Fear of books

When I started secondary school, we were tested. It was decided that my grasp of the English language was so weak that I would not be allowed to study GCSE English Literature or French. There was one reason for this.

My fear of reading.

I didn’t like thick books. I didn’t like long impenetrable pages of text with no breaks or paragraphs. I would lose the thread. I would lose my place. I would lose my will to live. And I knew that I was stupid.

My mum had been gently trying to encourage me to read for pleasure for years and was desperate to help me. Not only because I was struggling with school, but because she knew that reading brings pleasure and empathy, confidence and happiness. But, it was only when I became increasingly interested in football that she found a way in.

She gave up encouraging me to read books and used newspapers and magazines about football. Short texts with lots of paragraph breaks. An accessible style that wasn’t overly literary. A subject I cared about enough to want to try.

That’s when things changed for me.

I am published by Barrington Stoke now. Barrington Stoke’s books are short. The text is often broken up into smaller paragraphs. The books are written in an accessible style that does not put less confident readers off. They are about popular subjects.

That coincidence is not lost on me.

I strongly believe that if there had been a librarian or teacher at my school who had known about Barrington Stoke and what they do I might have had a better chance of getting into reading sooner. But Barrington Stoke books did not exist then.

They do now.

There are children in your school who have a fear of reading.

When I write I think about what sort of a reader I was when I was nine, ten, eleven, twelve and I write about what I would have wanted to read and in a style that I would have enjoyed reading.

I think about the fear of reading and what Barrington Stoke and its authors do about it.

Tom Palmer is the author of 40 children’s books about sport and history. His most recent books are Armistice Runner, which has been shortlisted for three children’s book awards and the new Roy of the Rovers football series for age 9+.