National Curriculum Support

We can help you understand what knowledge is required for the exam and support your child where they need it.

Reading List

All the essential texts to set your child up for 7+ success.

We cannot overstate the role that reading takes in your child’s 7 plus exam preparation.

Reading widely, and reading often, improves vocabulary and literacy skills. If your child develops a love for reading, half the battle is won. The closer they get to the exam, the more difficult texts they should read. Also, make sure to introduce them to different genres and formats.

For the 7+, pupils will need to display a positive attitude towards reading, be able to talk confidently about a book they have read and enjoyed and be able to talk about their favourite authors. Children should also begin to show an awareness of different genres and be able to give reasons for preferring a certain genre over others.

The best books to read before the prep school entry exams

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best books to read in preparation for the English paper and interview. All are by established authors or are part of a series, so if your child takes a particular liking to any of them, they can access many other books in their back catalogue.

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Any list of children’s books should include at least one title from Roald Dahl. His stories are timeless, mischievous, moralistic, and inspirational. The fact that many of his stories have been made into films is certainly a plus. Watch the films after reading the books and discuss with your child the similarities and differences.

The story of George’s Marvellous Medicine follows the tale of George, a sweet, well-behaved boy whose evil grandma treats him shockingly badly when his parents are out of the house. The day arrives when George can take no more and seeks to teach the old bat a lesson. He concocts his own medicine, which, when consumed by Grandma, has unexpected and hilarious results.

Netflix, which has secured the rights to many Roald Dahl classics, plans to release an adaptation of George’s Marvellous Medicine in 2021.

Bad Dad by David Walliams

Walliams’ books require a good level of reading to be enjoyed independently but are endlessly entertaining. His characters are recognisable and relatable, but their adventures are anything but ordinary.

Bad Dad is an amusing, thrilling and heartening story that puts father-son relationships in the spotlight. It is a rags-to-riches story, the tale of a young boy called Frank whose dad, a former race car driver, unwittingly becomes involved in an organised crime gang – as their getaway driver.

Netflix is also releasing a feature film adaptation of this best-selling children’s book in 2021.

The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith

Dick King-Smith was a prolific children’s writer who penned over 100 books. His stories, many of which feature animals as their protagonists, are as accessible now as they were when written.

The Sheep-Pig is a timeless classic which recounts the heart-warming tale of Farmer Hogget and his one-in-million pig whose skill in herding sheep quite literally saves his bacon.

The 1995 film adaptation ‘Babe’, which was nominated for an Oscar for its visual effects, captures the humour and sentiment of the book and is a film that kids will want to watch again and again.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Sticking with the pig theme; Charlotte’s Web is a classic children’s book by E.B. White. Less renowned than the authors featured so far, he is the writer of several popular children’s books, including Stuart Little.

This is the story of an unlikely partnership between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte, a barn spider. With Wilbur facing the chop, Charlotte begins to write messages with her webs to convince the farmers that Wilbur’s life is worth saving.

The 1952 novel was adapted for the screen in 2006 with a feature film of the same title.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

This is a series of twelve children’s books written by British author Cressida Cowell. Great for those children who like to devour book after book in the same series.

The series is set in a fictional Viking world and follows the experiences of Hiccup, a young Viking boy. Hiccup, who is physically weaker than his male peers, is overlooked as potential hero material. However, he is smart and uses his intelligence to learn how to speak ‘Dragonese’, the language of the dragons. A vast array of dragon-related adventures ensue.

The books have been made into a franchise consisting of three films and an animated series.

Don’t forget non-fiction!

Horrible Histories by Terry Deary

Inspiring a host of TV shows, magazines and stage shows, the Horrible Histories series is truly a staple of so many school libraries.

The books’ humorous style and comic-book style drawings have proven popular with children (and adults!) for almost 30 years. Leaving out no gory details and packed full of jokes, these books provide readers with real history in short, digestible chunks. Children genuinely learn, having a good laugh whilst doing so.

From Ruthless Romans and Vile Victorians to the Woeful Second World War and Cut-Throat Celts, there is a book for so many of the major periods in history. The illustrations and short chapters also lend themselves well to paired reading.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

Each book in this series features short stories about real women. The books include women from throughout history and modern women including Malala Yousafzai. Beautifully illustrated and with inspiring stories about women from all walks of life, there is something to inspire every child (both girls and boys alike!).

Another great non-fiction series to get children engaged in history, and a real conversation point for their interview.

How can help my child to love reading?

It’s all very well and good being armed with the above reading list, but what if your child just seems completely reluctant to read?

Here, it is important to try to get to the root of the issue. For some, it comes down to difficulties in the act of reading itself. This may mean further support is needed with phonics or sight-reading. For others, it is a lack of interest in the books they read. There is a catch-22 here; the better a reader you become, the more interesting the books you have within your scope. Remember that, at whatever stage, paired reading between parents and children is encouraged. You may take it in turns in reading a page or paragraph each, or simply read to them, allowing them to soak up the language and the story.

Three children reading from their reading list  in the garden

It may take years for your child to become a proficient and enthusiastic reader. They may become proficient but never the kind of child who just picks up a book for pleasure. For most children, the intrinsic pleasure occurs when they find a book, or usually a series of books, that, for whatever reason, really appeals to them. For this reason, it is important to expose your children to a vast range of genres. Of course, there are books which we would prefer our children to read, but really, whatever gets them going is a good start. Initially, this may be comics and graphic novels or magazines. The important thing is that reading, in the early stages, is established as a positive experience.

Don’t forget, you can always ask your tutor for further recommendations, be it texts to read or techniques to encourage your child to get into the habit. For those who perhaps have a strong ability to read but still show some reluctance, you could encourage them to take part in a reading challenge – read more about the summer reading challenge.

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