In the left corner, fidgeting slightly in my ‘Share A Book Today’ campaign chair sits Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton, welter-weight boxing champion. He looks uncharacteristically nervous as he preps for a forthcoming set to with Fur-weight, Drumming rock pup, who at 5lbs is definitely set to give The Hitman a run for his money.
Is Ricky really ready to share a book with the great Bookaboo I ask?
“I've done 12 rounds of sparring this morning just to get meself ready for it, but hopefully [it] should be a lot less painful than the boxing.”
I wonder aloud how Bookaboo compares with some of his other opponents such as Mayweather and Pacquiao
Hatton Vs Mayweather Hatton Vs Pacquiao Hatton Vs Bookaboo
"You know I've only met him on the one occasion and he scared the life out of me, you know, but no I mean May Weather was the best pound for pound fighter in the world and Pacquiao was the best pound for pound fighter in the world - they were the only two to beat me. Hopefully it won’t be third time lucky with Bookaboo today.”
“Er not really no, quite looking forward to it. I mean I always look forward to a challenge, I always wanted to pit me skills against the best, and Bookaboo is a tough cookie...so could be another tough one today... but I fancy me chances.”
Whether or not you’re a boxing fan, Ricky Hatton, is certainly a good sport. In searching for a Storytime Ambassador last May, I hoped I’d find someone from the wrestling or boxing community, brave enough to step out of their comfort zones and away from their professional hard-man images, to share a picture book on national television. I hoped a famous face from this community might help inspire some of the many Dads who don’t feel that confident about sharing books with their children.
With the bookabag armed with a fast paced boysy book ‘Tortoise Vs Hare’ by talented Preston Rutt, Ricky Hatton stepped well and truly out of his comfort zone and onto the Bookabus. Though not, as it turned out, quite as much out of his comfort zone as one might think. For father of Campbell, now 9, Ricky is well versed in sharing picture books. Although more into computers these days, Campbell, was into books at an early age.
“His Mam read with him, I read with him you know and it's a very important part of growing up in't it?”
Did Ricky enjoy sharing books, funny voices and all? I asked
“Ermm you know it's not really good for me hard man image” he laughed “but no I always used to love reading to Campbell. I used to get really involved and hopefully that will stand him in good stead."
I suspect it will. Campbell is lucky. The Happy Films/ITV poll undertaken just prior to Bookaboo launching showed that a mere 3% of Dads share books with their children regularly in the UK. It’s a sad statistic given that the research around how book sharing at home helps children both academically and socially is overwhelming. Evidence that an increasing amount of boys are turning up for their first day at school believing that ‘books are for girls’ only served to highlight just how important it is for children, particularly boys, to have fun sharing books with their dads or other role models as early as possible.
There’s been speculation that the breakup of families has an impact on the few dads reading to their children. I asked Ricky whether he thought this had a made a difference in Campbell’s case.
"Oh I don't think it makes a difference. I mean you know Campbell is me son obviously from a former relationship, and it's not such a bad thing because in many ways he's got two families that love and adore him and you know we read to him …and his Mum's side reads to him, so you know he's been very, very fortunate."
We finished our interview and set off for the Bookabus. I had no idea how Ricky would fare with Bookaboo but admired his courage at least. I needn’t have feared though, for the rock pup was soon well and truly immersed in Ricky’s totally engaging reading of ‘Tortoise vs Hare – The Rematch’, funny voices and all.
‘Tortoise Vs Hare, The Rematch’ is by Preston Rutt and published by Meadowside. It is available at libraries and all good bookshops.
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