January 21st, 2022
8 of the best books to read aloud to children in National Storytelling Week
Storytelling is an ancient practice that goes back to very beginnings of human civilisation. According to National Geographic, the art of storytelling can be dated back 30,000 years.
Most people born in the 20th century can remember being read to by their parents. We all hold dear those books that our mother or father read to us by our bedside, yet many people aren’t passing this tradition on to the younger generations.
Recent data from Nielsen Research, published by the Literacy Trust, shows that fewer than 50% of children between the ages of zero and seven are being read to daily. Meanwhile, the same study found that screen time for children between zero and two is steadily rising.
If you want to get back into the habit of reading to your children or grandchildren, National Storytelling Week 2022, which takes place from 29 January to 5 February, is the perfect time to pick up a book and reignite this nostalgic activity.
Here are eight books to read aloud to children in National Storytelling Week.
1. The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl (age 0+)
The author Roald Dahl has been a firm family favourite since the 1960s. His 1978 book The Enormous Crocodile, suitable for children of all ages, tells of an evil croc who decides he would like to eat a child for lunch.
He wanders through various villages in search of victims but is thwarted by the other animals in the jungle, whose mission is to save the children and banish him once and for all.
Complete with plenty of funny characters (you can assign them exaggerated voices, of course) and Quentin Blake’s classic illustrations, any child can enjoy this tale.
Buy The Enormous Crocodile online. It’s only a 30-minute read.
2. The Adventures of Harry Stevenson, Guinea Pig Superstar by Ali Pye (age 4+)
If you have any animal-loving children in your life, this book is a great resource. The Adventures of Harry Stevenson, Guinea Pig Superstar by Ali Pye contains two stories for young learners.
Both stories revolve around Harry, a ginger guinea pig. In the first story, Harry is upset when his owner, Billy, disappears every day to go to a mysterious place named “school”. When the children are invited to bring their pets to school Harry is thrilled to finally join his owner, until another child introduces their pet snake and chaos ensues.
Well-suited for reading aloud, Pye’s writing is both whimsical and educational, helping to stretch a child’s vocabulary as they listen or read.
Buy The Adventures of Harry Stevenson, Guinea Pig Superstar online. It contains two short stories, each around 15 minutes of reading time.
3. Clarice Bean, Utterly Me by Lauren Child (age 7+)
Clarice Bean, Utterly Me is part of a series of books by bestselling author Lauren Child MBE.
Clarice Bean is an arch young girl who is jealous of the grownups in her life, all of who get to go on exciting missions except her. In Utterly Me, Clarice and her best friend, Betty Moody, are set an “utterly dreary” book project by their teacher, Mrs Wilburton. Together they decide to unearth secrets both at home and at school, prompting astonishing discoveries.
Clarice Bean, Utterly Me is packed full of dry comedy from its witty protagonist and is perfect for children ages seven and above.
Buy Utterly Me online. This book is a long read.
4. To The Edge Of The World by Julia Green (age 8+)
Set in the wild Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Julia Green’s To The Edge Of The World follows a shy young boy, Jamie, who accidentally ends up on a boat with Mara, his daredevil friend who has decided to sail around the world.
Complete with stunning illustrations of the Atlantic Ocean’s diverse wildlife, this adventure story can be enjoyed by children aged eight and above. With themes of survival, friendship and mental health, To The Edge Of The World is an unmissable modern children’s book.
Buy To The Edge Of The World online. It’s a medium-length read.
5. Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo (age 9+)
The best children’s authors wrap hard-hitting subjects in age-appropriate storytelling. Michael Morpurgo, author of bestselling book Private Peaceful, does just that.
Set in the blustery English countryside during the first world war, this novel follows Tommo and his family as they find their way through an unprecedented time of hardship.
Covering themes of first love, war and family, Private Peaceful is considered appropriate for children aged nine and above. Reading this book aloud together can help children understand the difficult subject of war through the eyes of a young protagonist.
Buy Private Peaceful online. It is a long read.
6. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (age 10+)
Patrick Ness is a beloved author of young adult literature. His 2011 novel, A Monster Calls, is a hard-hitting story following a 12-year old boy, Conor, whose mother is very ill.
Conor’s anxiety around his mother’s illness is realised through his imagining of a monster, who helps him to cope with the suffering he experiences by telling him stories at night.
A Monster Calls is a children’s story that tackles the difficult subjects of illness and loss. For children aged 10 and above, Ness’ novel is a beautiful rendition of family, love and facing your childhood fears.
Buy A Monster Calls online. It’s a long read.
7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (age 11+)
Yann Martel’s Life of Pi has been adapted for the stage and screen, but the original novel is perhaps the most exciting version of all.
Suitable for children above the age of 11, Life of Pi is a jaw-dropping adventure story following Pi Patel, a boy who journeys across the sea with his family on a huge ship full of zoo animals. When the ship is destroyed by a storm, Pi is marooned on a life raft with only a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger for company.
This bestselling tale mixes reality and fantasy as young Pi finds ways to survive with his animal shipmates. Young listeners will encounter new vocabulary and be enthralled by this enchanting story.
Buy Life of Pi online. It is a long read.
8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (age 13+)
Many adults have read Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird at least once in their lives; this is the ideal book to share aloud with older children.
Told from the point of view of Scout, a six-year old girl in 1930s Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird is a witty yet serious novel filled with conversation-starters surrounding justice and racism. Although it was penned more than 50 years ago, Lee’s weighty novel contains valuable life lessons for young teens, parcelled beautifully into an action-packed story.
Buy To Kill a Mockingbird online. It is a long read that spans 31 chapters.