Eleven of the Best football reads for children

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia fast approaching, there’s no better time to tap into the excitement around the beautiful game to help boost children’s love of reading. Jim Sells, Sport and Literacy Programme Manager at the National Literacy Trust, shares his favourite football books for children of all ages.


I’ve got over 20 years’ experience at the National Literacy Trust, using football to improve children’s and young people’s literacy. I know the power that football has to grab children’s attention and get them into reading because I’ve seen it first-hand! Our Premier League Reading Stars programme has turned kids who would refuse to even consider picking up a book into avid readers who’ll devour any reading material about football they can get their hands on.

There are so many amazing books about football out there, it was very hard to narrow it down – but I’ve chosen my starting 11 for this year’s World Cup:

The Match

Russell Ayto, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781408893456, £7.99, 5-7 years

This is a beautifully illustrated

comic book

which lays out the ritual of every fan who follows a team: dealing with the highs of victory and the lows of defeat – but this time it’s alongside your best friend who happens to be a dog! This book has

lots of discussion opportunities for parent and a child, which is what I really love about it.

Willy the Wizard

Anthony Browne, Penguin Books, 9780552549356, £6.99, 5-7 years

A heart-warming finding

book about a young chimp

picture his

footballing confidence. It has great themes of resilience, standing up for yourself and growth. The illustrations

are amazing

and this book is made to be shared. You’ll find something new to talk

about in each reading. Look out for Willy in other Anthony Browne books too!

10 Books for Keeps No.230 May 2018

Gus the Famous Football Cat

Tom Palmer, Egmont, 9781405290944, £4.99, 5-8 years

Remember Paul the game-predicting octopus? This is a take on that story for emerging readers, following a young refugee and her mysterious cat who seems to always know the score. It’s a terrific little story which shows - rather than tells - this girl and her dad fitting into their community through a love of football. Great stuff.

Football School: Where Football Explains the World

Alex Bellos & Ben Lyttleton, illus Spike Gerrell, Walker Books, 9781406367249, £8.99, 7-11

Imagine a school where everything is taught and explained through football examples. This book (and its sequel) is funny, compelling and informative. A touch of the Horrible Histories humour doesn’t hurt - you’ll learn about footballers’ poo in biology, blowing up a pig’s bladder to use as a football in history...


loads of fun, making school hardly feel like learning at all!

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