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Reading Suggestions

Looking for some reading inspiration for children and young adults to develop vocabulary?

Reading Suggestions

Whatever your child enjoys reading should be encouraged, especially if your child is preparing for the 11+ entrance exams, your child will need to have experience of the language and vocabulary used in the comprehension test.

Reading old and modern children’s classics will help your child develop their vocabulary and improve their comprehension skills over a wider variation of texts.

In reading good examples of writing, your child will experience literary devices in action, such as the effective use of similes and personification which will enable them to develop their own writing style.

Below is a selection of texts suitable for children in school years 4 - 6.  Reading should be as enjoyable as possible, so try to choose texts that might be of interest.

Some of the texts are more challenging and more suitable for children in years 5 and 6 and may need adult help in understanding the text and concepts.  Click here for the more challenging texts.

For convenience, each book has a link to its page on Amazon.co.uk - just click on the picture or book title.  But of course you can purchase elsewhere or borrow from a library.

Happy Reading!

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The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith

Cruella de Vil is enough to frighten the spots off a Dalmatian puppy. So when she steals a whole family of them, the puppies’ parents, Pongo and Missus, lose no time in mounting a daring rescue mission.

Will they be in time to thwart Cruella’s evil scheme, or have they bitten off more than they can chew?

Perfect for fans of the classic Disney film.  

Five Children and It

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

I dare say you have often thought about what you would do if you were granted three wishes. The five children - Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and their baby brother - had often talked about it but when they are faced with the grumpy sand-fairy they find it difficult to make up their minds. And that is just the beginning of their dilemmas. As they discover, there is nothing quite like a wish for getting you into terrible trouble.

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The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

When Roberta, Peter and Phyllis's father is taken away and they move to a tiny cottage in the countryside, the only advantage is the nearby railway. Join them on their adventures as they befriend all those who work with the trains, prevent a railway disaster and try to discover the truth behind their father's disappearance.

The Railway Children, a much-loved children's classic, was first published in 1906 and has never been out of print.

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

When Mary Lennox is sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, everybody says she is the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It is true, too. Mary is pale, spoilt and quite contrary. But she is also horribly lonely. Then one day she hears about a garden in the grounds of the Manor that has been kept locked and hidden for years. 
And when a friendly robin helps Mary find the key, she discovers the most magical place anyone could imagine...

The Little Princess

The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Alone in a new country, wealthy Sara Crewe tries to settle in and make friends at boarding school. But when she learns that she'll never see her beloved father gain, her life is turned upside down. Transformed from princess to pauper, she must swap dancing lessons and luxury for hard work and a room in the attic. Will she find that kindness and genorosity are all the riches she truly needs?

The Magician's Nephew

The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis

On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan’s song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.

The Magician’s Nephew is the first book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, which has captivated readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like to journey through the wardrobe and back to Narnia, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Four adventurous siblings―Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie― step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been drawing readers of all ages into a magical land with unforgettable characters for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone read, but if you would like to explore more of the Narnian realm, pick up The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Tom's Midnight Garden

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillippa Pearce

When Tom is sent to stay at his aunt and uncle's house for the summer, he resigns himself to endless weeks of boredom. As he lies awake in his bed he hears the grandfather clock downstairs strike . . .eleven . . . twelve . . . thirteen . . . 

Thirteen! Tom races down the stairs and out the back door, into a garden everyone told him wasn't there. In this enchanted thirteenth hour, the garden comes alive - but Tom is never sure whether the children he meets there are real or ghosts . . . This entrancing and magical story is one of the best-loved children's books ever written.

 

Goodnight Mister Tom

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

 The story of young Willie Beech, evacuated to the country as Britain stands on the brink of the Second World War.

A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of old Tom Oakley - but his new-found happiness is shattered by a summons from his mother back in London. 

As time goes by Tom begins to worry when Willie doesn't answer his letters, so he goes to London to find him, and there makes a terrible discovery.

Journey to the River Sea

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

An Amazon adventure set in the wilderness of Brazil, Journey to the River Sea is filled with mystery and memorable characters.

It is 1910 and Maia, tragically orphaned at thirteen, has been sent from England to start a new life with distant relatives in Manaus, hundreds of miles up the Amazon. She is accompanied by an eccentric and mysterious governess who has secret reasons of her own for making the journey. Both soon discover an exotic world bursting with new experiences in Journey to the River Sea, Eva Ibbotson's highly colourful, joyous adventure.

