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The books I want my children to grow up reading

When looking back on childhood years, the things that first come to mind are family, friends and books. For some, stories and adventures are better explored through movies or video games. But for others, there is nothing like entering the mind of somebody else to understand their experiences. Books are not just good for their content though. There are so many developmental benefits from reading. From the reassurance and confidence it can inspire, to the later-life expansion of vocabulary and the ability to write. It is important to foster an enjoyment of literature. So for young people, the following works are essential.

The Twits by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is an icon on which many childhood memories centre, from watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the family on Christmas Eve, to seeing Matilda! The Musical live in theatres. But, the most prominent of these was when the Twits’ furniture is glued to the ceiling of their house so they think they are upside down. Moments of mischief like this are wildly enjoyable for young minds.  In addition, themes of justified rebellion against cruel forces are a common theme throughout Dahl’s work. Important to stories for children are the optimism and resilience that is so frequently prominent in Dahl’s work.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Children’s imaginations are susceptible to all kinds of fantasies. From believing their toys might come to life, to hunting for another world in the back of the wardrobe. Another key aspect of this series, beyond the fantasy, is the relationships: from siblings to strangers to caregivers. But also, through talking animals and whispering trees, children develop a strong appreciation for nature. Aslan is an imaginary friend that most kids would want to be their companion. With the introduction of the Pevensey children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there are four main characters and almost Hogwarts House-esque segregation of traits to identify with.

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

What is perhaps most notable about both this book and the previous is in regards to their associations with Christianity. For most children, these allusions are not on-the-nose enough to be noticeable. These spiritual elements, however, often serve as the means of communicating specific values to young people. The series emphasises that it is never easy to distinguish from right or wrong and people that are good or evil. Maybe there is no knowing? And yet there is also an incessant craving for logic and answers because of the inquisitive minds of the children that are further reflected through their “daemons” and the adults they are influenced by.

Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan

There are many books that I have re-read, but none as many times as Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Riordan’s novels have had me gripped for years, and the world he builds is so powerful to a young mind. Although sometimes criticised for inaccuracies, these are the perfect books to develop an interest in mythology. The fact that this is such an extensive series only adds to the effect of the story-building and acts as a never-ending comfort blanket for fans of the world Riordan has built.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

One of the best things about this series is the epistolary style used to denote the day-to-day life of a princess. This stands out to a young reader who may not be able to become a princess, but, as children often seek new ways to express themselves, inspiration can be found in the pages of this diary-form. Each time I picked up these novels as a child, I found myself wanting to immortalise my thoughts into the pages of my own diary. And, with retrospect, I can see the significant benefits that journaling had. Thus, I would certainly want my children to be inspired in the same way. A similar sentiment arises from a variety of other novels and series’ such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Whilst these books may be perceived as gendered, they can still be enjoyed by all.

Alice Oseman’s novels

Most of the time, the books I was influenced by most as a child always bring up feelings of nostalgia and admiration. However, even with rose-coloured glasses, I can acknowledge the lack of inclusivity that I was exposed to growing up. The books I grew up with were often stories of white, heteronormative characters and many of the classics only written by men. Hence, having read Oseman’s books as a young adult, they feature strong values and stories that I wish had been written when I was younger. From their graphic novels series Heartstopper, featuring Nick and Charlie, to I Was Born For This, I have loved everything Oseman has written and the way they compose queer relationships on the page.


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