Scotland’s football clubs to get children reading – with the help of free match tickets!

Girl reading underneath a tree with a football
Category: Press Releases

Key headlines:

  • Free match tickets for kids who read
  • Scottish Book Trust, SPFL Trust, & Scottish Libraries partnership launches in Dundee
  • Over half of Scotland’s libraries will be involved in a 14-club pilot project
  • Programme is funded by the SPFL


The SPFL Trust and Scottish Book Trust today (6 February 2018) launched a pioneering pilot project, which aims to encourage kids to read.

Working in partnership with 14 SPFL clubs and local libraries, the 4-4-2 Reading Challenge will aim to inspire children aged 5-12 to read four books in exchange for match tickets.

The initiative centres on a reading “challenge card” which participating clubs and libraries will issue. For every book read, children will receive a stamp on their card.

When they have read four books, participants will receive a FREE match ticket, while an accompanying adult will be able to purchase a discounted ticket.

Although this is a test project, over 200 libraries, marking more than a third of the estate in Scotland, will be involved, across 11 of Scotland’s thirty-two local authorities. The project could be extended to cover the whole country if the initiative is a winner.

Funding for the 4-4-2 Reading Challenge has been generously provided by the SPFL. In turn, the SPFL Trust and Scottish Book Trust have launched a partnership to deliver an initial three-month campaign.

The project was launched at Coldside Library in Dundee today (Tuesday), as a class of Primary 3 children from Dens Park Primary School enjoy a magical session with Danny Scott, author of the Scotland Stars FC series, and Sarah Forbes, creator of the Elspeth Hart adventure books.

They were joined by Dundee FC striker Roarie Deacon and Dundee United star Willo Flood for the special event.

The 4-4-2 Reading Challenge is underpinned by a beautifully crafted visual campaign, featuring the drawings of Edinburgh-based Danish illustrator Anders Frang.

SPFL Trust Chief Executive Nicky Reid comments:

“The 4-4-2 Reading Challenge initiative is designed to encourage children who don’t regularly visit the library or participate in sport to do so. As such, we think it’s a real win-win opportunity for all concerned. Although this is a pilot project, we have high hopes that it can be a hugely successful programme, and so we are grateful to the SPFL for their support to allow us to kick-off.”

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, a charity changing lives through reading and writing, said:

“Taking part in sport and reading are both important for young people’s physical and mental health. As well as being fun, reading for pleasure can increase empathy, reduce stress and improve wellbeing, while all the research shows that children who read for pleasure also tend to do better at school. We’re delighted to work with the SPFL to use sport to encourage a love of reading in Scotland’s children.”

Dundee FC captain Darren O’Dea comments:

“I really enjoy reading with my little girl and hopefully with this initiative we'll be able to encourage those who don't read so much to try to do so.”

Dundee United skipper Willo Flood adds:

“In today's world, with so many gadgets, platforms and websites like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, it can quickly be forgotten how vital and enjoyable reading is. Everyone with children loves sitting reading with their kid and I am no different. Reading stimulates the mind in a truly unique way.

“I am here today in the hope that we can ensure future generations will appreciate the value of reading for everyone - and if Dundee United can get a few new fans out of the kids who are here today - even better!”

SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster comments:

“The 4-4-2 Reading Challenge is another excellent initiative from the SPFL Trust and Scottish Book Trust that the SPFL is delighted to support. Learning to read is a cornerstone of every child’s upbringing and hopefully the reward of getting to a football match will encourage many of them to take up the challenge.”

For more information please contact:


SPFL Trust

Lawrence Broadie, Electrify Marketing & Communications on behalf of the SPFL Trust / 07966 216 270


Scottish Book Trust

Lindsay Clydesdale, Media & PR Manager, Scottish Book Trust / 0131 524 0175




Clubs participating in the 4-4-2 Reading Challenge are:

Annan Athletic FC

Arbroath FC

Dundee FC

Dundee United FC

Forfar Athletic FC

Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC

Kilmarnock FC

Livingston FC

Motherwell FC

Peterhead FC

Raith Rovers FC

Ross County FC

St Johnstone FC

Stirling Albion FC


Why is Reading so Important?

Reading and writing transform lives.

Reading and writing are the most important factors in reducing the attainment gap, improve mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and dementia, and influence people’s work, relationships and the economy.

Inequality and Literacy

  • More than 1 in 4 of Scotland’s children are living in poverty and the problem is getting worse (Child Poverty Action Group)
  • Children from deprived backgrounds often do not go on to higher education and are likely to earn less over the course of their lives
  • By the age of three, children from the most prosperous households have heard 30 million more words spoken throughout their lifetime than children from impoverished households (Source: The Thirty Million Word Gap by Betty Hart And Todd R. Risley)
  • When they are five, the vocabulary of children from low-income households is typically more than a year behind those from high-income backgrounds (Source: Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Closing the Attainment Gap In Scottish Education Report)
  • Helping children to develop a lifelong love of reading can reverse this situation, helping to break the cycle of poverty and improve their life chances

Children who are read to every day by their parents and carers have been shown to be almost 12 months ahead of their age group by the time they start school. Even reading to children two or three times a week can make a significant contribution to their development.

Mental Health Benefits

Scotland is facing a mental health and wellbeing crisis. One in three people suffer from mental illness each year, and the number of people with dementia is set to double in the next 25 years.

Reading and writing for pleasure has incredible benefits for mental health:

  • Just six minutes of reading can reduce stress by 68%.
  • Reading is linked to preventing and slowing the onset of dementia.
  • Reading and creative writing improve empathy, communication and self-esteem and reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reading fiction can model ways of coping with alienation or problems at school, work or in relationships.
  • Reading creates a greater empathy with other sectors of society and with other cultures, which can help tackle social problems such as xenophobia, sectarianism and racism and create a more tolerant, civic-minded society.


About the SPFL Trust

The SPFL Trust works in partnership with SPFL clubs and external agencies to promote, support, fund and administer activities which empower clubs to meet the identified social needs of the people of Scotland.

Our Purpose

To use football’s unique presence to identify and provide opportunities for people across Scotland’s communities to achieve their goals and improve their life chances.

Our Vision Is

To work with SPFL clubs to use the unique power of football to engage with communities.

Our Priorities Are To

  • Inspire SPFL clubs to meet a variety of local community needs
  • Build capacity in SPFL clubs to help them engage with local communities
  • Engage with funders to facilitate national projects at local level
  • Establish relationships on a national level to ensure that Scotland’s professional football clubs are at the heart of the national vision to tackle social issues

Key Values Underpinning Our Work

  • We believe the SPFL Trust should be a key player in the delivery of national outcomes
  • We believe the SPFL Trust can combine and advocate the best approaches to community social change
  • We believe the SPFL Trust can become a leader in community development
  • We believe SPFL clubs have the power to engage with all areas in our communities
  • We believe SPFL clubs offer an innovative platform from which to improve life chances and social change
  • We believe SPFL clubs can be all inclusive
  • We believe SPFL clubs are uniquely placed within our communities to effect important social change                       @SPFLTrust         


About Scottish Book Trust

Scottish Book Trust is a national charity changing lives through reading and writing. We inspire and support the people of Scotland to read and write for pleasure though programmes and outreach work that include:

  • Gifting books to every child in Scotland to ensure families of all backgrounds can share the joy of books at home
  • Working with teachers to inspire children to develop a love of reading, creating innovative classroom activities, book awards and author events
  • Supporting Scotland’s diverse writing community with our training, awards and writing opportunities
  • Funding a range of author events for the public to enjoy and promoting Scottish writing to people worldwide        @scottishbktrust