It can be a difficult task sometimes getting your kids to read, and I recognise this as both a parent and an English teacher. With the huge range of technology available to children nowadays, including computers games, Facebook, mobile phones, Sky TV etcetera, it can be a real challenge trying to motivate young people to pick up a book. But, reading is a such a valuable skill, and an incredibly rewarding one, and I think most good parents support the idea that children should read more.
And so, I have put together a list of great children’s authors in the hope that they might provide inspiration to parents out there looking for good material their kids can get stuck into. Hope it’s useful!
(By the way, JK Rowling and Harry Potter aren’t on the list because that would be too easy!)
1. Roald Dahl
Dahl’s books have entertained children – and adults – the world over, and will continue to do so for decades to come. I remember my mum reading them to me when I was a child, and even my brother would ignore his football for half an hour and sit and listen to stories of witches and giants and crazy chocolate connoisseurs.
Matilda is my personal favourite; I remember being absolutely horrified by the formidable Head Miss Trunchbull. Dahl’s characters are what make his books as magical as they are, and what keep children hooked. Try The Twits; I challenge any parent to find a child who ISN’T intrigued by this repulsive pair!
2. Michael Morpurgo
This author is incredibly popular with the children I teach aged 11-13, and I feel many of his books would also be suitable for independent readers age 8+.
War Horse is perhaps is most well-known novel, having recently been made into a film, and if you find that one is popular with your kids, how about trying another war-based story, Private Peaceful? (WARNING: this one is a definite tearjerker!).
Morpurgo writes a lot of stories centred around animals, and are incredibly poignant; The Butterfly Lion, set in Africa, is one of my favourites, while Born to Run, about the life of a dog rescued after being dumped in a canal, has me in floods of tears, not least because I used to own a retired greyhound many, many years ago!
3. Jacqueline Wilson
I read Wilson when I was a young girl, and her books have certainly maintained their popularity with the girls I teach! And it’s easy to see why. She isn’t afraid to tackle emotive and challenging topics that young people experience, such as adoption, divorce, broken families, and mental illness, but does so both realistically and sensitively.
The Illustrated Mum is a classic example of Wilson’s work, and one of her most moving books. It’s about a young girl, Dolphin, coping with her mother’s manic depression and alcoholism. The Suitcase Kid focuses on how a young girl copes with her parents’ divorce, whilst Clean Break explores how one family copes after the father has an affair and leaves.
It’s easy to see why Wilson’s writing is often considered controversial, as she explores topics of such a typically adult nature, but, as I teacher, I like her books for their reality, because it would absolutely floor most people to know what children go through behind closed doors.
4. Robert Muchamore
Muchamore’s Cherub series has proved incredibly popular with a massive range of children; I use them as class readers with my 11-13 year olds, and many go on to buy or borrow from the school library more books in the series.
James Choke, the main character, is a boy in foster care recruited by Cherub, a British secret service that uses children added 11-17 to act as spies because they can go undetected where adults would not. Not only are the missions thoroughly gripping, Muchamore’s characters are lively and interesting, and I think James has proven so popular because he isn’t a goody-goody perfect, but a normal lad who makes mistakes and gets in trouble.
5. Judy Blume
Like Jacqueline Wilson, Blume explores sensitive issues young people – predominantly girls – face as they grow and face adolescence. Perhaps aimed at a target audience slightly older than Wilson’s book, high school onwards, Blume writes about friendships, divorce, menstruation, adolescence, teen relationships and sex. Even though Blume’s works are from a different generation to the children of today, the issues explored in them are still the same, and I feel today’s youngsters, particularly girls, would get a lot out of them.
Just as Long as We’re Together and Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson were my favourites growing up, and feature two 13 year old girls and their journey through adolescence; their bodily changes, the pressures of school, family relationships, their crushes and relationships with boys etcetera.
6. Anthony Horowitz
My first experience of Horowitz came through reading a collection of his short horror stories on my teacher training placement. The books were initially printed as a collection, but are now available in small books of 2-3 stories. I use these at school for “reluctant readers” (especially boys), because the stories are short and manageable, and the smaller collections are appealing, thin books with intriguing covers.
If your kids like the short stories, I’d highly recommend Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, about a young boy who is recruited as a spy by the British secret service.
My boys are still quite young, so most of my advice comes from my interactions and experience with pupils at school, but if you know of any authors and/or books you could recommend, please get in touch! I’d love to hear from you!