Sunderland AFC stars Duncan Watmore and Tom Flanagan show off reading skills during National Storytelling Week

Schoolchildren got the chance to turn pages alongside Sunderland AFC stars at a special reading event.

As part of National Storytelling Week, youngsters from Jarrow Cross Church Of England Primary School met with Black Cats players Duncan Watmore and Tom Flanagan at the Foundation of Light’s Beacon of Light centre.

SAFC players Duncan Watmore and Tom Flanagan vists the Beacon of Light as part of National Storytelling Week with Jarrow Cross C of E Primary School pupils.

SAFC players Duncan Watmore and Tom Flanagan vists the Beacon of Light as part of National Storytelling Week with Jarrow Cross C of E Primary School pupils.

They were there as part of their work with the Premier League’s Primary Stars programme, which sees children improve their reading and literacy skills.

The children have been working in small groups for one hour per week to develop key skills to help them in their SATs and further education.

As well as reading with the players, the group also got to chat to care home residents who were invited along.

Foundation of Light’s Danielle Chapman, who is a Primary Stars education co-ordinator, said: “We try and use the power of sport to engage the children to improve their skills with reading and literacy.

SAFC player Duncan Watmore with pupils from  Jarrow Cross C of E Primary School  as part of National Storytelling Week

SAFC player Duncan Watmore with pupils from Jarrow Cross C of E Primary School as part of National Storytelling Week

“Using SAFC as a backdrop, we try and grab their attention to promote how important it is for them to improve these skills.

“Sometimes we are able to work with small groups so that the sessions are more focused.

“It’s also nice for them to get out and about and see other people such as the elderly residents who they’ve been speaking to today.”

Jarrow Cross CofE’s Marie Doran, who is year 6 teaching assistant, said: “The programme gets the children out and about and talking to people they normally wouldn’t get the chance to speak to.

SAFC player Tom Flanagan with pupils as part of National Storytelling Week

SAFC player Tom Flanagan with pupils as part of National Storytelling Week

“It’s definitely helping with the reading skills.

“I don’t think we expected the programme to be so similar to what we teach as part of the curriculum.

“It’s very appropriate to what we teach.”

Watmore, who has battled back from two serious injuries in recent years, said: “It’s easy for kids to forget the power of books when you have things like social media on phones.

SAFC players Duncan Watmore and Tom Flanagan vists the Beacon of Light as part of National Storytelling Week with Jarrow Cross C of E Primary School pupils and care home residents

SAFC players Duncan Watmore and Tom Flanagan vists the Beacon of Light as part of National Storytelling Week with Jarrow Cross C of E Primary School pupils and care home residents

“But you can get a lot more from reading a book than reading on a phone.

“I’ve enjoyed talking to the children and going through what their favourite books are because the type of person I am, I’ve always got something I’m on with reading.

“The foundation does such good work like this and it’s fantastic to be in the Beacon for the first time since it’s been finished. It’s a great building.”

Premier League Primary Stars is a national curriculum linked education programme using the appeal of the Premier League and professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills.