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Sir Chris Hoy: Kids are as inspired by books as gold medals

The Olympic hero turned author backs our #WhyBooksMatter campaign...

What do you do after winning 11 world titles and six Olympic gold medals? Sir Chris Hoy decided a fitting challenge was getting kids into reading and started writing his Flying Fergus book series. Now, he’s also backing our Big Issue literacy campaign…

The similarities between reading and cycling…
My stories are all about that first taste of freedom that comes with your first bike. You dictate the pace, the destination, and it gives you a real feeling of independence. It is an important stage of every child’s life. You find the same freedom in reading – you choose your book, you escape into a story, you picture the characters in your head and you achieve the same sense of being in control of a journey.

Kids are as inspired by books as gold medals…
I have been to various schools over the last couple of years and, in general, it is obvious that kids love books, they love stories – and once they get into a book there is no way of stopping them. Many of the children hadn’t read much before, some do need a lot of encouragement – like I did when I was a kid – but Flying Fergus seems to have hooked them and that is very satisfying.

Library bookcases

My memories of reading growing up…
As a kid I needed a lot of persuasion and encouragement to read. I always found it hard to be motivated to read something I was forced to. It was mainly the subject that drew me into a book and made it more important than running around. I read the Roald Dahl books over and over but my favourite by far was George’s Marvellous Medicine and especially the grandma who played a vile character in the story. It didn’t conform to any other fairytales.

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#WhyBooksMatter…
Undoubtedly, for the reasons I have explained before, reading is a means to give freedom to your imagination. Helping to ensure the access of books to children, and people in general, provides this opportunity for them to experience this sense of freedom. Literacy skills are incredibly important – the younger you teach them the easier it will be, so it should definitely be very high up
on the agenda of priorities.

Sir Chris Hoy is author of the Flying Fergus series, written in partnership with Jo Nadin. Book five, Flying Fergus and the Winning Team, is out now (Piccadilly Press, £4.99)