The summer holiday is looming! We are going camping and I want something to read to the whole family in the evenings or if it is wet! I’d also like some recommendations for the children individually as in term time they are mostly too busy to read a lot but I think they could get back into it in the holiday. They are girls of 12 and 10 and a boy of 8.
The long days of the summer holiday sound blissful! I hope you are camping somewhere that it doesn’t rain too much although, if you want to get through a lot of reading, rainy holidays are the perfect time.
For reading aloud, I’d pick a book that the children are unlikely to read to themselves. Classics and even modern classics – ie the books written since the 1950s are typically slow for contemporary readers to get through. They tend to have more description and less action than we are nowadays used to and that can be a challenge when children are reading on their own. To find one that all your children will enjoy equally may be a challenge. However, youngest children are always likely to be introduced to almost everything too young and they get used to making sense of things in their own way. Equally, if the reading aloud times in your holiday are seen as a fun family time- having nice food and drink for it will help! – your oldest will almost certainly be quite happy listening to a story that might seem a bit babyish if she were to read it on her own. I’d try E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, a delightful story about a family of children who find the Psammead, a strange creature who can grant them wishes, buried in the sand. Wishes are always dangerous things! Here, as so often in fiction, the wishes go wrong as often as they go right with hilarious consequences. If your children like animals, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows would be perfect. Ratty, Mole and Mr Toad are some of the most iconic characters in children’s fiction and the wonderful, watery world they inhabit gives a masterful evocation of the English countryside at its most idyllic.
Also on the animal theme, Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians starring Cruella de Vil, one of the great villainesses of fiction, is a thrilling story of animal intelligence and it is worth returning to the original even if your children know the film version. Modern classics such as Rosemary Sutcliff’s outstanding historical novels including Eagle of the Ninth or Warrior Scarlet set in Roman Britain and the Bronze Age respectively bring the past alive vividly. For an early precursor of Hogwarts and the education of young wizards, Ursula le Guin’s The Wizard of Earthsea would be ideal.
For books your children could enjoy alone, I’d suggest some of the best contemporary
writing. Top titles published most recently include Hilary McKay’s Binnie for Short, (our fellow World Book Day book expert) Natasha Farrant’s The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby: After Iris and Rebecca Stead’s Liar and Spies all of which are thoughtful family based stories which would delight your 12 year old. For your 10-year-old, I’d pick Frank Cotrell Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat, Roddy Doyle’s A Greyhound of a Girl, Michael Morpurgo’s Shadow and R.J Palaccio’s Wonder.
For your 8 year old, to generalise, boys tend to like books by the same author. Roald Dahl is a sure fire winner with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Danny, The Champion of the World, The Witches and The BFG being the obvious choices. You might share reading of these with him so that you can both enjoy them. If he likes humour, Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum series which begins with You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum will be perfect and he will also enjoy David Walliams’s Ratburger, Mr Stink, Gangsta Granny and Billionaire Boy.
Happy camping – and even happier reading!