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Summer reads – Five novels to read for pleasure this summer

By Maria Bridges, Assistant Curriculum Leader of English at St Julie’s High School.

I’m often asked by parents or carers to recommend engaging books to help supplement their child’s learning outside the classroom.

This follows the government’s drive last summer for GCSE exam students to display accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar across a number of subjects.

Reading for pleasure this summer is a great way for students to improve core literacy skills, without the pressure of assessments and deadlines. Ambitious vocabulary, secure spelling and accurate use of punctuation and grammar can all be improved through increased reading. Here are five book recommendations for children aged 11-18.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky (Age range 15-18)

In this coming of age story, Charlie is struggling between trying to live his life and trying to run away from it. Through a series of poignant letters to an anonymous person, we see Charlie navigate his way through family dramas, new friends, morbid mix tapes and first dates. Aimed at the older teenage reader, students will enjoy the easy to read diary-style narrative. The story is realistic and readers will be able to relate to the the trials and tribulations of growing up.

‘Millions’ by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Age range 11-13)

Frank Cottrell Boyce brings a local connection to the list. The Liverpool born author was appointed Professor of Reading at Liverpool Hope University in 2012. The moral dilemma at the heart of the story will enthrall readers from the outset. When brothers Damian and Anthony unwittingly find themselves in possession of a huge amount of money, they are torn between vices and virtues. Humorous and gripping, ‘Millions’ is a must-read for any 11-13 year olds, who will be left asking themselves: what would you do if you found a fortune?

The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood (Age range 14-18)

Challenging, yet ultimately rewarding, Atwood’s dystopian tale of suppressed women is a real page turner. We follow the story of Offred as she tries to survive the oppressive regime in the Republic of Gilead. Due to low reproductive rates, the ‘handmaids’ sole purpose is to have children. Offred narrates the story from a personal point of view, frequently slipping into flashbacks, which will leave students intrigued at the events which have led to her current position. This novel will engage avid readers and stir the interest of those who are less experienced. I would highly recommend ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ to students embarking on an A Level English course as its layered meaning will challenge and enthrall in equal measure.

‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar (Age Range 11-13)

With its layered mix of folklore, family history, mystery and intrigue, ‘Holes’ is the ideal novel for a younger Key Stage 3 reader. The story is centered around Stanley Yelnats who has been sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention centre for boys. Readers will be inspired and amused as Stanley makes friends with humorously named boys ‘Armpit’, ‘X-ray’, ‘Zero’, ‘Zig-Zag’ and ‘Squid’.

‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins (Age range 11-15)

Fast becoming a modern cult classic, this is definitely one for students to get stuck into if they haven’t already. Set in a vision of the near future,each year, the twelve districts of Capitol must send two representatives, a girl and a boy, to participate in a TV show called ‘the Hunger Games.’ There is one sole rule to this brutal game; kill or be killed. The story’s heroine Katniss Everdeen is confident, brave and self-reliant and readers will be enthralled by her strength and determination. The fast paced narrative makes for a gripping summer read.

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