Kensuke's Kingdom

Kensuke’s Kingdom by Micheal Morpurgo

I disappeared on the night before my twelfth birthday.

 

Gorgeous new colour illustrations for the best-selling Kensuke's Kingdom. Washed up on an island in the Pacific, Michael struggles to survive on his own. With no food and no water, he curls up to die. When he wakes, there is a plate beside him of fish, of fruit, and a bowl of fresh water. He is not alone . . .

 

Kensuke's Kingdom is a gripping adventure from the author of War Horse.

The Butterfly Lion

The Butterfly Lion by Micheal Morpurgo

A lyrical and moving tale of a young boy growing up in Africa, and his lifelong friendship with a white lion.

“All my life I’ll think of you, I promise I will. I won’t ever forget you.”

Bertie rescues an orphaned white lion cub from the African veld. They are inseparable until Bertie is sent to boarding school far away in England and the lion is sold to a circus. Bertie swears that one day they will see one another again, but it is the butterfly lion which ensures that their friendship will never be forgotten.

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Montgomery

Anne Shirley is an eleven-year-old orphan who has hung on determinedly to an optimistic spirit and a wildly creative imagination through her early deprivations. She erupts into the lives of aging brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a girl instead of the boy they had sent for. Thus begins a story of transformation for all three; indeed the whole rural community of Avonlea comes under Anne's influence in some way. We see her grow from a girl to a young woman of sixteen, making her mistakes, and not always learning from them. Intelligent, hot-headed as her own red hair, unwilling to take a moral truth as read until she works it out for herself, she must also face grief and loss and learn the true meaning of love. Part Tom Sawyer, part Jane Eyre, by the end of Anne of Green Gables, Anne has become the heroine of her own story.

Skellig

Skellig by David Almond

When a move to a new house coincides with his baby sister's illness, Michael's world seems suddenly lonely and uncertain. 
Then, one Sunday afternoon, he stumbles into the old, ramshackle garage of his new home, and finds something magical. A strange creature - part owl, part angel, a being who needs Michael's help if he is to survive. With his new friend Mina, Michael nourishes Skellig back to health, while his baby sister languishes in the hospital. 
But Skellig is far more than he at first appears, and as he helps Michael breathe life into his tiny sister, Michael's world changes forever . . .

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

When the East Wind blows Mary Poppins into the home of the banks children, their lives go topsy-turvy and are changed forever.

More than eighty years since we first met Mary Poppins, this original, classic story is still charming readers and transporting new fans into the mysterious world of everyone’s favourite magical nanny.

The Firework-Maker's Daughter

The Firework-Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman

Lila doesn't just want to be a Firework-Maker's daughter, she wants to be a Firework Maker herself. But although she's learned a lot she still must get through the most difficult and dangerous part of her apprenticeship - and her father won't tell her what it is.

In search of this final Firework-Making secret, Lila heads off alone on a journey. It is a journey filled with dangers beyond anything she could have imagined, a journey on which she will learn so much more than the one secret she set out to find . . .

 

Stig of the Dump

Stig of the Dump by Clive King

Clive King's Stig of the Dump is a much-loved modern classic. It is the story of Barney and his best friend, cave-man Stig.
Barney is a solitary little boy, given to wandering off by himself. One day he is lying on the edge of a disused chalk-pit when it gives way and he lands in a sort of cave. 
Here he meets 'somebody with a lot of shaggy hair and two bright black eyes' wearing a rabbit skin and speaking in grunts. He names him Stig. 
Of course nobody believes Barney when he tells his family all about Stig, but for Barney cave-man Stig is totally real. 
They become great friends, learning each others ways and embarking on a series of unforgettable adventures.

 

The Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White

The extraordinary story of a boy called Wart - ignored by everyone except his tutor, Merlyn - who goes on to become King Arthur. When Merlyn the magician comes to tutor Sir Ector's sons Kay and the Wart, schoolwork suddenly becomes much more fun. After all, who wouldn't enjoy being turned into a fish, or a badger, or a snake? But Merlyn has very particular plans for the Wart.

Peter Pan

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

‘Second to the right … and then straight on till morning!’

Desperate to hear bedtime stories, Peter Pan waits outside the nursery window of Wendy, John and Michael Darling. When Peter asks Wendy to fly with him to Neverland, the Darling children are whisked away to a world of adventure – of daring fairies, wondrous mermaids and The Lost Boys.But there is danger in Neverland too: the villainous Captain Hook is out for revenge and will stop at nothing to take it.

