All posts by tompalmer

Letters from parents with dyslexic children

Every week or two I get an email from parents of dyslexic children. These are the last two I have received.


Dear Mr Palmer

I just wanted to write to tell you about my daughter, xxxx.  At the end of last term you visited her school,  where she met you and was really excited about your books.  For xxxx this is completely out of character, she is dyslexic and usually goes out of her way to avoid books.  I am a primary school teacher and for years I have shared books with her and bought any book that she showed the slightest interest in hoping that she would want to read it, however this has never happened.  So when she asked about your books, I had that same feeling of here we go again, I’ll waste some more money on a book that will simply sit on a shelf, but bought Combat Zone for her anyway.

In a bit of a mood the next day, xxxx took herself to her room and after about an hour I went looking for her, only to find her lying in bed reading her new book.  She didn’t come out of her room until it was finished.

I cried that day because it was the very first time she has voluntarily read a book, I have NEVER known her to read a whole book, let alone a whole book in one day. I was so proud of her and instead of that being enough she asked for another one too.  She is now reading Surface to Air.

Words can’t really express how I felt that day but I really just wanted to say a massive thank you for your books and for giving xxxx her first experience of a book being something to enjoy.

Thank you.


Hi Tom.

This is on behalf of my 10 year old son, xxxxx.  He is dyslexic and an avid rugby player, turning out for Blaydon RFC under 11s every week and is a massive fan of Newcastle Falcons.  Your books have formed a real connection with Jamie and, indeed, Scrum was the first big book that he had ever managed to read.  His teacher at the time was a massive influence and has done so much work to help Jamie along on his reading journey. As a thank you he presented his teacher with his copy of Scrum as an end of year gift.



There are a lot of things to enjoy about being a published children’s writer: but the biggest buzz is emails like these.

They often come late at night, when I check my email for the last time on my phone, before sleep.

When they arrive I think of the parent that has done a good day’s parenting and are now taking the time to  tell me something really important.

I love it. And I will take some of the credit.

However, the real credit for what my books and many other authors’ books have done, should go to Barrington Stoke, who publish all their books in dyslexia friendly format. That is the game changer. The research that Barrington Stoke have done – and the work that they do.

Credit too – this Dyslexia Awareness Week – to parents who support their children when they are struggling with reading. And the librarians and teachers and booksellers who guide them.

This week it is Dyslexia Awareness week. This is what it means to me.

Find out more about my books that feature dyslexia and about Barrington Stoke here.


A Roman amphitheatre… in London!

The book I am writing this month is about two children from today who have an encounter with Roman London.

That was something I needed to research properly. So I decided to do what schools do: go on a trip. To visit the Museum of London and the nearby ruins of London’s amphitheatre.

A Roman Amphitheatre is a stadium that was used for gladiators fights and also where animals were released where they fought to the death. Not a nice place. But that was what people liked to watch in stadiums 2000 years ago.

There is one in London. Underneath the Guildhall Museum.

These days we like to watch sport like athletics, football and rugby. That is what my story is about. A modern stadium and an ancient amphitheatre. It’s going to be called Dark Arena and the action includes settings of a modern football stadium and the amphitheatre ruins that I mentioned above.

This is a short video I made during my visit, so you can see what is there:

There’s nothing like going a place to see what it was like. To take in whatever your senses have thrown at them. Also, to try to think what your characters were thinking.

Setting a story in an Iron Age Fort

This summer I visited an Iron Age fort in Cornwall. I wanted to find out what one might look like. And I had a good reason: I am going to write a book set on an Iron Age fort.


This is Castle an Dinas at Columb St Major in Cornwall.

You might not think it looks much like a fort, but it was built roughly 4000 years ago, so it is going to have weathered a bit. That’s because it was built out of ramparts of soil and with wooden posts along the tops. All the wooden posts have rotted away now, but the three rings of ditches and raised ramparts are still really visible. You can see if from above here:

Visiting a place like this is realy important to help me get a story right. By going there I found out it was huge. The middle section is as big as a football pitch. I also saw that a farmer uses it to graze his or her sheep on. Who would have thought an ancient monument would be covered in sheep? But, actually it’s a good idea. What better way to keep the grass short? It would be quite hard to mow.

When I got home I had a look at a book I have about the Iron Age. I’ve made a short video about the book and how it helped me. You can watch that here:

This autumn I am going to visit more historic sites to explain how it helps me to write. To find out more you could read this blog:

Thanks for reading.

Researching and writing KS2 history stories this autumn

This autumn I will write three short novels for children. They will be a blend of football, ghost fear and history. KS2 history to be precise. To be published by Barrington Stoke in 2017.

