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There are few things better for your child than a reading habit. Reading develops not just the obvious things like vocabulary or the ability to organise and express thoughts, but the intangibles, like expanding the limits of the imagination.
That does not necessarily mean knowing your hobbits from your orcs, but developing your thinking, your ability to think or feel what it is like to be in other people’s shoes – and that is a skill that can be applied to just about anything in adult life, from science to business.
As a rough idea of what a good reading habit entails, you should be looking at about 100 books completed between the ages of 8 and 13. After the age of 13 the amount of school work increases and the distractions mount. So, that 5 year period (20 books a year or 1 every 2.5 weeks) is crucial.
This list should give you a good starting point. These are books that have been reviewed well by both kids and parents. Many are classics. However, try to develop an interest in authors. If a child likes one book by a particular writer, then the odds are they’ll like others. Many of the books on the list are part of a series of books. You may find that having read the first volume your job is merely to continue getting the rest of the series for them.
Any reading is better than no reading, but reading some books is better than reading others. This list has been compiled with 11+/Common Entrance in mind and so favours a kind of ‘Old English’ literature. Having said that there are plenty of examples of modern reading.
The list is roughly graded, with the early titles being more suitable for 8-10 year olds. The later books on the list are more sophisticated reading – you’ll notice many of the earlier titles feature purely imaginative worlds and talking animals (there are no fewer than 3 books about pigs!) By 13 the titles are more ‘real world’ (there’s quite a few War stories). I’ve deliberately not divided the list into male/female because I’m not sure it is a good idea to look at books that way. Your child may disagree.
The books are not here to teach ‘values’ – they exist just to open up the imagination – to take the reader to another world. Having said that, the list is roughly designed to take the reader on a journey and each title should build on the others. If you started The Silver Sword, for example, without an established reading habit, the bleakness of the setting of the book might stop you reading by about page 20.
As a general policy watch out for how many titles your child starts and abandons. You can waste a lot of energy looking for just the right book when in reality it is reading itself that your child either doesn’t enjoy, or doesn’t have the concentration levels to enjoy.
There’s a few things you can do. Engage in your child’s reading. You could buy two copies and read one yourself, reading simultaneously. You can ask questions about what you think will happen next. Judge a book by its cover – often they will pick a book that has an intriguing cover image. Google exhibitions or events about a theme in the book or the author themselves. Talk about the book at dinner.
But there is one golden rule. DO NOT WATCH THE FILM BEFORE YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK. The reasons should be obvious, but it is important, as pretty much any decent children’s book has been made into a film. Of course, once your child has read the book, watching the filmed version is a very good idea.
Reading is not work – that is why it is so good for you. The ideal situation is a child who reads to relax after doing their homework. Realistic? It might be!