The siren, the scarves, the songs… It's no secret that footy is at the heart of Victoria's sporting passion.
With the 2018 AFL Season currently unfolding, local children's author Michael Wagner knows this well.
'In some ways, I think footy is the glue that holds Melbourne together,' Michael says.
'For much of the city, it's an instant ice-breaker. It's easy to chat with most people – young or old, rich or poor – once the topic turns to football.
'Actually, I should qualify that by saying … it's easy if you're not a Collingwood supporter, like me. Then it can actually create fresh barriers between people. Hahaha.'
Michael takes out a personal copy of 'Why I Love Footy' and flicks through the worn pages.
'This is the most surprising book for me,' he says. 'I tried writing picture books for ten years without any success – rewriting some manuscripts for years – then I dashed this book off in ten minutes and it got published.'
'It just came out all at once. But I think of it now as the result of ten minutes of rapid writing plus a lifetime of loving footy. In some ways it's the most authentic thing I've ever written.'
'And it's not just about footy – that's really only half of the story. What it's also about is family.'
'The little boy in the story loves many aspects of footy, but largely because it's something he participates in with his family. They go to the games together. Mum helps him get ready. Dad talks about the game afterwards. They play kick-to-kick in the park together. It's a family outing to his favourite activity. It's basically his perfect day.'
'I think that 'family' aspect is what a lot of people respond to in the book. I've had adults write to me to say they've cried reading it because it's brought back so many memories of being a kid going to the footy with their family.'
'Others have told me it's helped them to understand why some children become so obsessed with the game. That's the sort of feedback that makes you feel proud to be an author.'
The Premiers' Reading Challenge
'Why I Love Footy' is among several of Michael's books listed as part of this year's Premiers' Reading Challenge.
Since the Challenge began 14 years ago, more than 2.5 million students have turned the pages of nearly 45 million books.
Regular reading from an early age is vital for success at school and has lifelong benefits. The Challenge, which runs until September, encourages children to read more. It promotes a love of reading, supporting the Education State target to have more students reaching the highest levels of achievement in reading.
Topics like sport or outdoor adventures can hook those reluctant readers.
It's good to have books available that match your children's interests, according to Rebecca Henson, Reading and Literacy Development Manager at State Library Victoria.
'Parents can help by encouraging their children to pick up a book, and persevere for long enough to work out who the main characters are, and the beginning of the storyline.'
It's a great way to help children develop literacy and a love of books, writing and reading.
A book for every reader
With such a huge list of books to choose from in the 2018 Challenge, there's guaranteed to be a topic for budding Victorian athletes, artists or magicians alike.
Reading about team sports (and of course, getting out there and giving it a go) is a great way for children to learn about the value of practice, setting goals, meeting challenges, teamwork and fairness.
For Michael Wagner, his passion is for the game but 'Why I Love Footy' is also about the people you share that passion with. It's about looking after each other.
'And that's very important to me.'
Tell us why you love footy by tagging us on Twitter: @DETVic
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