Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Euro 2012 reading tips for parents # 4: LIVE FICTION

Sometimes it is good to have a story that is really relevant.

If a story is set now and is about things on everybody's mind, then it might have a chance to grip a reader more.


For example, there are a few decent fiction books out about the Olympics now. Check out the following:

Running for Gold by Owen Slot
Cycling for Gold by Owen Slot
Danny Baker's Silly Olympics by Steve Hartley
Deep Waters by Robert Rigby
Running in her Shadow by Robert Rigby
Parallel Lines by Robert Rigby
Wheels of Fire by Robert Rigby

Also, my new book, Black Op takes place in the week before Euro 2012 and is set in Poland and Ukraine, where the tournament is taking place. A good one for children to be reading this week, perhaps...

But some readers find a whole book a bit too much to handle. That is why episodic stories, one short chapter a day, can work too. This is about as live as live fiction can get.

In conjunction with the National Literacy Trust, I have written one called The Great Euro 2012 Swindle. Well, the first chapter, anyway.

This is that first chapter of a story that is set for the duration of Euro 2012:


There will be fifteen more chapters, all published at 8 a.m. on the morning of each week day during Euro 2012.

To make it more exciting (and more of a challenge for me) the story will be written each evening after the day's games are played, after all the controversies of the tournament. Each will repsond to those events, meaning whatever is being talked about in the playground will be in the chapter.

The story is free. It will be published at and can be read aloud or printed out to one child, or to whole assemblies. Last the 2012 World Cup - over 3000 schools took part.

I hope this appeals.

P.S. I have not decided whether to follow the results of the tournament slavishly... or to change the scores so that England win. What do you think?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Euro 2012 reading tips for parents: # 3 WEBSITES

There are loads of websites covering the Euro 2012 football tournament. I think websites like this are great way of engaging children with reading.

This is why:

(1) webistes have short passages of text that are not too overwhelming;

(2) they have familiar images from the world of TV that children can feel comfortable with. Even familiar commentators and pundits;

(3) as websites, they have a great mix of images, audio and video footage, meaning that the reading is just part of an overall way of taking in information and is therefore not too much about trawling through lots of words;

(4) some of the websites have interactive elements, meaning that children can read a bit, then respond, then read a bit more.

(5) websites can be read on computers, phones and - importantly - in public libraries, making them free, unlike newspapers and magazines.
I have had a look at four of the main Euro 2012 websites. I've not gone for the newspapers' websites, because I have already talked about newspapers. But if you look on-line, all of the newspapers have extensive coverage of the tournament too.

Here goes:

BBC's is the best, for me. I love the way it is laid out. There is so much there. Here is a list of what they have:

* latest news
* analysis of each country's team
* videos of goals and players
* blogs by their correspondents
* a history of the tournament
* a kit to set up your own office or family sweepstake
* an e-wallchart
* and much much more

ITV have a decent site too. It has news, humour, videos and the fixtures. But I don't like it as much as the BBC one, which is far more comprehensive and better laid out, for me. That could be because I always look at the BBC's website, though, meaning that I am used to its format.

Like the BBC website, the ITV one is good because it relates very closely to what we are going to be watching on the TV. The same names. The same images. But with extra words. I find that attractive because it means I am already at ease with their content. I think - had there been websites when I was a boy - these two would have been my choices.

SkySports' Euro 2012 website is a little confusing, not so well laid out. The big issue for me with their site is that it is too easy to stumble into the Sky Bet areas. Not something I want to be encouraging children to do. I have a friend whose life has been ruined by betting on the football.

UEFA also have a website for the tournament. As the official one it has a lot of good information. But all the kick off times are in Central European Time, which started to confuse me a bit. But I'm easily confused.

So, take your pick. I hope these are useful.

Also, check out my blogs - below - about newspapers and magazines.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Euro 2012 Reading Tips for Parents # 2: MAGAZINES

Magazines are a great way of encouraging children to read. Especially if they are into football.

If you have football-loving children, then you will probably already know about Match, Match of the Day and Kick, the three football magazines aimed at children today. They all have special Euro 2012 editions out at the moment and would be a good present for children this Bank Holiday.

All three have lots of photos, statistics and quizzes, but may look short on text. They're great for the kind of children who really struggle with reading more than a page of a book without feeling it's a chore. But also great for more fluent readers.

There are some really good Euro 2012 magazines and books around this week that have a little more wording in them.  ITV, World Soccer, The Daily Express, FourFourTwo and others have produced special editions. They are in the newsagents and bookshops now.

These can be great as a way of encouraging reading in less-than-keen readers. Here are five ways you can use them to do just that:

1. Look at the fixture list or wall chart provided free with some of the guides. Put it on the wall. Challenge your child to predict who will win each group. Then suggest they read some of the content of the magazine to decide on how the results will go.

2. Show your child the two-page feature on a team in the magazine an hour before they kick off. Suggest they read about the team England is playing so that they are fully informed. Or read it to them.

3. Challenge them to a quiz. Give them the magazine for half-an-hour, saying you will quiz them on its contents (like, who is the top scorer in Spain, or, what colour is the Swedish flag). This could motivate them to read it - especially if you offer them a prize for getting so many questions right: something nice to eat or drink during the game, perhaps?

4. Stick page of the magazine around the house. On doors. In the kitchen. On the back of your car seat.

5. Show them the statistics pages in the back of most of the magazines. Stats and numbers are a great way of grabbing football fans' attention, to then lead them into reading some of the words.

Now you just need to choose the right magazine for you. You can read my review of most of the Euro 2012 guides here. I wrote these reviews with a class of year sixes in Essex, so they're about as honest as they could be.

Check out for loads more ideas about using Euro 2012 to encourage children to read more.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Euro 2012 Reading Tip for Parents # 1: NEWSPAPERS

I did not enjoy reading when I was a boy. Nor did I have the stamina to try anything as long as a book. I found books intimidating and boring. 

But I loved football.

So my mum used newspapers to build both my reading stamina and my idea of myself as a reader. She got me reading match reports, league tables, player interviews and more. I liked them because they were short and about something I wanted to know more about.

Also, they weren't book length, so there was no chance I was going to fail.

Euro 2012 gives parents a chance to enthuse football-loving children about reading, just like my mum did. Here are some tips on how you can get your child reading newspapers:

1. Deliver a football-heavy newspaper to your child's bedroom on the morning of big game.

2. Look at the newspaper yourself and read out bits to your child, leaving out the ending, to try to entice them to have a read themselves.

3. Find a newspaper feature about a player you know they admire. Someone from the club they support. Cut it out and see if they'll have a look at it. Stick it on the toliet wall if you think they'll have a look at it while there.

4. Pore over the post-match statistics in the newspaper. Player marks out of ten, number of shots on goal, etc. Try to guess what you and your child think will be the marks out of ten or other statistics before the game. This might encourage them to follow it up the next day in the newspaper.

5. Read out the interview the manager will have given after the game. Ask your child if they think he is telling the truth or just making excuses.

Some of these ideas might work. I hope so.
Once my mum had got me confident reading newspapers, I would even buy them myself to find out more about football. Soon I was a more confident reader and began to be less intimidated by books.

Sadly my mum is dead now. She saw me get into reading, but died before I started to try to write books. It's a great shame. But at least she left me with the wonderful legacy that is a love of reading.

For more Euro 2012 reading tips check out this blog tomorrow and have a look at