The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster

Britain, that most bookish of countries, has seen some heated debate about how many books children should be reading. Education Secretary Michael Gove believes an 11-year-old should read 50 books a year.

Some folks agreed, others said it was too many, some people said the number did not matter as long as kids read and others said this statement made no sense while many of Britain’s public libraries are being threatened with closure.

Gove, a very bookish person, said: "Recently, I asked to see what students were reading at GCSE (exam level). I discovered that something like 80-90% were just reading one or two novels - and overwhelmingly it was the case that it included Of Mice and Men. We should be saying that our children should be reading 50 books a year, not just one or two.”

This is my personal take on the matter (not AbeBooks’) and I’m writing as a father of eight-year-old and five-year-old daughters. Reading should be an essential part of any childhood. Teachers and schools can teach you many useful things (although I’ve not used calculus in my adult life) but a steady diet of literature can ensure a young person’s education never ends.

Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
Redwall Series by Brian Jacques

The number of books you read doesn’t really matter. If an 11-year-old took all year to read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace then that would be a feat beyond many adults and he or she would also be much wiser about suffering, humanity and European history. Reading is the important thing.

Of course, I am very biased. The bedrooms of my daughters are piled up with books. They go to the library once a week. I read to each one each night (and it is my favorite time of the day). They carry books about with them. There are books inside our car. We listen to audio books when we do a road-trip.

As a parent, I helped to instill a love of books into my daughters by surrounding them with books from an early age. Sadly, too many homes lack books and too many parents do not encourage their kids to read. Although people can come to love literature late in life, most people get the bug when they are young. Huge responsibility lies with parents.

This year, my eight-year-old had probably read around 50 books by mid-April. I’m not talking War and Peace. She rattles through those young reader books – slim paperbacks with slightly larger text and plenty of illustrations - and loves to work through a set or series in quick succession. Her reading is now totally dictated by her. I tend to agree with Mr Gove’s comments about Of Mice and Men. Reading comes much easier if you read about what you love – let the reader decide. One book usually leads to another.

Below are 50 books that I and a few other colleagues recommend for a typical 11-year-old – some can be read at a much younger age while others are verging on the young adult genre. Some of these books I have revisited as an adult while reading to my eldest. Some are ageless classics and others are hyper modern. Some are better for one sex than the other. Some are sets or series so you are actually receiving more than 50 recommendations.

Many people, let alone an 11-year-old, would be hard-pushed to read all these books in 12 months. Mr Gove’s heading in the right direction - let’s just get young people reading.

50 Books Every Child Should Read

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Swallows and Amazons
by Arthur Ransome
The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Eagle of the Ninth
by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson-Burnett
The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson-Burnett
The Talking Parcel by Gerald Durrell
The Talking Parcel
by Gerald Durrell
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
War Horse
by Michael Morpurgo
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web
by E.B. White
Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl Series
by Eoin Colfer
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilde
Little House on the Prairie series
by Laura Ingalls Wilde
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline
by Neil Gaiman
The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
The Machine Gunners
by Robert Westall
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Because of Winn-Dixie
by Kate DiCamillo
Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner
Emil and the Detectives
by Erich Kästner
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Inkheart
by Cornelia Funke
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Tom’s Midnight Garden
by Philippa Pearce
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
Magic series by Edward Eager
Magic series
by Edward Eager
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables
by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Borrowers
by Mary Norton
Boy by Roald Dahl
Boy
by Roald Dahl
Holes by Louis Sachar
Holes
by Louis Sachar
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Lantern Bearers
by Rosemary Sutcliff
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith
The Sheep-Pig
by Dick King-Smith
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson
The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper
The Dark Is Rising series
by Susan Cooper
The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo
The Mozart Question
by Michael Morpurgo
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel
Silverwing
by Kenneth Oppel
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black
The Spiderwick Chronicles
by Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black
Stig of the Dump by Clive King
Stig of the Dump
by Clive King
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia
by C.S. Lewis
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
His Dark Materials trilogy
by Philip Pullman
The Harry Potter Books by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter Books
by J.K. Rowling
Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye
Leven Thumps series
by Obert Skye

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