#BookReview #BookTour Baller Boys by Venessa Taylor

Baller Boys by Venessa Taylor is a lovely little book to add to your TBR shelf.

We follow a young soccer player, Shay, in this middle grade chapter book. Since it’s summer, Shay and his buddy Frankie are going to try out for football (soccer) tryouts! They meet Coach Reece and work hard to try out for this soccer team! Shay and Frankie’s friendship will be tested, when they learn not everyone is able to make the team.

Books like these are why I enjoyed reading as a kid. Not only does it talk about something fun and exciting, football/soccer, but it’s an easy and fun read! Reluctant readers will love this book! It’s packed full of fun and just an overall great read. Young boys and girls alike will be able to dive into this sport themed book and see kids just like them! Every character has their own quirks and unique family situations, which makes this book relatable too! I remember back in my young days, I loved a book that was similar to this but was about hockey. It got me totally enchanted with reading and helped me stick to it. It’s awesome seeing more books come out that feature sports and are fun to read!

Also, shout out for Shay having asthma! As someone who has asthma, it’s nice to see it being represented in this book!

I am totally obsessed with the cute trading cards at the front of the book. That alone gave this book so much personality and made it way more fun than I expected it to be. Little features like that are what we remember books by! Brava!

The cover is gorgeous – colourful, draws attention to the main character, and gives a bit of insight into what the books about. It’s exactly what you want a cover to be. There’s also small illustrations scattered throughout the book as well to help move the story along, and they are just as cute as the cover!

Add in the personal touch of this story that the author shares at the beginning, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Not only will kids love this story, but parents can appreciate the loving nature behind it as well. I have to admit, I had a wee tear in my eye reading who this book was dedicated to.

Overall, this book is just superb! It’s a great book to introduce to reluctant readers. I highly recommend it!

Five out of five stars!

Thank you to NetGalley and Hashtag Press for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.


venessa taylor
Find out more about Venessa Taylor on:
Twitter – @venessatwrites

Here’s a great tip for parents about reluctant readers, supplied by the publisher!



Why we need to start early to support boys with their literacy. Reading doesn’tstart when your child starts school. It can start from when your baby is in the womb. Reading to your baby is the first step in building a lifelong love of books and reading. From early infancy, reading to your child helps them to begin to recognise the rhythm and sounds of language. Evidence suggests that children who are read to routinely from a young age develop improved language skills and increased interest in reading, which helps improve their readiness for school.

As adults there are lots of ways, we can support children in becoming lifelong lovers of books and reading. When children are infants, they are adventurous and inquisitive, and when it comes to books, they are no different. As infants they usually begin to reach for books, try to turn the pages and try to respond to stories by vocalising and patting the pages. Toddlers love bath and board books and enjoy ‘reading’ the pictures to tell the story. This is often the age when they have their favourite book and request it, often repeating the text in the books and finishing the story. There is so much that pre schoolers can get from books to help them with their school readiness, from exploring books independently and beginning to ‘know’ what they like, to stimulating their imaginations and helping them to learn more about the world around them. This is a great time to help boys explore what is available and what they might like.
It is in these early years that good book and reading habits should be explored and experienced. Reading opportunities, shared reading time with male role models for boys is important. Male role models are great for boys; as they begin their school journey, boys are more often encouraged to read by mum and female teachers, so can identify reading as a female activity, so enriching their reading experience with male role models e.g. dad, football coach, grandfather etc can help them to see that reading is also a male activity.
There is lots of evidence that tells us that the gender gap between boys’ and girls’ literacy is widening. The first ‘reading check’ children undertake to measure whether they have learnt to decode words using phonics to the required level, is called a phonics screening test which was introduced by the DFE in 2011. They are first undertaken by children in year one and at around aged six. Children who do not meet the threshold mark in Y1 are given the opportunity to re do the check in Y2.
Phonics is recommended as the first strategy that children should be taught in helping them learn to read. It runs alongside other teaching methods such as guided and shared reading in order to help children learn all the skills to reading. Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen to and identify the phonemes that make up each word. These help children to learn to read and spell words. The DFE Phonics screening results show that more girls continue to meet the phonics standard than boys.
In 2019, 85% of girls and 78% of boys met the phonics standard, highlighting a gender gap of 7 percentage points. This has remained unchanged since 2018. The gender gap has remained broadly stable since the check was introduced in 2012.
Girls continue to outperform boys in all subjects by the end of primary school. The results from the SATs taken by pupils in y6 showed 70% of girls reached the expected standard in reading compared with just 60% for boys widening the gap from 8% in 2018 to 10% in 2019.It is crucial that we begin to get to grips with boys reading as the gender gap continues into KS2 and beyond. By encouraging boys to develop positive early reading habits by engaging them in reading for pleasure by introducing them to interesting and relevant books that will ignite and  have them shouting for more, then we can begin to book talk with them and create opportunities for writing comprehension etc and inevitably help to close the gender gap that continues


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**Photo provided by the publisher. I do not own these pictures.

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