The Big Summer 11+ Reading List

The Big Summer 11+ Reading List

The Big 11+ Summer Reading List

I first wrote this a few months ago for our website… But since Summer holidays are the optimal time for getting stuck into a book, I thought I would post it again for those Mums and Dads looking to inspire their kids with some great holiday reading.

I get a lot of calls asking how to best help kids get through the 11+ papers to independent schools and grammar schools. Really, the most important thing you can do to help your child excel in 11+ English papers is encourage them to read regularly and widely - and read as many different styles and types of book as possible. Reading not only improves comprehension and vocabulary (the student should be sure to look up and write down new words!) but it also develops general knowledge, emotional insights and analytical skills. Moreover, if a student reads a mix of modern and classic fiction, books set in historical periods and the contemporary world, fantasy and reality, fiction, non-fiction and autobiography, they’re more likely to have a wide range of ideas, cultural references and narrative techniques to draw on in their English exams.

Here are some books I recommend highly - separated into categories, so you can aim for a good variety.

Children’s Classics

The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

Stig of The Dump - Clive King

Five Children and It - E Nesbit

Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfield

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Tom’s Midnight Garden - Philippa Pearce

Peter Pan and Wendy - J M Barrie

Emil and The Detectives - Erich Kastner

Charlotte’s Web - E B White

The Hobbit - J R Tolkien

19th Century Fiction (good for getting used to old-fashioned / archaic language which sometimes occurs in exam papers for top schools)

Treasure Island - R L Stevenson

Kidnapped - R L Stevenson

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain

Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Black Beauty - Anna Sewell

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Books which deal with Historical Themes

Warhorse - Michael Morpurgo (WW1 / animals at war)

War Boy - Michael Foreman (WW2 in Britain)

Goodnight Mister Tom (WW2 / Evacuees) 

Carrie’s War (WW2 / Evacuees)

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (and sequels) (WW2 / The Holocaust)

Hitler’s Canary - Sandi Toksvig (WW2 / The Holocaust)

Smith - Leon Garfield (Pickpocketing in 18th century London)

The Diamond of Drury Lane (The theatre in 18th Century London)

Hero on a Bicycle - Shirley Hughes (WW2, The Italian Resistance)

Coram Boy - Jamila Gavin (Foundling Hospital, 18th century England)

Once - Morris Gleitzmen (WW2 / The Holocaust)

I, Coriander - Sally Gardner (Historical Fantasy based on 17th century Puritan commonwealth)

Contemporary fiction dealing with big themes

Holes - Louis Sachar

Pig Heart Boy - Malorie Blackman

Noughts and Crosses series - Malorie Blackman

Wonder - R J Palacio

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness 

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret - Judy Blume

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

Fiction from, or about, other cultures

The Kite Rider - Geraldine McCaughrean (13th century China)

The Village by the Sea - Anita Desai (Rural India)

Trash - Andy Mulligan (unnamed ‘Third world’ country)

The Wheel of Surya - Jamila Gavin (India, 1947)

Refugee Boy - Benjamin Zephaniah (Refugees from Ethiopia)

Fantasy / Adventure

Harry Potter Series - J K Rowling

Alex Rider Series - Anthony Horowitz

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Joan Aiken

Skellig - David Almond

The Artemis Fowl series - Eoin Colfer

Percy Jackson Series - Rick Riordan

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

His Dark Materials Trilogy - Philip Pullman

Rooftoppers - Katherine Rundell

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket

Wolf Brother - Michelle Paver

Non-fiction / Auto-biography

Going Solo / Boy (Autobiographical stories by Roald Dahl)

The Horrible Histories Series (Comic take on the main events of History)

I am Malala (Autobiography of Malala Yousafzai)

The Diary of Anne Frank 

Zlata’s Diary (Diary of a young girl during the Bosnian War)

Chinese Cinderella (Biography of Adeline Yen Mah)

A Little History of the World - E H Gombrich

George’s Secret Key to the Universe - Stephen and Sophie Hawking (Adventures in Physics)

Cross-over into Adult Fiction, for advanced readersThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

The Life of Pi - Yann Martel

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

The Woman in Black - Susan Hill

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Hopefully this gives a little inspiration: there is a wide and wonderful world of children’s literature out there. A child shouldn’t struggle away with a book they are not enjoying. It’s better to read adventure or fantasy stories (and, yes, even football biographies) voraciously than to read nothing at all. With the ‘cross-over’ choices as I have called them above, be aware that there are some pretty grown-up themes and even occasional swear words (I’m looking at you Mark Haddon). Some of those books might be pretty tricky for young readers, and it’s better to stick with children’s books if they find them too hard-going; all the schools say that they’d rather a child talk truly passionately about Enid Blyton than spout pre-prepared sentences about Pride and Prejudice! One tip is to read some of the cross-over fiction with, or to, your child, so you can discuss it as you go. I read Jane Eyre to a ten and twelve year old a couple of summers ago, and though much of the language needed explaining to them, they were utterly thrilled by the plot. I have never heard so much speculation about what might be going on in the attic - it made me fall in love with the book all over again.

Happy reading to all….

Find a peaceful spot for some serious reading....

Find a peaceful spot for some serious reading....

Whatever You Can Do, Or Dream You Can Do...

Whatever You Can Do, Or Dream You Can Do...