Poignant and unforgettable, J. M. Barrie’s classic tale is one of the greatest works of children’s literature of the last century. Its imaginative scope, tender humour and vivid characters will enchant adults and children alike.

 

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

Adventure! Excitement! Fun! Friendship! 

Join in the delights and disasters on the riverbank with Mole and his new friends. With sensible Ratty, wise Badger, fun-loving Toad, and the dastardly stoats and weasles, there's never a dull moment! 

Oxford Children's Classics present not only the original and unabridged story of The Wind in the Willowsin a stunning new edition, but also help you to discover a whole world of new adventures with a vast assortment of recommendations and activities.

The Wolf Brother Collection

The Wolf Brother Collection by Michelle Paver

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness The Wolf Brother Collection 6 Books Box Set by Michelle Paver: 

Wolf Brother: 
Thousands of years ago, the land is one dark forest. Its people are hunter-gatherers. They know every tree and herb and they know how to survive in a time of enchantment and powerful magic. Until an ambitious and malevolent force conjures a demon. 

Spirit Walker: 
Thousands of years ago an orphan boy and his wolf cub companion challenge a demon bear that threatens to destroy their world forever. With the help of the World Spirit, Torak destroys the bear, but his beloved Wolf is lost in the ensuing avalanche. 

Soul Eater: 
Torak has survived the summer and his heart-stopping adventure in the Seal Islands. He and Wolf are together again. But their reunion is all too short-lived. 

Outcast: 
The dreadful secret that Torak carries with him at the close of SOUL EATER is revealed and he is cast out from the clans. It's his fourteenth summer. He's alone, cut off even from Wolf and Renn. Hunted and on the run he takes refuge in unknown territory. 

Oath Breaker: 
When he was outcast, Torak was the hunted one. The following spring, he becomes the hunter when he swears to avenge the killing of one of his closest friends. To fulfil his oath he must brave the hidden valleys of the Deep Forest, where the clans have reverted to the savagery of an earlier time. 

Ghost Hunter: 
As winter approaches and Souls' Night draws near, the Eagle Owl Mage holds the clans in the grip of terror. To fulfill his destiny, Torak must seek his lair in the Mountain of Ghosts. He must defy demons and tokoroths, and find his way through the Gorge of the Hidden People.

Street Child

Street Child by Berlie Doherty

The unforgettable tale of an orphan in Victorian London, based on the boy whose plight inspired Dr Barnardo to found his famous children’s homes.

When his mother dies, Jim Jarvis is left all alone in London. He is sent to the workhouse but quickly escapes, choosing a hard life on the streets of the city over the confines of the workhouse walls.

Struggling to survive, Jim finally finds some friends… only to be snatched away and made to work for the remorselessly cruel Grimy Nick, constantly guarded by his vicious dog, Snipe.

Will Jim ever manage to be free?

The Indian in the Cupboard

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

The Indian in the Cupboard is the first of five gripping books about Omri and his plastic North American Indian – Little Bull – who comes alive when Omri puts him in a cupboard.

For Omri, it is a dream come true when the plastic American Indian he locks into the old cupboard comes to life. Little Bull is everything an Indian brave should be – proud, fearless and defiant.

But being in charge of a real, live, human being is a heavy responsibility, as Omri soon discovers. And when his best friend, Patrick, is let in on the secret, he soon realises that life-changing decisions lie ahead.

A Stitch in Time

A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively

Maria is always getting lost in the secret world of her imagination…

A ghostly mystery and winner of the Whitbread Award, newly republished in the Essential Modern Classics range.

Maria likes to be alone with her thoughts. She talks to animals and objects, and generally prefers them to people. But whilst on holiday she begins to hear things that aren’t there – a swing creaking, a dog barking – and when she sees a Victorian embroidered picture, Maria feels a strange connection with the ten-year-old, Harriet, who stitched it.

But what happened to her? As Maria becomes more lost in Harriet’s world, she grows convinced that something tragic occurred…

Perfect for fans of ghostly mysteries like ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’.

The Ghost of Thomas Kemp

The Ghost of Thomas Kemp by Penelope Lively

James is fed up. His family has moved to a new cottage – with grounds that are great for excavations, and trees that are perfect for climbing – and stuff is happening. Stuff that is normally the kind of thing he does. But it's not him who's writing strange things on shopping lists and fences. It's not him who smashes bottles and pours tea in the Vicar's lap. It's a ghost – honestly. Thomas Kempe the 17th century apothecary has returned and he wants James to be his apprentice. No one else believes in ghosts. It's up to James to get rid of him. Or he'll have no pocket money or pudding ever again.

