Getting children to engage with literature can either be incredibly rewarding or, at times, incredibly frustrating. We like to believe that our kids will take to reading easily and need very little encouragement to take up a lifelong habit. However, children don’t always take to reading easily, so it’s essential that we find the right reading material early on.
Thankfully, kids fiction is a vast genre, and with patience and persistence, parents can find the perfect book to engage their kids with reading. The books listed below are classics in their own right, but have shown up time an again on bestseller lists and have consistently remained part of children’s literary diet since they were published.
The Selfish Giant and Other Classic Tales by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde is perhaps best known for his grim and bewildering novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, but equally important are the many children stories that he wrote.
His children’s tales are poignant, heartfelt and often carry a bittersweet message of hope and compassion. Though stories like the titular The Selfish Giant sometimes have sad endings, Wilde draws beautifully crafted pictures with crystal clear prose, making them easily readable to most ages. They are also relatively short, so are perfect as stories before bedtime.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
First published as a complete novel in 1911, The Secret Garden has been adapted time and time again into a film. “Though the Edwardian England setting may feel quite dated, the pastoral tale of a lonely orphaned girl in a seemingly empty mansion continues to delight children all over the world,” writes Emma N Wright, an author at Researchpapersuk and Last Minute Writing, “It has a wonderful underlying message of triumph against adversity and a mesmerizing approach to the closeness between humankind a nature.”
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
CS Lewis’ classic fantasy tale of land beyond a magical wardrobe has inspired and delighted kids for many decades now. Initially published in 1950, it centers on four siblings, evacuated from wartime London, an image still very much fresh in the minds of those who were to read it. The fantasy land within the book even very much resonates today for any kids or indeed adults needing an escape.
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
No list of kids books would be complete without including Tolkien’s first foray into the world of children’s literature. Unlike its more extended and more laborious sequel, The Hobbit was written with Tolkien’s children in mind. Drawing on his knowledge of Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature, Tolkien creates an intricately detailed world of elves, orcs, goblins, and wizards. Though many fantasy authors have emulated it, Middle-Earth continues to hold an authoritative position in children’s fantasy.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
For many, the books of Roald Dahl were their first introduction to reading. His playful and sometimes macabre imagery combined with a flair for the fantastic chimes well with childish imagination. Matilda in particular celebrates the magic and wonder of imagination. Matilda as a character is in love with books and as a perpetual outsider in her own life speaks of hope through loneliness.
Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling
One wonders where children literature would be nowadays without the Harry Potter series. JK Rowling’s boy wizard is credited with a renaissance in the late ’90s and early ’00s of kids and teenage books. Spawning a film series, stage play and theme park, it’s difficult not to see its influence on modern culture. Starting with The Philosophers Stone kids grow with Harry as they read through the series, as he navigates the wizarding world to overcome his arch-nemesis Voldemort finally.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Anne Frank’s diary is often children’s first contact with non-fiction, and with the Holocaust in particular. “Though the events around Anne’s diary are harrowing, and her ultimate fate utter-heartbreaking, her simple chronicle of her everyday life is timeless,” says Robert Treadwheel, a regular contributor to
The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson is perhaps one of the UK’s best-loved children’s authors. Her style is simple, yet injects wonder in her characters everyday life. In the Tracy Beaker series, we see the world through the eyes of a troubled ten-year-old girl. For kids across the world, this point of view resonates, giving them a glimpse into a life very much like their own. Offering an alternative to fantasy and sci-fi which is often the go-to genre for kids literature, it offers kids a chance to reflect on their own lives, especially if they face the seemingly insurmountable difficulties that Tracy does.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
There’s a reason To Kill a Mockingbird has retained its canonical status in school curriculums across the world. Though for kids the length of the book can be intimidating, the tone of the narrator is quite straightforward. Harper Lee is a master at giving voice to Scout, a young girl living in the American South of the 1930s. Through Scout’s eyes, we see an America in transformation, old attitudes giving way to the new. At the climax of the book, we see injustice as Scout sees it and, in her father, hope for the future, which would culminate in reality in the Civil Rights movement.
About the Author
Clara Watkins is an experienced freelance writer who has written on diverse subjects such as traveling and lifestyle. She regularly contributes to Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays and has experience of lifestyle counseling.