Role model status of AFL players drives Monash University and Melbourne Football Club partnership

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Left to right: Kelly Carabott, Aidan Stewart, Sally Cooper, Kajal, Olivia Toms, Cameron Pederson, Hiruni, Tulliallan Lynne McDonald,Kaiden,Brodie, Christian Petracca, Madeline Kaio. 

Monash University has teamed up with the Melbourne Football Club in a new pilot study aimed at reducing the high number of ‘reluctant readers’ in Australian primary schools.

The centrepiece of the pilot study has been the development of an experimental website. Leading the website’s development were academics from Monash University’s Education Faculty, Dr Jane Kirkby, Lecturer, and Ms Kelly Carabott, Assistant Lecturer.

Dr Kirkby said research has shown that one third of Australian students aged 15 years do not read for enjoyment. Furthermore, girls are more likely than boys to state they enjoy reading for enjoyment Dr Kirkby said.

It is important Dr Kirkby said to encourage reading early to ensure more students keep reading as they enter adolescence.

“Literacy is a core building block for a successful career and wealth generation. The key to ensuring young people’s reading keeps improving is by engaging our students as independent readers. The classroom experience builds the key literacy skills but we need to pay attention to increasing the rate at which a wide variety of reading experiences become part of everyday life,” Dr Kirkby said.

“Monash respects the positive role model status that AFL players enjoy and we’ve worked well with the Melbourne Football Club to develop an educational website on the ANZAC theme that offers a selection of material presented in different ways. We want to spark interest in a topic in a way that encourages students to find similar materials to read and explore,” Dr Kirkby said.

The new website promotes the message ‘Read Like a Demon’ and includes segments presented by Melbourne footballers including Daisy Pearce, Colin Garland, Neville Jetta and Karen Paxman.

“We’ll use the website to track access and engagement among students. A focus will be to evaluate engagement with the online format and see if this translates to further reading of both online and more traditional paper based texts,” Dr Kirkby said.

The website is targeted at students from years 3 to 6 and combines written information, images and videos that assist the reader to understand the content. Ms Carabott said each weblink had been reviewed to ensure suitability for primary-aged students.

Development of the website saw Monash University engage with the Australian War Memorial and historical societies to access images and information.

The website builds on the existing relationship between Monash University and the Melbourne Football Club that has seen Demon players visit school classrooms to read books with students and to discuss the importance of reading.

Melbourne Football Club CEO Peter Jackson said: "The Melbourne Football Club is proud to promote literacy in schools with our Read Like a Demon program. Monash University’s Faculty of Education add significant value to this program, which encourages children in their primary years of schooling to develop and strengthen their skills in literacy.”

The Read Like a Demon program is available to schools in City of Casey; Shire of Cardinia; City of Boroondara; City of Glen Eira; and the City of Stonnington and is in partnership with the Casey Cardinia Library Network and Monash University.