There are at least 6 good reasons to include collections of short stories in children's reading:
1. They can be read and enjoyed at a single sitting. This can be motivating for the young or reluctant reader who may have a short attention span.
2. They offer young readers the chance to experience the complete narrative form many times over.
3. They can provide experience with varied genres and themes within the one book.
4. They offer the complete emotional experience of a story in one reading.
5. In a time-poor age, short stories avoid the frustrating breaks in narrative if reading is missed from one day to the next.
6. They provide an opportunity to read the work of many authors rather than just a few (particularly if they are anthologies).
Below are some examples of short stories for children aged 5-15 years. They are arranged in order of difficulty. Of course, all can be read to children as well as by them. Typically, we can read more difficult material to children than they will read themselves.
'My Big Book of Nibbles' (Penguin, 2012)
This is a wonderful collection of five stories that are drawn from the very successful 'Aussie Nibbles' series of books. To be honest they are probably a collection of short novels rather than short stories at 60-80 pages per story, but with authors like Victor Kelleher and some outstanding illustrators, they will delight readers 6-10 years. It's available in paperback or a Kindle edition.
'Roald Dahl Treasury' by Roald Dahl (Penguin, 2003)
The Roald Dahl Treasury is beautifully illustrated in full colour by Quentin Blake, as well as by other leading artists such as Raymond Briggs, Babette Cole, Posy Simmonds and Ralph Steadman.
As you'd guess, this isn't the only treasury or collection of Dahl's work. You will also find 'Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes', 'Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes' and more.
'Stories From Our Night Sky' by Drewery Melanie (Penguin, 2009)
Melanie Drewery is a writer, illustrator and artist who was born in Palmerston North (New Zealand), who now lives in Nelson. She is perhaps best-known for her 'Nanny Mihi' series (illustrated by Tracy Duncan) about two little children and their visits to their beloved grandmother’s house.
Melanie's concern as a writer is to introduce the Maori language and culture in a way that is both non-threatening and engaging. She believes that story offers children easy access to Maori language and culture, and leads them to want to learn more. Readers aged 6-10 will enjoy this collection of stories and poetry that offers a goods introduction to her work.
'Tickled Onions: And other funny stories' by Morris Gleitzman (Puffin, 2010)
Once' and 'Two Weeks With the Queen'. This collection of short stories is ideal for reluctant readers and in particular boys who find reading a challenge. In this collection of nine very funny stories for readers aged 7+ we have the story of Draclia(!) in the kitchen, and the challenge of school lunches and Tickled Onions. These are like the pickled variety but with rose petals, chilli powder and fermented fish paste. We also meet a 'Good Dog' named Anthony who causes chaos at parties and many other funny characters and story scenarios.
'Just So Stories' by Rudyard Kipling (Penguin, 2008)
Part of a series of new editions of Kipling's works in Penguin Classics, this volume contains a General Preface by Jan Montefiore and an introduction by Judith Plotz exploring the origins of the stories in Kipling's own life and in folklore, their place in classic children's literature and their extraordinary language.
'Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales' by Andersen Hans Christian as retold by Naomi Lewis (Penguin, 2010)
The Word Witch The Magical Verse of Margaret Mahy (Harper Collins, 2009)
Margaret Mahy (1936-2012) is one of the greatest authors of children's literature that New Zealand has ever produced. She is one of thirty writers to win the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award for her "lasting contribution to children's literature". As well she won the Carnegie Medal in 1982 for 'The Haunting' and in 1984 for 'The Changeover'. She wrote more than 100 picture books, 40 novels and 20 collections of short stories. Her collections of short stories are a wonderful way to introduce children to this special writer. It was my great privilege to meet with her and share speaking platforms on a number of occasions. She was inspiring.
The 'Word Witch' is of course Margaret Mahy herself, and this book contains 66 of her much-loved poems and stories in rhyme. They are drawn from school readers, other collections, picture books, anthologies, magazines and her private papers. They span 50 years of her writing.
There are many other excellent collections from Margaret Mahy for readers aged 6-10. These include:
Watch Me! by Margaret Mahy (Dolphin Books, 2004; originally published in 1973)
Wonderful Me: Stories and Poems! by Margaret Mahy (Orion Children's Books, 2004)
Witches, mermaids, dragons, a dog who plays the violin, a girl who finds a dinosaur egg and a boy who wanted the world to be flat - all these and more appear in this book of stories and poems by a born storyteller. Written with warmth and a gentle humour, they read aloud beautifully and are rich in surprises and imaginative twists. First published in l972 as 'The First Margaret Mahy Storybook', many of these stories have been loved so much that they have appeared in many anthologies - and in many countries - over the years. They are now freshly presented with charming line drawings by Peter Bailey.
