x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Summer reading suggestions for kids of all ages

What are kids reading over the summer holidays? We ask the schools, the parents ¿ and we discover what books the teachers will be taking to the beach.

From teens to toddlers, getting to grips with a good book is a productive summer pastime.
From teens to toddlers, getting to grips with a good book is a productive summer pastime.

It's the perfect summer's day idyll: lying by a pool or in a garden, cool drink at your side, nose buried in a good book. Keeping children reading during the holidays is vital so their learning skills don't slip, but knowing what sort of book to give them from the vast choice on display in bookshops can be perplexing. To help you along, we've canvassed some schools and parents in Abu Dhabi for their suggestions for summer reading.

3-5 years old

Several schools provide parents with lists of recommended books for different age groups. The British School Al Khubairat, in its list of recommended reads for the early years of school, advises parents to look for books that contain repeated refrains that children can join in with, challenge their developing phonological knowledge and engage them with their storylines.

The books by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, are perfect for this age group. Donaldson's charming stories, including The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and The Snail and the Whale, are told in rhyme, which helps children identify similar-sounding words, and are a pleasure to read. Look out for her new book, illustrated by David Roberts, Jack and the Flumflum Tree, released next month.

Also ideal for this age range are the books by Tony Ross, whose Little Princess series will be familiar to most parents of pint-sized divas. Other authors to look out for are Mick Inkpen, Nick Butterworth and Jill Murphy.

Emma Chichester Clark's Blue Kangaroo series is beautiful to look at and lovely to read. See also her book Eliza and the Moonchild for practising colour recognition with pictures gorgeous enough to put on your wall.

5-7 years old

At this age, parents are advised to look for fiction books that are accessible and reflect children's own experiences and also those that challenge them to use their imaginations or make use of fantasy. Now is a good time to introduce children to simple non-fiction books too.

Five to six-year-olds will love the Dr Seuss books, which use rhyme to help children learn to read. The books of Giles Andreae are written with a funny, fast-moving rhythmic pace. A favourite is Commotion in the Ocean, but also look out for Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus.

A delightful book to read to young children is The Green Ship, written and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It's perfect for summer reading and parents nostalgic for the carefree holidays of their youth.

For some children, this is when their independent reading can really take off. While they may not be particularly recommended from a scholastic point of view, parents of seven-year-old boys have watched amazed as they sit for hours, Gameboy cast aside, chortling at the Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey. Also popular are the Grubtown Tales books by Philip Ardagh and Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

7-11 years old

As their confidence increases, children can start to read authors such as Roald Dahl, whose Danny Champion of the World is as engaging now as it was 30-odd years ago. Look out for Anne Fine and her funny The Return of the Killer Cat, Ted Hughes's Iron Man and the ever-popular Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton. Older readers in this group might also start to enjoy the Harry Potter books by J K Rowling and the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer.

By the time children are getting ready to go up to secondary school they can explore the works of C S Lewis, Philip Pullman and Anthony Horowitz's The Alex Rider series. Jacqueline Wilson's stories featuring the grittier aspects of modern family life are also a huge hit with girls in this age group.

The summer holiday provides the ideal opportunity to read around the topics that will come up in the next academic year, both in fiction and non-fiction.

"During the summer holidays, visit libraries or book shops and choose books with your children on the themes they are going to study next year," suggests Duncan Stonehouse, the assistant headteacher at the British School Al Khubairat. "This is a great way to instil excitement and background knowledge in them that they can bring back to the class."

11-14 years old

When children enter secondary school, one of the key challenges, explains Faye Banks, the head of English at Al Yasmina School, is to keep them reading. "Primary schoolchildren are usually much better about reading, but as soon as they come to secondary other distractions come along and that's when it can start dropping off."

Children should be encouraged to read as much and as widely as possible. "There is a huge link between children who read and children who are effective English students," explains Banks. "They have a better vocabulary, and without even realising it, they have taken on different sentence structures, use of punctuation and ideas. They are often much more imaginative."

You should never force your child to read, advises Banks; instead, search for genres they enjoy, even horror books.

Authors she would recommend for good all-round reads include Joan Aiken, Louis Sachar, Kevin Brooks and Kevin Crossley-Holland.

A good rule of thumb is to look out for books that have been shortlisted for, or have won, the Carnegie Medal. The winner of this year's Carnegie, announced on June 23, was Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness.

14-16 years old

As children start working towards their first external exams, they will have to study their set texts and associated background reading. However, it is crucial that students at this stage don't neglect to read about current affairs.

"The vast majority of the kids that we teach in this school seem to have a genuine and entrenched love of reading books, but they also have to be aware of what is going on in current affairs and just immerse themselves in the language of popular journalism as much as possible," explains Justine Lawton, the head of English at the British School Al Khubairat. "It is a core aspect of the English curriculum at GCSE that they can read and respond to English non-fiction and media texts, usually items of journalism or travel writing or biography. Students need to be familiar with the idioms and buzz phrases tossed around by politicians and spin doctors in everyday news reportage."

She recommends that teenagers read a daily newspaper online or in hard copy regularly. Lawton also suggests that they explore other areas of non-fiction through travel writers such as Bill Bryson and Bruce Chatwin and biographies of individuals who particularly interest them.

Wherever you are, whatever the weather, reading over the summer can give children so much pleasure and so many language skills. As Dr Seuss wrote in I Can Read With My Eyes Shut: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."