October Reading Recommendations

Author: Sam Wainwright

Categories: Tips

Date: October 12, 2022

The nights are growing longer, the leaves are turning orange and brown, the wind is getting colder and the routine of school and 11+ preparation is now back in full swing. Halloween and the 11+ might not seem like they have a lot of common ground, but the changing season might in fact be a great opportunity to inspire your child’s reading.

We often talk about the importance of reading in 11+ preparation. It is one of the most difficult things to encourage children to do consistently, especially when they are surrounded by so many more enticing distractions in their free time.

Of course, reading regularly is essential for 11+ success as it is the best way for students to improve their comprehension fluency and vocabulary skills. Reluctant readers are, however, very common at this age. Our first advice for parents of students who truly hate to read is to allow them to engage with reading material that truly sparks their interest. Any reading material is better than none! 

That’s where Halloween comes in. Seasonal stories in particular, like spooky stories in October, may help to inspire your child’s excitement for reading as they engage with something topical and something your child may already be taking an interest in.

Genre: Horror and Gothic Literature

For more enthusiastic readers and for those looking to continue to improve their comprehension abilities, the genres of horror and gothic literature are an important thing to be aware of for 11+ preparation. Remember: students might be given a comprehension text from any kind of text, which could include novels like Dracula and Frankenstein

Genre awareness is a skill students may be expected to possess. Students who are aware of genre are able to predict what may happen in a given text and may be able to better engage with and interpret said text. 

Of course, most parents may feel reluctant to let their children engage with horror stories, in the fear of scaring them or allowing them to read something age inappropriate. We have compiled a list of primary school friendly horror and ghost stories for children with a particular interest in the spooky and macabre – and for students looking to expand on the different types of books they have read for their 11+ preparation.

Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine

Publishing date: 1992

Recommended for: Years 4+

Scare rating: ★★★☆☆

A staple in the ghost story genre for children, Goosebumps is an immensely popular series for younger readers and an excellent way for children to engage with horror in a way that is not too scary. 

Stine himself has frequently stated that he avoids real terror in his stories and the children in his novels are never put into situations that would be considered too serious.

There are over sixty books in the Goosebumps series, including a spin-off series Give Yourself Goosebumps. This spin-off series is a selection of gamebooks written in second person in which the reader is told to turn to a certain page at the bottom of the current page and must make choices about where the story will go. The fiction is enlivened with these puzzles and choices and therefore they make great engaging books for reluctant readers. Not to mention, they are an interesting example for students studying creative writing and narrative due to their second person narration!


The Canterville Ghost (and Other Stories) by Oscar Wilde

Publishing date: 1891

Recommended for: Years 5+

Scare rating: ★★★☆☆

The Otis family are warned to fear the Canterville Ghost who haunts their new home. However, the ghost himself is sorely disappointed to find his ghoulish behaviour doesn’t scare his new victims at all once he tries to haunt them. 

This book combines four of Oscar Wilde’s classic mystery stories: ‘The Canterville Ghost’, ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’, ‘The Sphinx without a Secret’ and ‘The Model Millionaire’, all of which were first published together in 1891.

Oscar Wilde’s stories are witty and humorous and provide a great stepping stone towards more advanced classical writing. The writing in these stories is certainly the most archaic out of all of the titles listed and is therefore a good choice for students looking for a challenge in their comprehension preparation.

‘The Canterville Ghost’ is a funny twist on the ghost story genre that will likely tickle younger readers who may be expecting to read about a fearsome monster. As with all Alma Junior Classics collections, helpful context and terminology explanations are provided to aid younger readers in their understanding. 

These stories primarily focus upon mystery and humour, though some younger readers may wish to avoid them as they include themes of death.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

Publishing date: 1983

Recommended for: Years 5+

Scare rating: ★★★★★

Real witches dress in ordinary clothes and look like ordinary women. But they are not ordinary. They are always plotting and scheming with murderous, bloodthirsty thoughts – and they hate children.

