One of the questions I get asked the most is for book recommendations for children. There are so many children’s books available it can be difficult to know what your child might enjoy, or even know what is out there.
Lots of children discover an author they enjoy and only read their books. Other children are not very inspired by what they read and are searching for the thing that really grabs them. Others just haven’t got into reading at all. Fundamentally, it doesn’t really matter what your child is reading as long as they are reading. Read a magazine, read a fact book, read a website, read the instructions on a video game, read the back of the cornflakes box – just read!
WHY READING IS IMPORTANT
Research has shown that reading is THE most beneficial thing children can do to help their learning. Reading not only helps develop language in terms of building our vocabulary and an understanding of how grammar and punctuation works, it also helps us with spelling through repeated exposure to the words. Reading also helps us with our own writing as we mimic the styles and techniques of the authors we have read. Children often take ideas from stories they have read recently and then put them into their own writing, having fun changing details along the way. They try ideas out that they’ve seen in their writing – a new word, a different way to start a sentence, some speech or an exclamation mark for the first time, maybe even something like a metaphor or personification. They probably won’t get it quite right for a bit, but taking the risk and giving it a go is really moving their writing along.
Reading also helps children access and enjoy every other subject. To take part in history, geography or science you need to be able to read. Even in subjects like maths, PE and art reading is essential. The thing that holds children back when solving word problems in maths is usually not the maths itself but understanding what the question says – the reading. Think about how much you actually have to read in a day – text messages, social media posts, websites, emails, work documents, shopping lists, road signs, recipes, game instructions, the TV guide… The ability to read is essential in modern life. We use it all the time, and the more confident we are, the more things we are able to do because of it.
Finally, reading is good for us. It develops our empathy for others by reading about characters whose lives might be very different to our own (or in fact very similar, giving a feeling of being recognised and represented), and enabling us to safely experience different situations. It develops our creativity and imagination and lets us explore different places and worlds.
Reading also helps us to relax. Research by the University of Sussex found that reading for just 6 minutes reduced stress by 60%, slowed the heart rate, eased muscle tension and altered the state of mind. They also found that reading was more effective in reducing stress than listening to music, drinking a cup of tea, going for a walk or playing a video game. Reading is incredibly good for us – children included!
So, back to the original question. What books can I recommend for your child to read? The list is huge and this just scratches the surface but hopefully will give you a starting point. Here are a few of my favourites for Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2, ages 5-7), Lower Key Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4, ages 7-9) and Upper Key Stage 2 (Years 5 and 6, ages 9-11).
I haven’t included an Amazon link as I think it’s important to support local independent booksellers or borrow them for free from your local library. Here are a couple of places you could purchase from: www.wordery.com booksforbugs.co.uk (a fantastic online children’s bookshop that is local to me but ships nationwide – all books are £2.50!)
Key Stage 1:
The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark, Jill Tomlinson – an absolute classic that I read as a child but is still a wonderful read today.
Anything by Anthony Browne, who writes beautiful picture book stories that grow with your child. Children as young as 5 or 6 really enjoy them, but older children pick up on other nuances and concepts within them, meaning they still enjoy the stories even in Year 6.
The Day the Crayon’s Quit, Drew Daywalt – a really clever and funny story about a packet of very fed-up crayons.
Lower Key Stage 2:
Anything by Roald Dahl – always a favourite – take your pick!
Mr Gum, Andy Stanton – I LOVE these stories! They are so funny! The chapters are short and the illustrations and use of typography bring the story to life. I happily read Mr Gum books as my own bedtime reading!
Arthur and the Golden Rope, Joe Todd Stanton – This is a meaty picture book about an unlikely hero who has adventures with Viking Gods. Great for developing vocabulary and deep thinking, with beautiful pictures you could look at for hours. There are other stories in the series set in different historical periods.
Upper Key Stage 2:
Wonder, RJ Palacio– one of my all-time favourite books. Very cleverly written with a very simple message – “Choose Kind”.
Holes, Louis Sachar – Fast-paced and a bit gritty with a really unusual story that grips you from the start.
Shackleton’s Journey, William Grill – A beautiful picture book that tells the story of Ernest Shackleton’s journey to the South Pole in 1912. There is also an accompanying activity book with puzzles to try, pictures to colour, things to make or draw, and games to play.
I could talk about reading for ages, but that would send me off on all sorts of tangents, so I’ll save them for future blog posts! If there are any books your child has particularly enjoyed, do let me know in the comments.