PUPILS at Bradon Forest School were taken to the heart of the England camp in a Q&A with former Three Lions writer and children’s author Dan Freedman yesterday.
Librarians at the Purton school were targeting Year Seven boys, who use the library facilities less than the girls, so they recruited Dan to stimulate some interest.
The former Football Association media man has reported from two World Cups and conducted exclusive interviews with football heroes.
But he has now begun his own series of football novels for children.
Promoting the seventh book in his Jamie Johnson series, Skills From Brazil, Dan used his experiences of elite football to encourage a new generation of readers and writers.
“For me, I’m meeting my bosses,” he said. “It’s a chatty exchange with them. They seem quite interested.
“I am trying to tell them I was never a bookworm and I didn’t think I was bookworm, or a particularly good writer.
“I just read about football in magazines and newspapers. “That’s what gave me the vocabulary to become a better writer, especially in football.”
Although the boys need the extra encouragement to read both boys and girls from several first year classes met Dan in the school library. Librarian Denise Styles said: “Boys are the group that borrows less books from the library. “We wanted to find ways of encouraging them to read and improve their English, which of course improves everything else.
“They were definitely engaged when Dan spoke. All their hands were going up, wanting to ask questions.
“All of the pre-orders we had for his book before he arrived were from boys, which just shows, if you get the right person, they can be engaged with reading.”
Luke Chamberlain, 12, was one of those boys who met Dan. He said: “I enjoy football so this is interesting to me.
“I’m looking forward to the World Cup, and this book is based on Brazil. I am hoping I can learn from the book.”
Dan describes Jamie Johnson, the central character in his stories, as a footballer in a Grange Hill-type setting.
The series marks his progress from talented schoolboy to England international. Skills From Brazil is a prequel, with Jamie taking a trip to South America as a child, where he meets local players who teach him their Samba skills.
Dan’s experiences as a journalist based in the England squad have gone a long way to making his books a success.
“I was quite happy in that job,” he said. “I knew what whatever I did next wasn’t going to be as good as that.
“Then I wanted to buy a young relative a child’s football novel and couldn’t find one, so I took it from there.”