We have talked about the importance of reading and the 11+ on this blog in the past, with a number of tips, resources and recommendations for how to encourage even the most reluctant of readers on how to find reading material that will suit them best.
Reading is so important to 11+ preparation as it is the most effective way for a child to expand their vocabulary. Regardless of the form that the exam takes in your area, there is always content that tests a child’s vocabulary. This is essential in their success with verbal reasoning as well as English reading comprehensions and cloze passages.
In most cases, the answer to “what should my child be reading” is a fairly obvious one: whatever they can be persuaded to! However, if your child is a moderately keen reader and is looking to take the next steps in improving their vocabulary, there are a few essential books they can add to their library.
We have compiled a selection of some of our favourite classic texts for years 3 to 5. Classic texts usually contain unusual vocabulary and archaic language that your child may not have come across, making them ideal for 11 + preparation and the trickier comprehension passages they are likely to face! The more exposure that a student has to older and more unusual styles of writing, the better prepared they will be when they encounter this type of prose in an exam setting.
This 150-year-old children’s book is a wonderful way to introduce older texts to your child. With a story full of riddles, puns and wordplay, this tale is great fun to read aloud and Lewis Carroll’s unforgettable characters will provide entertainment from the first to last page. Amongst all the silliness, the book will introduce advanced vocabulary and phrasing that is easier to digest through dialogue and colorful adventure.
Barney is a solitary boy who discovers something incredible when wandering by an abandoned chalk-pit one day. He meets a curious figure with shaggy hair who only speaks in grunts. He names him Stig and the two become great friends, even though nobody believes Barney when he tells them the cave-man is real. Even the most reluctant reader will find something exciting in the adventures of Barney and Stig, and this is a perfect reading challenge for 7 year olds.
Louisa May Alcott set out to write a book in which young girls could see themselves accurately reflected. In Little Women, we follow the story of the March sisters, their four very different personalities and the challenges of pursuing their ambitions as they grow up. This classic book was written with younger readers in mind and so the stories of its characters are easily accessible and relatable.
One of England’s most beloved children’s books, this story is a whimsical journey through the Berkshire countryside and the friendship between Ratty, Badger, Mole and Mr Toad. The language is sophisticated and will provide a good challenge for year 4, and the eccentricities and antics of the animal characters will entertain and enchant.
One of the best-loved swashbuckling adventures of all time: D’Artagnan travels to Paris in search of fortune,] and here he stumbles into a duel with not one, but three of the king’s Musketeers. But he quickly befriends Athos, Porthos and Aramis and joins them in their adventures as the fourth musketeer. This is an advanced novel that will provide a good reading challenge to a year five student. The archaic language and sentence structure will provide invaluable exposure to the writing of centuries past. The heroics of the musketeers are riveting and fast-paced enough to make this a challenging but rewarding and entertaining read.
A Christmas Carol is perhaps Dickens’ most famous story. It follows the haunting of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a miserly, selfish old man who comes to see the error of his ways after he is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. In one short night he is forced to confront his greed and the blind eye he has turned to the suffering of others and the repercussions it has had and will continue to have if he does not make a change.
This is an excellent story through which to introduce your child to the writing of Dickens. Its short length, heart-warming tale of goodwill and selflessness, as well as the diverse, vivid characters, are likely to secure the attention of even the most adamant of those averse to older texts. The language can be a little challenging for some but is comparatively easier than other texts published over a hundred years ago! It is excellent exposure to the literature and vocabulary of the 19th century and will provide knowledge of the world of Victorian London, touching upon the plight of the working class. The book does contain ghosts and death as major story points, which some may wish to avoid, but overall is never graphic, explicit or intentionally frightening.
It may be helpful to watch one of the many film adaptations of this book before your child begins reading. This will aid their understanding of the story and the book’s language and hopefully spark an interest in the rest of the Dickens library.
For more book recommendations tailored specifically for 11+ preparation, be sure to follow us on Instagram, where we post a new book title every month with informative comments from our own tutors.
You can also visit our online bookshop for offers on books perfect for 11+ leisure reading.