AWARD-WINNING children’s football writer Tom Palmer left behind a classroom of excited children after a visit to the region to encourage reading.

The author of 11 football books for Puffin, including the Foul Play series, the Football Academy series and The Squad was at Le Cateau Primary School in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire.

His visit was part of Reading Force, the first national reading initiative for service children of all ages.

As part of the free scheme service families are encouraged to read the same book and talk about it, whether they are at home together or separated by deployment, training or other reasons.

Tom uses a football reading game to get them talking about all the different things they can read – such as newspaper articles, magazines, fiction and non-fiction. Tom is passionate about sharing the pleasures of reading and motivating children to read.

“I like to encourage children to read because I think that - as well as helping at school - reading can make you a happier person. It can make you see things from other points of view and find out about the world. And for me that starts with reading about what you are interested in, be it sport, fashion, music, animals, whatever.”

The scheme was founded by Alison Baverstock, academic, author, mother and service wife of 25 years, and piloted in Aldershot in 2011.

The initiative has seen parents and children, who have never read together before, sharing and talking about a book. Louise Porter, a teaching assistant at Le Cateau, said: “His visit was a real success and the kids really really enjoyed it. It was great and the kids loved Tom.”

Ten year olds at Le Cateau read a draft of a book Tom is writing, In Harms Way, about a boy who moves to a new school while his dad is taking part in a conflict, flying Typhoon fight aircraft.

Eight out of the ten children he spoke with at Le Cateau have parents in the armed forces, and Tom very much wanted to hear their feedback: “Happily the children liked the book. They had some good points to make. They corrected me. And that was very welcome. It'll be a better book thanks to the conversation we had today.”

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