THE author of three successful series of children’s books visited Manx schools with the message that kids, otherwise reluctant to turn to books, can get into reading through their hobbies.
Tom Palmer spoke to pupils in school years three, four, five and six at Ashley Hill School in Onchan and Peel Clothworkers School as part of the recent Manx Litfest.
Creator of the Football Academy, Foul Play and The Squad series, Palmer’s entertaining demonstrations included impromptu penalty shoot out quizzes, where kids who answered correctly earned a shot at an inflatable goal while their teacher played goalie.
The enthusiasm rubbed off on to the young audience, who were keen to ask searching questions on everything from ‘how do you name your books?’ and ‘do you know the end of the story before you start writing?’, to ‘have you ever met any Liverpool players?’
Mr Palmer, from Leeds, visited the island accompanied by his wife and daughter, for a tour which also included a visit to the Henry Bloom Noble Family Library in Douglas.
He has been writing for 25 years, and has been a published author for the past five years, although, as he told the children, the downside of going full time is ‘if the publishers don’t like my new book, I’m stuffed’.
‘Most of my stories are about sport, but with another element, like a spy or detective story,’ explained Palmer, whose message was to help kids appreciate they probably enjoy reading a lot more than they realise.
‘I love it when you ask children if they like reading. They say no. Then you ask about sport, and especially with boys, they tell you they read football magazines, the sports pages in newspapers or Paul Scholes’ biography,’ he said. ‘You break the news to them that they are actually prolific readers!’
Do the aged seven to 11 age group to which he came to speak make up his typical readership?
‘The books are sometimes read by older kids too, but this age group ask nice questions at talks!’ he laughed.
Touring and doing events makes up an important chunk of Palmer’s working life, and as he says, if you are a children’s author, you need to get out and speak and listen to children.
‘Lots of kids think reading has to be studious, but it’s about reading what you love,’ he said.
‘Newspapers are central to that. Articles are short, so you read the whole thing, and don’t feel as though you have failed like kids might if they give up on a novel.
‘I want to encourage kids getting into reading through their hobby. They might sit and read a fishing magazine for hours, and don’t realise that that counts.’
How receptive was his Manx audience?
‘The kids here were lovely, had an excellent knowledge of football, and had fun,’ said Tom. ‘They were relaxed an asked great questions. The range of reading seemed to be good – when I asked them about their favourite authors about 30 names came up. Sometimes when you ask school kids you hear the same four or five authors repeated, so it says a lot about the schools that recreational reading is encouraged.’
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Weather for Isle of Man
Wednesday 22 May 2013
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