life that I have to get on with as well as trying to do my best to help other people.
“Seeing comments and hearing stories about me won’t stop me. I expect people to try and find bad in something that’s good.
“It doesn’t distract me from what I’m trying to do, because I know who I am and what I stand for.
“I’m just trying to help people that have been in the same situation as I was when growing up. I don’t want them to go through what I went through.”
The Sun Says
THERE is a richness to reading greater than the sugar rush of TV shows or the games console. Too few kids appreciate that.
Marcus Rashford’s single mum couldn’t afford books and he only read his first at 17. Now he can’t get enough.
“Reading completely changed my outlook and mentality,” says the Man Utd star.
The Sun is proud to back his new campaign, after his success with free school meals, to instil the joy of reading in kids, especially from poor backgrounds.
Find out all about his book club over the page. Your children might turn over a new leaf too — as Marcus did.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
After a year in which he was awarded an MBE for his campaign to feed hungry children, Marcus is credited with giving football a new-found conscience and becoming a high profile spokesman for the disadvantaged.
Earlier this month he received a telephone call from Boris Johnson confirming the Government will be handing £400million to local councils to help feed more than 1.5m school children over next 12 months. Another £16m will be made available for the country’s food banks.
It was the Government’s second Rashford-inspired U-turn to help hungry kids.
Marcus said of his phone call with the Prime Minister: “Well, when we started the free school meals campaign, I knew that speaking to him was the most important thing.
“I never wanted it to come across like it was a fight against him. I wanted us to be able to sit down and just speak, and try and come up with a solution to improve these kids’ lives.”
Don’t expect Rashford to enter politics when he hangs up his boots.
The striker insisted: “I’m not a politician and I don’t want to be a politician.
“I’m just somebody whose dreams came true and I just want to give others that opportunity.
“I believe books can inspire youngsters so their dreams come true too.”
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