I've also written previously about the importance of picture books, and eventually, the need for children to move on to chapter books. But don't be in too big of a hurry to do this (read my post on this HERE). When you do start to encourage children to start reading chapter books, parents and teachers will read them to the children. Later you will share the reading with them and eventually the child will take over completely. In practical terms, chapter books offer children:Literature teaches us about the worldLiterature helps us to understand the past, the present and contemplate the futureLiterature teaches us how narrative worksLiterature helps us to learn about ourselves and deal with the issues of lifeLiterature helps us to understand how language worksLiterature expands our world and expands our mindsLiterature stimulates the imagination and creativity
- More complex narrative forms and plot development
- Richer and more complex language
- New areas of knowledge about their world and the human condition
- Different literary devices
- They train your children to be able to sustain longer periods of reading
In this post I review a dozen great books for sharing with boys. There is great benefit in fathers sharing these books with their sons, but they can also be experienced with mothers, grandparents and teachers. These are not meant to be the 12 first chapter books but rather books that I know will work with boys at different ages. I have other posts about boys (here) and fathers (here) on this blog.
Great Books for Boys
1. 'Boy: Tales of Childhood' by Roald Dahl (1984)
"It won't take two seconds", the doctor said. He spoke gently, and I was seduced by his voice. Like an ass, I opened my mouth. The tiny blade flashed in the bright light and disappeared into my mouth....Any boy will love these stories that all keep you turning the page. Suitable for boys aged 7-12 years.
2. 'Prince Caspian' by C.S. Lewis (1951)
The Chronicles of Narnia'. While you could read virtually all of the Narnia books to most boys, this one has special appeal. The Pevensie children are back in the land of Narnia but something is wrong. The glorious castle is in ruins and everywhere they look it is silent and empty. A Dwarf arrives and they learn of the fate of Narnia. Civil war is destroying the land under his father King Miraz. Brave Prince Caspian with the guidance of Aslan takes up the challenge to save Narnia and restore freedom and happiness. Boys aged 8-12 will love this book (and others in the Narnia Chronicles).
3. 'The Hobbit' by J.R. Tolkien (1937)
It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. This is more demanding but bright boys aged 8-12 will love this book, of course younger boys will generally need you to read it with them.
4. 'Rowan of Rin' by Emily Rodda (1993)
series of five books that boys aged 7-12 just love.
To the villagers of Rin the boy Rowan is a timid weakling, the most disappointing child ever. Yet, incredibly, it is his help they need when the stream that flows from the top of the Mountain dries up. Without its water, their precious bukshah herd will die, and Rin will be doomed.
The six strongest villagers must brave the unknown terrors of the Mountain to discover the answer to the riddle. And Rowan, the unwanted seventh member of the group, must go with them. The witch Sheba's prophecy is like a riddle, a riddle Rowan must solve if he is to find out the secret of the Mountain and save his home.
Each book is a complete story with a classic quest storyline that has a series of riddling mysteries to be solved by the unlikely hero Rowan.
5. 'Merryl of the Stones' by Brian Caswell (1989)
6. 'The Machine Gunners' by Robert Westall (1975)
This has to be one of the best books for boys that I've ever read. Not surprisingly it won the highest British honour for children's literature, the Carnegie Medal in 1975. This is a wonderful tale of adventure that will stir any boy aged 8-14.
7. 'Strange Objects' by Gary Crewe (1990)
Crew's story based on these true events commences in 1986 with a teenager Steven Messenger living with his family in a roadside truck stop in the middle of nowhere along the highway that weaves its way up the western coast of Australia. Messenger discovers some gruesome relics in a cave while on a school excursion and his life changes. This begins a mysterious tale where his life is interwoven with the lives of two of the survivors of the Batavia responsible with others for the murder of the 120 people. Like many works of historical fiction, Crew uses the metaphysical encounters of one of his characters to transport us back to another time. A ring found attached to a severed hand provides a vehicle for regular time slips between his life in 1986 and the events that unfolded when Wouter Loos and Jan Pelgrom were set adrift in a small boat that gave then an outside chance of survival. I have written a post on this book that provides the historical background to the story (here).
The book was winner of the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers, 1991 and will be well received by boys 10-14 years.
8. 'The Pinballs' by Betsy Byars (1977)
"Somebody put in a dime, punched a button, and out we came ready or not...and you don't see pinballs helping each other, do you?"
Carlie is closed to the prospect of significant new relationship with a new foster mother and the other foster children. She is difficult, and is always ready for a fight. But Mrs Mason doesn't give in easily and Carlie eventually discovers something special with the other 'strays' that she has found herself with in her new home. This is a funny shorter book that children aged 7-12 will enjoy.
9. 'Watership Down' by Richard Adam (1972)
This will be enjoyed by bright boys aged 8-12.
Winner of the Carnegie Medal in 1973.
10. 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' by Mark Twain (1876)
"Most of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or two were experiences of my own, the rest of those boys were schoolmates of mine. Huck Finn is drawn from life; Tom Sawyer also, but not from an individual—he is a combination of the characteristics of three boys whom I knew, and therefore belongs to the composite order of architecture."
Tom is the original boy hero, demonstrating bravado, bad behaviour and boyhood exuberance. Whether he is running away to become a pirate with Huck Fin or being a witness to a murder, adventure (and some troubles) are always close at hand.
Boys aged 7-12 will love this book. The Walker Books edition illustrated by Robert Ingpen would be a wonderful way for any boy to discover this timeless story. See my review of Ingpen's work HERE.
11. 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle (1962)
Winner of the Newbery Medal 1963.
12. 'The Wheel on the School' by Meindert DeJong (1972)
This book won the 1955 Newbery Medal and is suitable for boys aged 7-12 years.
Some related links
'Making Reading Exciting for Boys' (here)
'Why 'cross-section' and diagrammatic books work with boys' (here)
'Ten great non-fiction books for boys aged 5-12 years' (here)
'Make and Do Books:Engaging readers in different ways' (here)
Getting Younger Readers into Chapter Books (here)
The importance of literature (here)
How to listen to your child reading (here)
Supporting comprehension (here)
Helping children to choose books (here)
The benefits of repeated reading of literature (here)