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Great Children's Books to Read for Pleasure

Posted on 15th December 2023 by Mark Skinner

This World Book Day discover our top picks to foster a passion for literature below. 

Here at Waterstones we know the incredible benefits that reading can bring, not just educationally but in unlocking a child's imagination and introducing them to new worlds, new characters and an unlimited supply of page-turning, pulse-quickening, heart-stopping stories. But it's safe to say that a lot of children can take a bit of persuading that reading really can be for pleasure, either because they feel daunted by a large amount of text, they have a particular learning difficulty that makes reading a significant challenge or they reckon the subject matter will just be boring. Confident that there's a book (in fact, several) out there for everyone, we've curated a selection of great stories to make avid bookworms out of the most reluctant readers.

Making the transition from stories that are predominantly pictures with minimal text to chapter books with a considerably higher word count can feel overwhelming for less confident readers. This is where the rise in comic books and graphic novels over the last few years has been really beneficial. Great series like Jamie Smart's Bunny vs. Monkey and - for slightly older readers - the enchanting manga UnOrdinary and the graphic novel adaptations of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider thrillers can prove fantastic hooks for many young readers.

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Fast-paced, freewheeling and very funny, the first two volumes of Smart's wildly popular graphic series are collected in this unmissable book, which chronicles the chaos that ensues when Monkey crash-lands in the woods.
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A smash hit WEBTOON series set at an elite school where the students have special powers, UnOrdinary is a quirky and charming graphic novel about a boy who just wants to fly under the radar but gets pulled into a deepening conspiracy.
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Electrifyingly illustrated and with a turbo-charged pace, this graphic novel adaptation of Horowitz's Stormbreaker transforms schoolboy Alex Rider into a daring superspy.
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Equally, books that balance text and illustration in the hugely popular 'doodle' format can be a brilliant bridge to deeper reading - especially if the books in question are side-splittingly hilarious like Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Katie Kirby's Lottie Brooks stories and more - not to mention the pioneer in this field, Jacqueline Wilson's incomparable The Story of Tracy Beaker, illustrated by Nick Sharratt

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The book that started the phenomenon, the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid pitches Greg Heffley and his best friend Rowley into a hilarious survival of the fittest at an intimidating new school.
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With its marshmallow machine and boxing elephant known as the Trunkinator, join Andy and Terry on a side-splittingly surreal tour around their spectacular treehouse.
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The author of the side-splitting Hurrah for Gin delivers her debut children’s novel, revolving around the hilarious mishaps and relatable dilemmas of Lottie Brooks, who is about to navigate the tricky transition between primary and secondary school.
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Perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates, Stowell's effervescent new series presents the doodle-heavy diary of trickster god Loki after he is banished to Earth in the body of an eleven-year-old boy.
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The novel that introduced Jacqueline Wilson's most enduring character, The Story of Tracy Beaker is a timeless tale packed with memorable characters and a relatable, uplifting storyline.
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The argument that books can't compete with the high-octane visual stimulus of movies, video games and online content can be easily countered by listing the sensational and immersive children's series that have appeared in recent years. Children's fantasy fiction in particular has undergone a remarkable renaissance in the twenty-first century, following the success of Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, with Rick Riordan's megaselling Percy Jackson series, A.F. Steadman's Waterstones Children's Book of the Year-scooping Skandar and the Unicorn Thief and Michael Grant's pulsating YA dystopia Gone just three of many stellar highlights.

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Prepare to experience a magical world full of courageous heroes and warrior unicorns in the first instalment of Steadman's exhilarating series, as young Skandar takes to the skies to battle a deadly enemy.
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The first adventure for Percy Jackson sets the reluctant hero a ten-day deadline to find the true snatcher of Zeus' legendary lightning bolt in Riordan's page-turning, myth-packed tale.
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Lord of the Flies meets Stranger Things, the first instalment of Grant's groundbreaking YA dystopia finds the children of a Californian town plunged into violence and power struggles when all the adults mysteriously disappear.
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Of course, not all children are fans of fiction and it may well be that engrossng volumes about a real-life subject or a particular hobby or pasttime can unlock the wonders of reading instead. There are many fully illustrated and eye-catching reference books available, such as the Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Everything, that spotlight a wealth of fascinating facts and surprising trivia. Footballer and activist Marcus Rashford's inspiring You Are a Champion, meanwhile, is specifically written for children who may be struggling with self-confidence or looking to find their voice.

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An endlessly engaging way to explore everything from history’s biggest villains to the most jaw-dropping natural wonders and scientific breakthroughs, this stunningly illustrated children’s encyclopedia is filled to the brim with fascinating facts, quizzes and interviews with experts.
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Marcus Rashford has proven himself to be a remarkable role model for the nation’s children, and now he delivers an inspirational volume to help develop the game-changers and ethical crusaders of tomorrow.
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Many children have learning difficulties such as dyslexia or visual stress which can make reading for pleasure challenging - even if the child in question would dearly love to experience the joys of literature more frequently. Books published by Barrington Stoke are specially designed to present accessibly written stories with age-appropriate subject matter, so children aren't reading a narrative that is too unsophisticated for them in theme or tone. Unique, dyslexia-friendly fonts and layouts also contribute to a smooth and relaxed reading experience, whilst their roster of authors is highly impressive with names like Malorie Blackman and Phil Earle amongst those contributing their talents.

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When Ellie's naughtiness becomes intolerable, Grandma decides to teach her a lesson in this side-splitting body swap story perfect for reluctant readers.
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Striking straight into the thrill and turmoil of first love, the award-winning author of When the Sky Falls delivers a funny, sharp and brilliantly real story about teenager Marv who falls head-over-heels with the new girl at school.
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Reading for pleasure really should be for everyone - adults as well as children - and we hope the books featured in this blog can turn reluctant readers into voracious bookworms. Make 2024 the year you and your child discover the untold joys of brilliant books.


Reading for Pleasure

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