Looking to expand your little one’s library? We asked the tutors at LS Tuition to recommend their favourite books for Key Stages 1 and 2.
Building literacy is an essential skill. Children who read daily are more likely to become avid readers and struggle less in class generally. There’s also a direct link between reading and high achievement.
But how do you get your child to read for pleasure?
Answer: with stories that fire their imaginations!
Not only is every book on our list fun to read, but they also contain messages that help build children’s:
- Emotional intelligence
- Intellectual capability
- Sense of self
We’ve categorised our recommendations by Key Stage and what type of reader your child is to make it even easier to pick.
It’s never too early to instill a love of reading. Key Stage 1 covers children from ages 5 – 7 so it’s important to give them engaging books suitable for their level.
Younger children may need help reading so pick books you can read together — gorgeous illustrations and fun repetition are ideal. Older children who have progressed to mini novels will appreciate a challenge with more complex plots and characters.
Regardless of ability, budding bookworms will need an engaging story to keep them turning the pages.
In our opinion, there are 3 key ingredients to a great children’s book:
- Memorable characters the reader relates to
- Strong plots that elicit emotions
- Themes that get them thinking and asking questions
Whether they’re reading a picture book or a Roald Dahl novel, these magic ingredients will have reluctant readers begging, “Just one more chapter!”
It’s also important to note that reading to your child is incredibly powerful, no matter what stage they’re at. Luckily, every book on our list is ‘unputdownable’ for adults too!
1. A book to calm back to school nerves: How to Get Your Teacher Ready for School by Jean Reagan
Teachers get nervous going to school, too!
This playful and empowering book is for children who find school daunting — particularly after a break for the holidays. The cheeky humour is bound to engage little ones and help them feel calm about returning to school. We love it because it emphasises kindness and puts children in a collaborative space with their teacher. It’s a great example of showing young children how to manage tricky emotions simply by telling a hilariously fun story.
2. A book to help them feel part of the bigger picture: Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
Our world is bewildering but beautiful. Instil a sense of wonder and curiosity about the planet we live on with Oliver Jeffers’ sumptuously illustrated book. The pictures will delight children and adults alike, and might encourage kids to get closer to the earth next time they’re outside. This book’s strength lies in nurturing a sense of diversity and safety: we’re all different, and that’s a great thing! If you want to foster your child’s connection to the planet and other people, this is the book.
3. A book for budding ecologists: The Rhythm of the Rain by Grahame Baker-Smith
Who knew the life cycle of water could be so fascinating? Issac discovers just how far his pot of water travels when he empties it into his local pool and how small actions can create big ripples. The strength of a picture book lies in its illustrations, and these are stunningly beautiful, breaking down a niche scientific topic into a breathtaking journey towards the sea. We recommend this picture book to adults who’d like to cultivate thoughtfulness towards the environment early.
4. A book that gives perfectionists some comforting perspective: The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett & Gary Rubinstein
Mistakes are great! Mistakes help us learn and grow. Without mistakes we might never have made our most important discoveries. That’s the message at the heart of The Girl Who Never Mistakes. If your child struggles with perfectionism and feels down when they don’t ‘get it right’ this book will help them loosen up and learn that mistakes are an essential part of being a human being.
5. A book that helps sensitive children feel their feelings: The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Britney Winn Lee
Some people feel emotions more deeply than others. That’s a superpower! If your child cries at sudden loud noises, is easily excitable, or absorbs the heavy feelings of those around them, this book will teach them that their sensitivity is to be celebrated, not shut down. Any child will gain insight into the murky and marvellous world of human emotions from this book, but it can be particularly relevant to those diagnosed as autistic or highly sensitive souls!
6. A book that shows kids it’s ok to be different: Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival
Norman is perfectly normal — until he grows wings! Despite their magnificence, Norman hides his wings from his parents and classmates because he’s afraid of being different. Over the course of the story Norman learns to embrace his wings because they make him unique. A great picture book that shows children it’s ok to be different and celebrate who you are.
7. A book that explores mental wellbeing through colour: The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas
The Colour Monster is confused by his tumult of emotions. Can readers help him make sense of them? This delightfully illustrated, interactive pop-up book helps early years bookworms label and understand a range of emotions. A nice touch are the additional mindfulness exercises like taking deep breaths or stomping. By helping the Colour Monster children also learn how to identify and process their own emotions, enabling them to talk about what they’re experiencing more articulately.
8. A book for spooky season: Meg and Mog series by Helen Nicholl
Meg and Mog first enchanted readers in the 1970s but young bookworms will find the loveable pair’s adventures just as magical today. These books make a perfect group read around Hallowe’en!
9. A book to read out loud: Oi Frog, Oi Dog by Kes and Claire Gray
Fun rhyming couplets make the pages of this picture book fly by for new readers. Bossy cat insists that dogs must sit on frogs. So disgruntled frog gives up his log to dog and tries to find a new seat. It’s a book best read out loud as a group. Laughs are guaranteed if you pick a unique voice for each animal!
