Reading the Game
Top ten kids’ football books for Euro 2012
It’s nearly time for Euro 2012 where lots of people watch lots of football. And that – according to recent research – is a problem. During major sporting tournaments academic performance can drop among a large proportion of school children. With that in mind, I have drawn up a list of books that should appeal to children during Euro 2012.
One: The Official ITV Sports Euro 2012 Fan’s Guide by Keir Radnedge
What looks like a standard guide to a football tournament is – in fact – written by one of the great football writers around today. Someone who knows his stuff. This guide has features on all the teams, key players, venues, a little about the host countries and the all-important score chart to fill in as the tournament progresses. Balanced on the arm of the sofa as the games are on the TV, it is full of bite-sized unintimidating chunks of text for vital information before, during and after games.
Two: Football Shorts by Tom Watt
An inspired idea from Tom Watt – writer, actor and broadcaster – this is a selection of football stories written both by children’s authors and well-known footballers. Children’s favourites, such as Mal Peet and Terry Deary, are bound together with Vincent Kompany, Manchester City’s key player and England international Faye White. All the authors’ proceeds go to the National Literacy Trust.
Three: Growing Up Fast by Theo Walcott
There are lots of footballer autobiographies. Some are good. Some are awful. Increasingly, these books are moving away from raw-language accounts of games, friendships and enemies into more positive stories aimed at children. Footballers saying how they worked hard and made the right decisions to help them become a professional footballer. Growing Up Fast is a book like that. Well written. Positive. And about a player who has yet to blot his copy book with bad behaviour on or off the pitch.
Four: Keeper by Mal Peet
This is the greatest children’s football novel ever written. For older readers, it is the story a fictional Brazil goalkeeper, who narrates his life to a sports journalist. But it is no normal story: it is an account of a goalkeeper brought up in the rainforest, who was trained by ghosts, in a world very different to that which readers will expect.
Five: The Usborne Complete Soccer School by Bob Bond
There are lots of books about how to play football. This is one is top of the league. Usborne books are among the best designed, using short pieces of text and simple photographs and illustrations to explain football technique. Children read books like this to become better footballers. So, not only are they reading, but they are also improving our chances of winning Euro 2024!
Six: Jake Cake and the Football Beast by Michael Broad
There are five Jake Cake volumes. They are short books with three stories in each. Easy books for a parent to read to their children at bedtime or for a child beginning chapter book reads on their own. Jake is a fantasist who meets vampires, pirates and, in this case, a beast that plays football. This is the kind of book that a football-loving boy might be attracted to, then will read the other four books: that is, the kind of book that can spark a life of reading.
Seven: Do Goalkeepers Wear Tiaras? by Helena Pielichaty
This is the first book in the well-written football fiction series, Girls FC. It is about two girls who want to play football, but there is no opportunity for them in a boys’ dominated football world. Until they meet a female professional footballer who offers to become their coach. Pielichaty has based a lot of this series on the experiences of her daughter who played football into her adulthood, finishing her career at West Bromwich Albion.
Eight: Match Annual
This is the football book that most boys have read. I go into hundreds of schools a year and meet tens of thousands of children. They love this. It comes from the football magazine, Match, that is equally popular. They like Match because it is a lively combination of images collaged with text. It’s funny. It’s irreverent. It has statistics and lists and fact. Great for the less confident readers to help them start to define themselves as readers.
Nine: FIFA World Records 2012
Football fans love facts. Reluctant readers like short chunks of text and heavily illustrated pages. They also like a book that does not need reading from page one to the end. A linear read is off-putting, because you can fail to finish it. This format is ideal, because you cannot fail. But the book can’t look childish. This book does all that. It has facts, features and photographs that can be picked at and enjoyed week after week.
Ten: Final Whistle by Dan Freedman
Dan Freedman’s Jamie Johnson series is one of the two best-selling football series for children in the UK. It started with Kick Off and ends – this summer – with Final Whistle. Together the books tell the story of the eponymous series hero, who goes from his local team to playing in the World Cup. Freedman writes these stories with an insider’s knowledge. He knows many top players and worked for the FA.