The very rough idea is that a girl (Nadiya) and boy (Seth) discover football-related hauntings and have to use their knowledge of KS2 history to stop the hauntings causing havoc in local communities.

The three periods covered in the trilogy will be the Iron Age, the Romans and the Anglo Saxons/Vikings.


This all means lots of research around those subjects. And planning. Which is good. I get around the country a lot visiting schools. I love research. And I love planning.

Now – informed by this awesome map – I will be dropping in on some amazing historical sites to help me do just that.

For instance, as you can see below, last week I went to a massive Iron Age fort in Cornwall. (More about this in the next blog.)


I am hoping to do some short films from some of the sites. Also, if schools want to comment on my research and planning, I’d be delighted. I will be covering Iron Age, Romans, Saxons and Vikings from now until December.

Thanks for reading.


Somme Centenary in Schools

This Friday – July 1st – sees the centenary anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It will be covered live on the BBC on the day, during school time. You can read about the BBC’s schedule here.

I have been working with the National Literacy Trust and Barrington Stoke to create a range of resources for schools to use to help today’s children get their heads round what happened in France one hundred years ago.

I’ve done it because I have a book out about a group of footballers who fought at the Battle of the Somme, called Over the Line. But also because I think it is important for children today to know about the bloodiest battle of the First World War.

OTL-new cover

You can access the following resources via the links below:


Live Somme-based story

Over the last fortnight I have been writing a daily story ‘live’ on the National Literacy Trust website. It is partly about Euro 2016 and partly about the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. In its third and final week, beginning on Monday 27th June, the characters, who are year seven children, will be going on a Battlefield Tour of the Somme area with their schools, visiting war graves, battle sites and the official centenary commemoration at Thiepval. I have talked with three schools who have been on Battlefield Tours recently to try my best to get it right.


Videos from major Battle of the Somme sites

After finishing Over the Line, I revisited the settings of the book to talk about how each place had impacted my writing. Those settings include the English Channel, a soldier footballer’s grave, the Footballers’ Battalion official memorial and Delville Wood. They are also settings featured in this week’s live story.


Toolkit of School Resources

Our EURO 2016 toolkit also includes ideas for Somme related classroom displays, activities and assemblies to mark Centenary. It was published by the National Literacy Trust in May.


Other free resources relating to Over the Line

You can access free posters relating to the book here, as well as a discussion guide to the main themes and short classroom play scripts drawn from the novel. You can find all these resources at or via


I hope these resources are useful. Thanks for reading.

Ideas for the staffroom during the Rugby World Cup

This is the first of several blogs about how you can use the buzz around the Rugby World Cup to encourage reading for pleasure in your school.

If you want reading for pleasure campaigns to work in your school or library, you need all, or at least some, of your colleagues on board. And that starts in the staffroom.


Staff rugby reading training

In the lead up to the Rugby World Cup use one of the school’s staff meetings as a chance to train or inform your colleagues in the joys of rugby reading.

Take three ideas from the Read Rugby toolkit (see link below). Ones that will work well in with your pupils. Ask your colleagues to help you tailor those ideas for the children in your school. As well as helping you to make the ideas work best for you, it may also bring some of them on board with delivering the ideas.

Then talk about what else you can do, using the toolkit.


Staff rugby readers

Ask your colleagues if they would like to join you as rugby reading champions. Are some of them rugby fans? Or general sports fans? Can they be persuaded?

They could be encouraged to look out for reluctant readers in school and talk to them about rugby – or other – reading, help you run rugby reading book groups, talk to parents about your plans in the playground.

Ask them to generate their own ideas – or to choose some from the toolkit.


Staffroom poster

Create a poster for the staffroom, reminding your colleagues of your rugby reading activities.


Staff reading selfies

Kids love to know what their teachers are reading. Ask all your colleagues to do a rugby reading selfie for your school display areas. Ideally rugby books, magazines or newspapers. But – if they are not into rugby – a selfie of them reading something that they are passionate about.


Reluctant reader posters

In the same way you have posters in staffrooms about children and their allergies or health issues, put up some posters of children who aren’t keen on reading, but who do like sport. Say what sports they like. Encourage your colleagues to talk to them about things they have read.


Rugby Readers

Employ pupils as Rugby Readers, so that they can help you champion rugby reading during 2015, allow them into the staffroom as special children during their role as champions.


For more free ideas and resources about using the Rugby World Cup to encourage children to read for pleasure, please visit and check out the Read Rugby toolkit. It takes less than a minute to subscribe.

Many thanks.