The BBC have kindly asked me to write a blog for them on their #500words competition and you can read it here.
The 2017 Six Nations is going to be intense. It will be closely fought, with most nations capable of beating each other on the day. Ireland and England are favourites, but both have to play away in Wales. A huge challenge. And – with Scotland and France improving significantly – there are five countries realistically challenging for the trophy.
It’s competitive. Interest will be high. That’s why it’s a great chance to use the Six Nations to promote reading for pleasure.
Here are ten things you can do in your school, library or home. Free resources are available to back up most of what you’ll read below.
One Read my Guardian blog about great rugby fiction and non-fiction books: https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/mar/19/tom-palmers-top-10-rugby-reads-for-kids
Two Put some posters up in your library or classroom. Free printed and downloadable posters available here: http://tompalmer.co.uk/rugby/rugby-literacy/. Available in Welsh and English.
Three Use the free reading and writing resources I created for the RFU in 2015: http://englandrugbyteachersresource.com/
Four Send a letter to parents suggesting ways they can use the Six nations to encourage their child to read at home: http://tompalmer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Ten-top-tips-2015-rugby.pdf. Also available for fans of Wales, Scotland and New Zealand.
Five Read one of my short Rugby Academy rugby novels as a class reader at the start of the tournament: http://tompalmer.co.uk/rugby/rugby-academy/. You can check out the first chapters of each book to make sure it’ll work for you.
Six Watch a short video by me, reading from Scrum, then try the comprehension out on the children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0C0Q6UhGs8.
Seven Download the free Love Rugby Love Reading toolkit I created for the National Literacy Trust, full of ideas for activities, events and displays to promote reading for pleasure in schools: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/resources/practical_resources_info/3632_love_rugby_love_reading.
Eight Play Rugby Player Top Trumps. Download the cards for free here: http://tompalmer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Top-Trumps-Rugby-Card-Game.pdf. You can also play spot the mistake on these cards. There are two!
Nine Invite me to your school to run my popular Rugby Reading Game. Find out more about that here: http://tompalmer.co.uk/rugby/rugby-reading-game/. I am available from September, so you could tie this in with the 2017 autumn internationals.
Ten Check out the other free resources on my website including rugby book review, blogs, certificates and more for children in your school or library or home: http://tompalmer.co.uk/rugby/rugby-literacy/.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the Six Nations.
This Christmas I would like to give 10 signed and gift-wrapped books away to children who will really benefit from receiving one. Each book will also will come with a personalised Christmas card from me.
Reaching the right children for this is a challenge. That’s why I thought it’d be best to ask for the help of teachers, as well as reading helpers/volunteers, school librarians and public librarians.
Can you think of a child who would get a lot out of this?
If so, please nominate a child by giving me the following details:
- Your name and work address (for delivery).
- The first name of the child.
- Which book would you like them to have? (You can find out more about my range of books here: http://tompalmer.co.uk/about-tom/books-for-children/ ).
- In the event of more than 10 children being nominated for this, I’ll need to make choices. Please can you say, in a couple of sentences, why you would like this child to have a signed book and card? I hope that sounds fair.
Please email email@example.com with your nominations. The deadline for nominations is midnight on Wednesday 30th November. The book will be delivered to you by Friday December 9th.
And may I take this opportunity to thank you for all the brilliant work you have done throughout the year helping engage children with reading.
Thanks for reading this and thanks for your help.
The book I am writing at the moment features a boy called Seth who can see echoes of the past. When he visits a football pitch that is near an Iron Age fort he can actually see the village within the fort. He can watch how people lived two thousands years ago at around the time the Romans invaded our islands.
This is a sign at the foot of an Iron Age fort in Winchester. It is called St Catherine’s Hill. If you look at the sign, you can see how the hill might have looked when it was used as a fort.
Seeing that picture helped me. As did visiting the fort.
I made a short film of my visit to St Catherine’s Hill. I talk about how going to the hill helps me imagine the settings of my story. You can watch the film here.
The book I was researching is called Defenders: Pitch Invasion and will be published by Barrington Stoke in November 2017.
To mark Chocolate Week, I’ve written a blog in praise of the power of chocolate. Chocolate Week runs from 10th to 16th October. More information at www.chocolateweek.co.uk.
The highlight of my career as a writer was to do with chocolate. It happened in the school pictured below.
Lots of the children pictured there with me have parents who work as cocoa bean farmers.
I was in Akomadan to research fair trade chocolate with the help of Divine Chocolate. They took me to the school to meet the children of cocoa bean farmers. I also got to look round some of the farms. This gave me invaluable information about settings, characters and chocolate economics for my children’s book, Off Side.
Before I left for Ghana, Divine told me that lots of the children Akomadan had never tasted the chocolate from the beans that their parents farmed. I was packed off with a suitcase full of Dubble Bars to put that right.
The look on the faces of the kids as they ate their Dubble bars was fantastic. But that wasn’t the highlight of my career.
The highlight was the school we were in. Here’s why.
Every time we buy a fair trade chocolate bar, a part of the extra few pence we spend goes to building schools like the one I visited.
If we don’t buy fairtrade chocolate there is a likelihood that the farmers will not be paid properly for their work – and a certainty that some of the profits will not go back into building schools that the children would otherwise not have.
By choosing a chocolate bar with the fair trade logo on it choosy chocolate buyers had helped build that school.
There is more about my trip to Ghana and how fairtrade chocolate makes a difference here.
And – if you want to know more about my book, Off Side, featuring the son of a cocoa bean farmer, there is more here. http://tompalmer.co.uk/foul-play/off-side/
Thanks for reading.
And happy Chocolate Week.
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.
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.
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: https://youtu.be/3YzGrQyBYyk
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.
Watch a video Q & A I did recently with …
You can read Tom Palmer’s Lucky 7 here.
This is the new rugby union magazine for kids. And it’s good.
We have three kids’ fiction series about rugby now: Rugby Spirit, Rugby Zombies and Rugby Academy. There are lots of good rugby non-fiction books for children too, most of them about playing the game.
Now there’s a magazine. Trytime. I recommend it to families, schools and libraries. There are five or six football magazines for kids. There needed to be a rugby one.
Here it is…
If you know young rugby union fans please give it a go.
- a Premiership season preview
- top trump style players cards – to collect
- posters of players and teams
- a girls’ rugby section
- facts and stats
- nutritional advice
- and more…