Reading Tips

Why is reading important when you’re a child?

Tom “I struggled to read when I was a child. But I did like football, so that’s what I read about. Reading about what I wanted to read about made me happier. That’s the bottom line.”

Is football your favourite topic to write about?

Tom “No. I like writing about history more. About wars and difficult things that children have had to go through in the past.”


Do you still read other books even though you have your own? If so, what is your favourite children’s book?

Tom “Yes, I love reading books by other authors. I read a book a week usually. It still makes me happy – and it means I can learn from other writers.”

Tom’s Love Football Love Reading tips

  1. Buy one of this weekend’s newspapers. They will all have exciting pull-outs and supplements about the Premier League kick off.
  2. Visit your local public library and see what football books they have. Check sport in the adult and kids’ sections. Ask a librarian to order you a book if you want one about a specific team or player.
  3. Do one of the online Fantasy Football games. Start a league with friends and families. Stress that the best way to do well is to read about football online and in newspapers.
  4. Go to a newsagent’s and browse the new season football magazines. Browse for as long as you dare. Then – if your child is hooked – maybe buy the magazine.
  5. Check out the National Literacy Trust’s Sport and Literacy resources on their website. Including videos, download and book lists:
  6. Borrow or buy one of the excellent short readable Ultimate Football Heroes biographies, featuring the likes of Pogba, Messi and Ronaldo.
  7. Go online and read one of the many online football magazines, such as
  8. If your children enjoy playing video football games FIFA and PES, direct them towards reading tips and advice about becoming better at the games at &
  9. Go to a football match. Local lower league and non-league teams love the support and children often get in for free or very cheaply. Then buy a match programme. Get there early to give to time to read it together before the game.


Focus on football books for girls

My books are often suggested by teachers and librarians for reluctant readers, particularly boys who like football, for which I am truly grateful. As a reluctant reader myself at this age, those mentions are particularly welcome.

But as a father of a daughter – and as a result of meeting so many diverse pupils in the schools I visit – I always try to ensure my books have strong female characters too.  Not only because I want my books to appeal to girls, but because I want boys to read about  girls doing sport.

Why are there no books about girls playing football? Why haven’t you written any? These are questions I get asked. A lot.

Female football is the fastest growing sport in the UK. And there are two stand-out series about football featuring girls. The Girls FC series by Helena Pielichaty and the Beautiful Game series by Narinder Dhami. Both full of excellent stories. Both written by excellent writers. Both out of print.

Product Details

You can get hold of second hand copies of the two series online. But they are not in the bookshops. And library copies will be getting worn out – because they can’t be replaced with new copies and because they get read. Girls FC is available on Kindle, which is some comfort.

I have written several too. In brief:

Secret FC is about two girls who set up a football team at their school when they are banned from playing.

My Squad series – made up of Black Op and White Fear – is about five child spies whose cover story is that they are in an elite football team. Two of the five spies (and footballers) are girls.

All three books in my Wings series feature a mixed sex football team. Book three – Typhoon – leads on two sisters who play the game and end up flying a Typhoon.

First Football Game

First Football Game joins a girl called Samantha, who is going to her first live football match with her dad. (4+)

Gus the Fantastic Football Cat is the story of Yusra, a Syrian refugee girl, whose cat appears to be able to predict England’s football results correctly. (5+)


Roy of the Rovers is about a boy called Roy. But it is also very much about Ffion and Rocky, his girlfriend and sister, both of whom play for an emerging football team. Their storylines – and team – take an increasingly large part of the Roy of the Rovers story in forthcoming books. (8+)



Rugby Reads

1   Non-fiction books full of facts and potted history. Easy to read. Available in library as well as bookshops. In the sport section.

2   The internet. There are some excellent rugby websites out there, including all the newspapers, Sky, the BBC and more.

3   Official Magazine of the Six Nations. Available in the newsagents now.

4   Newspapers. Either on paper or online. Previews. match reports. Interviews. Speculation. Usually written by passionate rugby journalists who really care.

5   A variety of children’s fiction by authors Gerard Siggins. Chris Higgins, Tom Palmer, Dan Anthony and Andrew Smith. Again, in bookshops and libraries.

6   England Rugby magazine. The magazine is only available to online England Supporters’ Club members. But it’s good. It includes exclusive embedded videos and audio.

7   Biographies and autobiographies of rugby players. Past and present.

8   The ultimate rugby book is the IRB’s yearbook, full of stats and information about the last 12 months.

9   Match day programmes from international and domestic matches.

10   The England Rugby Annual, full of interviews and quizzes and other treats for kids. And some adults.

11   Rugby World. The best selling rugby magazine in the world. Monthly glossy. Available in white, red, blue and green. Well written.

12   Calon by Owen Sheers. Fantastic book about rugby union in Wales. Universal too.

13   Combat Zone. The first book in the new Rugby Academy series by Tom Palmer (me).  All available separately or as a combined trilogy.

14   How to play rugby books. Several levels, starting with this Know the Game book.

15   The Rugby Paper. Weekly newspaper, out on Sundays. £1.50. Match reports, politics, lots of talk about the international game. Excellent.