Children’s author, Tom Palmer, blogs about why he is so pleased to be part of the Reading Force Roadshow.
There is no way I could have written my Rugby Academy series of books without the help of the children and teachers at Albrighton Primary School and the RAF Cosford base where many of those children’s parents are based.
My problem was I wanted to write books about children whose mums and dads were in the forces – but I knew nothing about what those children’s lives would be like. There was only one way I was going to be able to find out about their lives. And that was by meeting forces children and their parents.
Albrighton Primary set that up for me. They sat me down in their staff room with some of their RAF parents and – later – their children. I was able to listen to stories and think about things I could never have imagined. I’ll never forget that afternoon. The families I spoke to were honest and passionate about their lives, about the pros and cons of being forces families, the highs and the lows. Their sense of belonging to each other and their sense of duty to the rest of us.
One thing that stuck with me is the difficulties there are communicating with each other when the serving parents were away. Sometimes on the phone. Sometimes on Skype. It is hard to find the right time to talk – and hard to find the right things to talk about.
What do you say when you know your parent or partner might be in harm’s way and that they can’t tell you about it anyway? It is impossible to imagine. And imagining things is something I am supposed to be good at.
At around the same time I was working in Albrighton Primary School I read in a magazine about Reading Force, a charity that encourages forces children and parents to read together. I knew as soon as I read about them that we would work together.
I am very lucky. I have a job that means that I can read with my daughter four or five nights a week. Sitting with her. The other two or three nights I am away visiting schools and libraries. But in hotels, not in harm’s way. I know how lucky I am to see her most days and to be there with her and her mother most nights. We have a very easy relationship because I am there most of the time.
This spring I will be teaming up with Reading Force to tour our Reading Force Roadshow to ten schools on or next to Army, Navy and RAF bases in the UK. From North Yorkshire to Plymouth. I’ll be joining Jim Sells – literacy guru and former Rifleman – to perform our Football Reading Game, then host a school fete with a literacy theme for forces families, where they will be able to sign up for Reading Force, to get reading tips and receive a free copy of one of my books.
The idea is to help the schools with the work that they already do to find even more ways for the children – and their parents – to enjoy reading for pleasure.
That I can help contribute like this is hugely satisfying for me. I am proud to be working with Reading Force because I admire the work they do very much. And I’ll be proud to be helping the ten schools to enthuse their pupils with their reading.
Tom Palmer is a children’s author. He is published by Barrington Stoke and Puffin Books. As well as working with Reading Force he is the Writer in Residence at the RAF Museums.
Reading Force is free to all Service families, Reservists, Veterans and their friends and family, at home and away.