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Tom Palmer's tips to get football fans reading


My mum must have come close to despair. Would she ever pass on her love of reading to her son? It looked unlikely. I wasn’t interested in reading. I wasn’t interested in much. I was struggling at school and with my overall confidence as a young teenager.

                  But there was football.

And in football my mum – no football fan herself – saw hope.

When I became obsessed with football she discovered the way to engage her child with reading for pleasure. She used newspapers, magazines, books and Ceefax (at the time) about football to change my attitude to reading and – I have no doubts about it – to change my life.

Football – and particularly this year’s men’s World Cup Finals – offers concerned parents of football fans a golden opportunity to engage their children with reading for pleasure. The ten tips below come as much from my mum as they do from me. I hope they work for you.


In the weeks before the World Cup starts, several glossy magazines about the World Cup will be available in newsagents and supermarkets. They will be full of lists, photos, charts and stories about players and teams. Some aren’t great. But the ones published by World Soccer, FourFourTwo, Match and Match of the Day will be worth buying.


Public libraries have a lot o football stock. Look in children’s fiction and children’s sport section. Also, adult sport and biography, as well as how to play guides. Ask a librarian for guidance. They’ll be very happy to help you. The same can be said for your child’s school librarian, if you have one.


Some footballer biographies are inappropriate for younger children, but the Ultimate Football Heroes series by Matt and Tom Oldfield are written for children in an engaging narrative style. They cover several of the players taking part in the World Cup Finals, such as Messi, Ronaldo, Kane, Pogba and Neymar. Available to borrow from the library, buy from a bookshop or you can compare prices on Toppsta (just click the "Buy Now" button for each book).


Keep a World Cup reading pile near the TV, so that books, magazines and newspapers can be consulted in the ad breaks or when the games get boring, which sometimes do, not to mention any teams…


Do one of the newspaper or magazine World Cup fantasy football games, where you can choose a squad of players and earn points. Challenge your child to choose a better team than you. Make it competitive. This is a huge motivation for children to read up on what players are in form, injured or ineffective. Or do that research together.


Deliver a newspaper to your child’s bedroom door some mornings. With football themed breakfast if you can find or make something appropriate.


Have a World Cup bedtime reading book throughout the tournament. There are lots of football authors to choose from. Mal Peet. Helena Pielichaty. Dan Freedman. Bali Rai. And me (Tom Palmer) too, of course.


I’ll be doing a live story during the World Cup. I’ll write it in 25 cliffhanging episodes reacting to the events of the tournament, weaving in scandals and score lines. Published every weekday morning at 7 a.m. from June 14 to July 15 at, where you can also find out more.


Contact me direct at [email protected] and I’d be happy to email you some advice about what to choose for your child to read during the World Cup. I’ll do my best to get back to you within a day or two.


Be seen to read for pleasure yourself, be it about football or not. This is one of the most proven ways of engaging a child with reading. They look to you like I looked to my mum, even if I didn’t show any acknowledgement of that at the time.

Tom Palmer's tips to get football fans reading

My mum died when I was 25. She left me infinite legacies, none of which was more important than the love of books and magazines and newspapers.

She witnessed me becoming a self-motivated and increasingly confident reader. She saw me start to achieve more in education. She saw me become more confident about wider things, travelling to other countries, daring to do things on my own that I would never have dared to do before, many of which were inspired by reading.

Tom Palmer is the author of 40 books for children. He writes about history, ghosts, spies, detectives and football. His books include Over the Line, the story of the First World War footballers’ battalion, Secret FC a book about two girls who start up their own football team and the Defenders trilogy, a blend of history, hauntings and football.

Tom Palmer's tips to get football fans reading
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Over the Line

It's 1914 and Jack is making his debut as a pro footballer. But his first match is marred by a demonstration demanding that the teams sign up to do their duty in France. Word of the Footballer's Battalion and a cup in Flanders provides a glimmer of hope that Jack can keep his dream of playing for England alive. But as the war drags on, Jack is thrown into a nightmare world he will be lucky to survive.

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Secret Fc

Lily, Zack and Khal can't believe it when the new headmaster at their school bans football in the playground. What are a gang of football-mad kids meant to do at break-time now? Then Zack has a brilliant plan and a very secret football club is formed...Light-hearted and uplifting, this tale of football-underdogs-with-a-twist is lots of fun.

Book pages Placeholder Book

Defenders Killing Ground

Everyone is freaked out when circles of scorched earth start appearing in Halifax - on the moors, the parks and even the football pitches. Seth is most disturbed of all - he sees the shadows of the past. But when he looks into a Viking's murderous eyes and smells the stink of burning flesh, Seth knows he must stop this cycle of supernatural suffering. With his friend Nadiya, can he discover the dark history behind the forces attacking their town?


11th June 2018

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