The Grand High Witch hates children most of all and plans to turn every single one of them into mice. Only one boy and his grandmother can stop her, but if their plan fails the Grand High Witch will frizzle them like fritters!

The Witches is a slight departure from Dahl’s other works. Readers will be kept on the edge of their seat with suspenseful and scary scenes. There’s a little violence in the book, especially against mice: a tail is partially sliced off, and two mice are hurled against a wall. However, the threat that the witches will use their evil sorcery against children is what makes the book scary – and some children may therefore wish to avoid this title!

As with most of Dahl’s books, his inventiveness and superior storytelling capabilities will engage even the most reluctant readers. The popularity of his works also means that there is a wealth of additional material to aid in comprehension and understanding for readers who may struggle with independent reading. The Witches and other Roald Dahl audiobooks are read by some very famous voices, including Kate Winslet, David Walliams and Steven Fry – they can be used alongside the book to keep children on track.

There are also two film adaptations of the book, The Witches (1990) and The Witches (2020). The first adaptation departs slightly from the ending of the original book though both can be watched alongside reading this novel to aid in understanding.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Publishing date: 2002

Recommended for: Years 5+

Scare rating: ★★★★☆

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her… It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. 

Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. Forever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

Coraline is a great choice for children interested in scary stories. For students who wish to read more genres for their 11+ preparation, Coraline introduces the horror genre without being gruesome or inappropriate; Coraline’s bravery and determination help her to overcome the monsters she faces. 

This book can be read alongside the 2009 animated film of the same name to help reluctant readers.

Goth Girl series by Chris Riddell

Publishing date: published 2013

Recommended for: Years 4+

Scare rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Ada Goth is the only child of Lord Goth. The two live together in the enormous Ghastly-Gorm Hall, where children are meant to be seen and not heard. Ada has to wear large clumpy boots so that he can always hear her coming. This makes it hard for her to make friends and, if she’s honest, she’s rather lonely.

In the first book of the series, Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, William and Emily Cabbage come to stay at the house and together with a ghostly mouse called Ishmael they and Ada begin to unravel a dastardly plot hatched by the indoor gamekeeper. Ada and her friends must work together to foil him before it’s too late!

Goth Girl is a wonderfully illustrated, witty, silly and light-hearted series. 

The illustrations bring the story to life and make them perfect for readers 7+ who love adventures with a dark and fantastical twist. Chris Riddell, the former children’s laureate (2015-2017), invites his readers into a network of gothic texts and classical literature references that will introduce this genre of literature with charm and humour.

All the Goth Girl books in order:

Book 1: Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse (2013)

Book 2: Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death (2014)

Book 3: Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright (2015)

Book 4: Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony (2017)

Mountwood School for Ghosts by Toby Ibbotson

Publishing date: published 2014

Recommended for: Years 4+

Scare rating: ★★☆☆☆

Fredegonda, Goneril, and Drusilla are Great Hagges (which is something far more important than regular hags!) They think that ghosts these days are decidedly lacking and that people haven’t been scared of ghosts for years. 

One day they decide that something needs to change – it’s time for these ghosts to learn a thing or two about being scary. And what better way to teach them than to set up their very own school for ghosts? 

Mountwood School for Ghosts is a funny ghost story from the son of award-winning author Eva Ibbotson, based on an idea originally conceived by Eva Ibbotson.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Publishing date: published 2018

Recommended for: Years 5+

Scare rating: ★★☆☆☆

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead and enter the world of spirits. It’s pretty strange. Her best friend is even a ghost.

Her life is about to get even stranger, though. When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with the restless undead. When she meets another girl who shares her strange abilities, she realises she has a lot to learn about what lies beyond the Veil…

City of Ghosts is the most contemporary book on this list and is written in a familiar and modern style. It is an action-packed, spooky story full of history, mystery and, of course, ghosts. This is a great choice for casual reading and for readers more interested in moving on to YA style books.



Parents of course should use their own discretion with regards to what books are best for their children. We hope these titles will provide enough entertainment and frights this October – as well as a great insight into the horror genre at a child-friendly level.

Do you have some more questions or want to discuss the package that's right for you?