Thursday, 29 March 2012

One to One Boys Reading Club

I was in St James' Primary School in Ashton today. The teacher - Miss Anderson - told me about a reading scheme she does with the boys.

Some of the boys are reluctant readers and don't respond well to all-class reading projects. She needed to come up with something more personal.

So, Miss Anderson challenges them
to read one of my books.

If a boy finishes it, he has a special lunch with Miss (who is the kind of teacher a child would want to have a special lunch with), where they talk about the book in an easy-going way.

Then, if he has read it, the boy gets to choose who the next boy is that will read the book.

It creates a buzz. The boys want to be the next one to be chosen. They can't wait for their go.

And, once they have read the first book, they are allowed to read the rest  of the series, which are kept in a special library for those doing the scheme.

If the boys read all of the series the get a special signed certificate from me - and a letter saying well done. (More info about the certificates here.)

Miss Anderson is a big fan of action and thriller books. She likes the kind of books that boys like. She was recommending Percy Jackson to them all day. She puts her book tastes down to her book-loving brother who, when he was young, would read books, making her want to read the books he read.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Football's Slave Trade

Sky is running a show at the moment called Football's Slave Trade. It's about unscrupulous football agents who exploit the enormous desire of young African footballers to play the game in Europe.

It is covered in today's Metro.

I went to Ghana in 2009 to research the issue, spending time watching football there and meeting young players. I was lucky to be hosted by the Right to Dream football academy, who do things the right way. I also read a lot of newspaper and magazine articles about the problem. Plus, a couple of disertations.

My book - Off Side - is about a young footballer from Ghana who is trafficked to the UK, expecting to play football for a Premier League team, only to find he and his family have been cheated. There is nothing in Europe for him and his family have lost everything.

Off Side is based on true stories I researched. Experts estimate there are over 7000 young men in Europe who have been trafficked in this way, many of whom are too ashamed to go home to Africa and end up involved in crime and prostitution.

Perhaps the most striking thing for me is that every few weeks I get an email from a footballer or coach in Ghana asking me if I will take their players to the UK and have a look at them. Because I write a series called Football Academy, they think I run an academy here in the UK.

I could quite easily set up my own scam. It shows how easy it would be.

FIFA, to their credit, are investigating.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Boys Read for Pleasure

I've just gone back on Twitter after a six month break - and straight away I've noticed something to confirm what I already knew.

Boys read for pleasure.

Loads of boys (and girls) are tweeting about football, passing around match reports and articles, discussing them. They tweet their dads, their mates and occassional children's football writers.

Is this match report fair?

Should so-and-so have been sent off?

What are the match stats for the weekend's games?

When I go into schools I spend most of my time asking children what they like to read. They like the back pages. They like Match and Match of the Day. They like biographies of Rooney and Messi and Pele. They like football fiction like mine, Dan Freedman's and Rob Childs'.

This is great news. It means boys read. Boys read for pleasure.

The one hurdle is that just a few adults think that reading about football is trivial, not real, not rewarding. I know this is the minority. I know most teachers and parents and librarians celebrate any reading in boys and girls.

If boys read about football for pleasure it means that boys read for pleasure. And girls.

And, of course, it's not just football. It's guitars, it's cars, it's whatever they are into.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

EURO 2012 Predictions

It's too early to start making predictions for Euro 2012, but I'm trying to get my mind off domestic football this week.

Please don't ask.

AND I do say on these Euro 2012 scorecards that I'll be making predictions.

So, seeing as I am giving them out to eager football fans in schools now, I'd better make some.

Here goes. My quarter finals, semis and final. And winner.

Quarter finals
Czech Rep v Holland
Germany v Poland
Spain v France
England v Italy

Semi finals
Holland v Spain
Germany v England

Spain v Germany


Yes, I have taken England further than they, perhaps, will go. But it is no fun doing these predictions unless you get England to the semis, is it? Unless you're not English, of course.

Feel free to add your predictions...

Monday, 19 March 2012

England Top

I'm still getting increasingly excited about Euro 2012.

A couple of days ago I bought the new England top. Here it is, modelled by me in my Welsh hotel room tonight.

Curtains closed. No need to cause offence.

I arrived in Wales this evening, zipping up my jacket, just in case...

Tomorrow I am in Merthyr Tydfil. I'll go plain-clothed.

Today I was in a Albrighton Primary school. It was a lovely day, finished off with a game of five-a-side in the playground. I'm a lucky man.

Back to Euro 2012. On train today I saw a newsstand selling a preview for the tournament. 83 days to go...

Friday, 16 March 2012

Yes, there are only 85 days to go until EURO 2012 begins. Excited yet?

Well, I am.

Today my Black Op scorecards arrived. A handy pocket-sized guide to the tournament's fixtures that you can fill in with the scores - while monitoring England's progress.

I have already promised the scorecard to hundreds of children.

If you want some for your school, child or library, do get in touch.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Fear is not 400 kids in Woking

I am at a service station on the M11, heading home after a fortnight talking about fair trade, football and reading in schools around the country.

I've been from Lincolnshire to Portsmouth, from the New Forest to Canterbury, with my car boot full of fair trade choc diminishing as I drove...

It's been a brilliant tour. The most memorable thing is how children are very keen that we pay people fairly for the crops they farm and that feed us. And that is exactly what fair trade is about!

Speaking to 400 children in a football stadium (as I did in Woking, above, yesterday) may look frightening. And it was. A bit.

But tomorrow's job is more frightening. I have to operate the CD player for my daughter's dance at a festival tomorrow.

You want some fear: try doing that.

I can't wait to get home.