Wait for Me! by Margaret Mahy (Orion Children's Books, 2003)
'Kids' Night In' Various authors (Penguin Australia)
here). Ideal reading for readers aged 7-10.
Some of the proceeds of the sale of the books go to the organisation 'War Child' that helps children all over the world, affected by war.
Visit kidsnightin.com.au for more details on the three books so far.
'The Happy Prince and Other Stories' by Oscar Wilde (Penguin, 2009)
This is a wonderful collection that introduces children aged 7-10 to the work of Oscar Wilde.
'The Puffin Book of Five Minute Stories' by Various Authors (Penguin, 2010)
'The UN Collection' by Paul Jennings
This series of books includes 'Unreal!' 'Unmentionable!' 'Undone!' 'Uncanny!' 'Uncovered!' 'Unbelievable!' 'Unbearable'
More recently Jennings has complied some of the most popular stories from the 'UN' collections into a series of new books, including 'Weirdest Stories' 'Spookiest Stories', 'Trickiest Stories'. For more information on Paul Jenning's books visit his website HERE
'Kibitzers and Fools' by Taback Simms (Penguin, 2008)
With Old World charm, universal humour, and just a bit of chutzpah, Simms Taback offers this lively spin on thirteen playful tales – as only he could. Paired with his trademark vibrant and hilarious artwork, these stories illustrate ultimate universal truths and important life lessons, from the difference between a shlemiel and a shlimazel to the idea that just because you can talk doesn't mean you make sense. Taback delivers the perfect combination of wisdom and humour – just the way your zayda (grandpa) would.
This collection of funny stories with brilliant and quirky illustrations from the US will be enjoyed by children aged 6-10 years.
'A Dream of Stars' by Brian Caswell (University of Queensland Press, 1991)
From the surprising tale of a chocolate addict to the futuristic dreaming of the title piece, these stories are as varied and thought-provoking as the stars. Are a pair of the world's best boots worth a human life? Can romance survive between a fifteen-year-old boy and a very attractive "Tralfamadorean"? Humourous, suspenseful and above all entertaining, this collection of thirteen short stories by Brian Caswell poses questions to challenge and delight the imagination. A Dream of Stars was listed as a 1992 Notable Book by the Childrens Book Council of Australia.
Brian Caswell is one of my favourite Australian authors for tween and adolescent readers, his thoughtful work is challenging but always engaging. In this incredible collection of stories he challenges children to think about issues of significance in ways that will surprise you.
'Tales of the Greek Heroes' by Green Roger Lancelyn (Penguin, 2009)
This collection of well-known Greek myths will be enjoyed by readers aged 11+
'A Tale of Troy' by Lancelyn Roger Green (Penguin, 2012)
Step back into the Heroic Age with the story of Helen and the judgement of Paris; of the gathering of the heroes and the siege of Troy; of Achilles and his vulnerable heel. And join Odysseus, the last of the heroes – famous for his wisdom and cunning – on his thrilling adventures as he makes the long journey home to Greece.
Once again, perfect reading for children aged 11+
'Tales of Ancient Egypt' by Lancelyn Green Roger (Penguin, 2011)
Ages 10+ will love this collection
'Boy: Tales of Childhood', by Roald Dahl & illustated by Quentin Blake (Jonathan Cape,1984)
Each of these short stories can be read in less than 20 minutes and will leave any child screaming for just one more.
'Leon Stumble's Book of Stupid Fairytales' by Doug MacLeod & Smith Craig (Working Title Press, 2007)
Make no mistake, literary silliness is not easy to write. Doug MacLeod has been doing it well for a long time. This is a wonderful collection that is jam-packed with loads of jokes. It will appeal (as his work often does) to boys.
Shock Forest and Other Stories
These enchanting stories have been taken from some of Margaret Mahy's best collections that are sadly no longer available. Their return to print will be welcomed by parents and teachers and will also be an exciting introduction to the work of a master storyteller for children themselves.
These wonderful stories were previously published in volumes that are now out of print. But this collection is still available and will be well received by readers 12+.
'Loop' by Brian Caswell (Penguin, 2007)