 

An iconic ghost story for children, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe is adored by generations of readers.

Jennie

Jennie by Paul Gallic

“If in doubt, wash!”

What is it like to be a cat? Find out in this classic animal story from the renowned writer Paul Gallico.

Peter Brown longs for a pet cat. One day, he is following a stray cat through the streets when he is knocked down and seriously hurt. On waking, he is astonished to find that he has turned into a cat… The world is a dangerous place for him, but luckily he is rescued and befriended by Jennie, a kindly stray tabby who has been abandoned by her owners. Adventures wait around every corner for the two new friends, as Jennie teaches Peter all about life as a cat.

Humorous and touching, and packed with acutely observed feline behaviour, this is a beloved classic that’s essential for any cat-lover.

~ More Challenging Texts ~

Challenging Texts

The following titles are more challenging reads with vocabulary and concepts that may need adult assistance in understanding.  The following titles are more suited to children aged 10 and over.

Kidnapped

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

'Your bed shall be the moorcock's, and your life shall be like the hunted deer's, and ye shall sleep with your hand upon your weapons.' Tricked out of his inheritance, shanghaied, shipwrecked off the west coast of Scotland, David Balfour finds himself fleeing for his life in the dangerous company of Jacobite outlaw and suspected assassin Alan Breck Stewart. Their unlikely friendship is put to the test as they dodge government troops across the Scottish Highlands. Set in the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion, Kidnapped transforms the Romantic historical novel into the modern thriller. Its heart-stopping scenes of cross-country pursuit, distilled to a pure intensity in Stevenson's prose, have become a staple of adventure stories from John Buchan to Alfred Hitchcock and Ian Fleming. Kidnapped remains as exhilarating today as when it was first published in 1886.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

'One of the best-loved adventure stories ever written, Treasure Island's timeless tale of pirates, lost treasure maps, mutiny and derring-do has appealed to generations of readers ever since Robert Louis Stevenson penned it in 1881 with the claim: 'If this don't fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day.' But more than just a children's classic, the novel is considered to be one of the greatest feats of storytelling in the English language, with characters such as the unforgettable Long John Silver becoming part of the cultural consciousness. Treasure Island is a coming-of-age story that will captivate both adults and children for as long as stories are told.

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

When an army of invading Martians lands in England, panic and terror seize the population. As the aliens traverse the country in huge three-legged machines, incinerating all in their path with a heat ray and spreading noxious toxic gases, the people of the Earth must come to terms with the prospect of the end of human civilization and the beginning of Martian rule.Inspiring films, radio dramas, comic-book adaptations, television series and sequels,The War of the Worlds is a prototypical work of science fiction which has influenced every alien story that has come since, and is unsurpassed in its ability to thrill, well over a century since it was first published.

Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

 

A stunning edition of this modern classic of World War One, featuring an introduction by the author and insightful testimonies from soldiers.

Told in the voice of Private Tommo Peaceful, the story follows twenty-four hours at the front, and captures his memories of his family and his village life by no means as tranquil as it appeared.

Full of vivid detail and engrossing atmosphere, leading to a dramatic and moving conclusion, Private Peaceful is both a compelling love story and a deeply moving account of the First World War.

 

Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar

 

Stanley Yelnats' family has a history of bad luck, so when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre (which isn't green and doesn't have a lake) he is not surprised. Every day he and the other inmates are told to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, reporting anything they find. Why? The evil warden claims that it's character building, but this is a lie. It's up to Stanley to dig up the truth. 

Witty, inventive and completely unique, this is a masterpiece of storytelling that combines sly humour with irresistible, page-turning writing.

 

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

 

 

The Hobbit is the unforgettable story of Bilbo, a peace-loving hobbit, who embarks on a strange and magical adventure.

A timeless classic.

Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet and contented life, with no desire to travel far from the comforts of home; then one day the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves arrive unexpectedly and enlist his services – as a burglar – on a dangerous expedition to raid the treasure-hoard of Smaug the dragon. Bilbo’s life is never to be the same again.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

 

First published in 1995, and acclaimed as a modern masterpiece, this first book in the series won the UK's top awards for children's literature.

“Without this child, we shall all die.” 

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight.

Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

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