For those that live in or visited the great city of London this summer, you might have chanced upon some innovative 'bench sculptures'. That is, benches designed to represent open books which popped up all over London during July.
These innovative pieces which celebrated London's literary heritage and reading for enjoyment, were the brainchild of the UK's National Literacy Trust (NLT) and 'Wild in Art' and enabled the viewing public to enjoy artwork by both local and celebrated artists. In October, the benches will be auctioned to raise funds for the NLT so that they can continue to tackle illiteracy in deprived communities across the UK.
Of particular significance for us, was the news that WWE supported the 'Books about Town' campaign by sponsoring one of the 50 Book Benches. Royal Ramblings' Robert chanced upon the 'How To Train Your Dragon' BookBench quite by chance whilst ambling down London's South Bank, as part of the Riverside Trail.
This is not the first time that WWE has engaged with the literary world of course and the company has an impressive history of promoting reading for children and adults both through its commercial and Corporate Social Responsibility arms.
The partnership with the National Literacy Trust is well established, deep rooted and credible. For many years now, WWE has worked with them to encourage young people to read. In 2007, for example, they teamed up to prove "there is nothing weedy about reading!" and invited school children to enter a competition to win a trip to Wrestlemania 24. The competition was repeated and the National Literacy Trust's 2009 'Manifesto for Literacy' pays testament to its success, citing one child as having said "It was the WWE competition that really got me reading again... ".
Only this year, during his UK promotional tour, WWE Superstar Fandango visited Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Primary School in Liverpool for World Book Day. Supporting the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge UK, he talked to the children about his favourite books and authors.
It is not just in the UK that WWE prioritises literacy efforts but overseas too. In 2013, 50,000 young people from across the US and Canada participated in the 8th national Wrestlmania Reading Challenge and in 2012 SummerSlam 'Reading Jam' posters were distributed to children from over 20 countries. Of course, those longer-term fans amongst us will remember the promotional work that WWE did for Hall of Famer Mick Foley and his children's books including "A Most MIZerable Christmas".
However, more broadly, it is impressive how WWE has developed its literary business too. There are few of its top superstars that don't end up on the New York Times Bestsellers list and whilst doing Q&A shows in London, it was notable that Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho had fans queueing for autographs clutching their well-thumbed tomes. On a personal note, it was The Rock's on-screen entertainment that drove Royal Ramblings' Danny to read "The Rock Says..." at a young age.
Time and again, WWE is using its programming and its star appeal to enhance the literary dexterity of not just America but the world. There will be those that wish to level criticism at sports entertainment for a variety of reasons but on this, WWE's efforts are flawless.
As we wrote in a previous blog, wrestling is many things to different people and for young children it can be wonderful and inspiring entertainment. It therefore becomes a moral imperative for companies like WWE to use their privileged position for public good and so we were delighted to see and subsequently learn about the depth of their efforts.
As bloggers it is natural that we should want to support efforts to improve literacy. We write about wrestling for fun and through a genuine love of sports entertainment. We hope that what we write brings insight and enjoyment to our readers. By bringing more people into that circle through their charitable programmes, WWE is helping to spread the joy for children and adults alike.