World Book Day bonanza at the Bridge

It is 20 years of World Book Day and a special Stamford Bridge event had famous children’s author Julia Donaldson mixing with Nemanja Matic, Asmir Begovic, Katie Chapman and the Gruffalo!


‘A Gruffalo? What’s a Gruffalo?’

That famous line, which is followed by an equally famous explanation in the children’s classic story with that name, was not a question you heard muttered at a very special World Book Day event at Stamford Bridge.

While millions of children everywhere were heading to school on Thursday dressed as their favourite characters from the pages of their favourite books, over 600 hundred kids from 16 local primary schools arrived at Stamford Bridge - and they knew very well what a Gruffalo is!

That did not stop them enjoying a performance of the book during the event, especially as the star was Julia Donaldson, the author of the Gruffalo and many, many other children’s bestsellers, a selection of which were also performed today. Illustrator Lydia Monks was also one of the stars and she showed off her drawing skills.

Two members of our Premier League table-topping squad, Nemanja Matic and Asmir Begovic, plus Chelsea Ladies captain Katie Chapman joined in the day which was organised by the Chelsea Foundation. It is the 20th year of World Book Day and the aim is to encourage young people to read.

‘Reading is an important part of childhood and when you get older too it is nice to grab a book and get lost in it, so reading is a great thing all round,’ said Begovic, who proved to be the only person there taller than the Gruffalo itself! 

‘My daughter read the Gruffalo to me the other night and it was nice to meet him, he was definitely the star of the show.’

Spindarella, one of Donaldson’s books that appropriately features a football-playing spider, was another of the stories told today, and the Superworm Song was the closer.

‘If it is enjoyable then it is going to get something through to the children,’ Donaldson said. ‘If they enjoy themselves then they are going to want to read.

‘What I enjoy is every show is different as we put different stories in each one and every venue is different. We have never performed in a football club before and it was a family affair because I had my husband and sister on the stage, as well Lydia and people from the publishers MacMillan.’

 Asmir Begovic, illustrator Lydia Monks, author Julia Donaldson and Nemanja Matic

Children were able to ask questions and though Begovic revealed the character from books he thinks he is most like is the Big Friendly Giant, Chapman said she was the Gruffalo as she can be scary sometimes.

‘It was really nice to see lots of children here, enjoying the performances and enjoying the books,’ said the Ladies skipper.

‘With my kids, one is 13 and he reads to himself now, one is eight and has to read to me every night and the little one who is three, I read to so I experience the whole spectrum.

‘It is important kids enjoy books and that comes from parents who encourage them to read and it does help with their school work and their English and their literacy. Children want to be footballers but education is important and reading is part of that, and it is a nice interaction between a child and a parent to pick up a book and read.’

Matic agreed. ‘My kids like hearing stories and looking at cartoons, and they especially like it when I read to them before they go to bed. I like that too. 

‘Reading is very important for children, and for me too so I can learn English because you can only buy English books here!’

As part of World Book Day, every child in the UK is entitled to a voucher which can be traded in for a World Book Day title, and many of the children left Stamford Bridge with new books for home and school.