Dundee United player Ian Harkes has chosen a book for city kids to read as part of a new campaign to stamp out discrimination and encourage children to read.
Ian is asking children between the ages of eight and 12 to read The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Rauf and write a review on it.
The book centres around a Syrian refugee named Ahmet who struggles to adapt to his new life in London until he is befriended by his new classmates.
Entries have to be submitted by April 12 and the winner, chosen by Ian, will win a Dundee United football shirt signed by the First Team as well as a copy of Onjali’s new book “The Night Bus Hero”, signed by the author.
Jamie Kirk, chief executive officer and competition organiser of Dundee United Community Trust, said: “We want this competition and initiative to shine a light on the importance of friendship and kindness as a response to discrimination, racism and pandemic loneliness.
“The community trust is in the process of getting copies of the book into local schools to make the competition as accessible as possible and will have our community projects officer on hand to support the children with their entries.”
Jamie added: “Reading and lifelong learning, in general, are key areas of focus for us so we’re delighted to be a partner in this campaign.
“We’ll be working with local schools to encourage everyone to take part, offering to support pupils with writing their book review entry as well as donating copies of the book itself to the schools to make this as accessible as possible.”
Ian said he chose the book because it shows football as a tool to overcome barriers, regardless of background.
“The clever ploy in this book is the perspective,” he said.
“The narrating character doesn’t know much about the war in Syria and the refugee crisis.
“What the child knows for sure though is that they want to befriend the stranger.
“Not only does the book challenge prevalent racist stereotypes from the refreshing perspective of a child, but it offers a timely reminder of the importance of looking out for one another in a spirit of friendship and kindness in everyday life and to counter the isolation imposed by Covid-19.”
The novel’s author, Onjali Q. Raúf, is the founder of Making Herstory and the O’s Refugee Aid Team, which provides support for refugee families surviving in Calais and Dunkirk.
In her work in the camps, she witnessed first-hand the uniquely transformative power of football to bring people together.
She said: “I am so very honoured that Dundee United have given Ahmet’s story the gift of a home.”
To win a Dundee United football top signed by the first team and/or a signed copy of Onjali Q. Raúf’s latest novel, The Night Bus Hero, email a review of The Boy at the Back of the Class to Ian@dundeeunitedct.co.uk by April 12.