10. A children’s book with a twist: The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Can young readers really enjoy a book without pictures? The Book With No Pictures proves that they can. Clever and hilarious, this book features zero illustrations and instead uses boldly designed text to grab attention. Readers must read every word on the page out loud, even if that word is complete nonsense. Before you know it, everyone is chanting GLIBBITY GLOBBITY and BLORKing everywhere.
At Key Stage 2 children can read more fluently and crave engaging characters with bigger storylines. Group reading is still part of literacy lessons at this stage, but children might read of their volition at home, too.
We know we’ve got a page-turner on our hands when a child rushes home and asks their parents to buy them the class book so they can read it faster!
Here are our Tutors top picks for Key Stage 2:
1. A book that builds emotional intelligence: The Boy the Mole the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
A boy and three animal companions explore the world around them, deepening their understanding of one another as they go. The whimsical illustrations are beautiful to pour over with your child, and the wisdom found within this book’s pages are just as applicable to seventy-year-olds as they are to seven-year-olds.
Tender, moving, and gentle, we recommend this book to any parent or teacher who wishes to instil values of empathy, kindness, and friendship.
2. A book that challenges stereotypes: The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Raúf
Ahmet is ‘the boy at the back of the class’ — a Syrian refugee in a new school and a new country. His classmates treat him with curiosity and kindness and in their efforts to befriend Ahmet, challenge prejudice along the way. This book will get readers thinking about what it means to be a good person and to not judge a book by its cover.
3. A book for Harry Potter fans: The Nowhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie
Confident readers need stories with depth to hook their interest and provide mental stimulation. Not only is The Nowhere Emporium a ripping yarn, it also comes with a host of empathetic characters designed to get kids thinking.
Daniel Holmes is running away from bullies in present-day Glasgow when he takes refuge in a mysterious shop. Little does Daniel know he’s about to be launched into a magical adventure that spans time and space. As he helps the shop’s owner, Mr Silver, battle his arch-nemesis Vindictus Sharpe, Daniel discovers his own hidden talents.
4. A book they can’t put down: The 1,000 Year Old Boy by Ross Welford
Alfie Monk is like any other 11-year-old boy, he’s just 1,000 years old. With complex themes like grief, bullying, family, and friendship, this is a book for more advanced readers. The original story and plot twists make this book hard to put down, as are Ross Welford’s other excellent books.
5. A book written from a neurodiverse perspective: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
This book is now a classic but still relevant to today’s young readers. What’s unique about this story is its autistic narrator who relates the story from his perspective. Ground-breaking at the time, The Curious Incident offers a glimpse into how neurodiverse minds work.
(Trigger warning for the beginning of the book, which opens with the upsetting discovery of a dead dog).
6. A book full of feminism and folklore: The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
Based on the Slavic myth of Baba Yaga, The House With Chicken Legs skillfully combines engrossing folklore with issues that face young people today. We think this story is particularly good at showing girls how to choose their own destiny. Whether readers follow Marinka’s journey as a group or alone, they’ll be desperate for one more chapter of this magical story.
7. A book to inspire compassion: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
So begins this heart-wrenching and heart-warming tale of friendship and acceptance. Born with a severe facial disfigurement, Auggie’s experiences show us how a difference in appearance doesn’t mean a difference in humanity.
8. A book for animal lovers: The Last Bear by Hannah Gold
After her mother’s death, April moves to the Arctic Circle with her scientist father. He’s too busy working to pay April much attention though. Exploring the island by herself, April befriends a lonely polar bear who she vows to protect. Great for confident readers who love animals and thought-provoking books.
9. A book for sci-fi lovers: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
When it comes to getting kids to read, half the battle is finding a story that interests them. If sci-fi and robots is their thing, then they’ll love this curious tale of a robot trying to survive in the woods. The unusual illustrations stay with you, as do the lessons Roz learns about what it means to be human.
10. A book for history lovers: The Accidental Time Traveller by Janis Mackay
Agatha Black is from 1812, and it’s up to modern-day Saul to take her back to her own time. Winner of the Scottish Children’s Book Award, this page-turner will captivate pre-teens with a passion for history.
Try Barrington Stoke! They publish stories specifically for dyslexic and reluctant readers.
Their books are formatted with readable fonts and layouts, and printed on off-white, thicker paper to ease visual stress.
Even better, their stories match the reader’s age. Short chapters reduce overwhelm and help build a budding bookworm’s confidence.
You can browse their titles by age and download sample chapters at their website.
Let us know if you found your child’s next read on our bumper book list!
We’re with author Stephen King who said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
A love of reading lasts a lifetime and goes beyond mere entertainment — books broaden our minds by showing us different perspectives and ways of seeing the world. Not to mention all the curious characters and daring adventures along the way.
Bookworms really do have all the fun.