The ultimate reading list for every age group

As a teacher, one of my great hopes for the summer holidays is that my students will keep up with their reading. Many of the ‘next step’ comments on the reports I wrote this term went along the lines of, “They will be learning to read for longer periods of time” and, “You could support them at home by taking them to the library so that they always have a book on the go.” This is my mantra for the holidays – have you got a good book to read?

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Reading keeps children occupied when they wake early whilst camping. It keeps the boredom at bay if catching a ferry or bus. And choosing a fresh batch of books is a delightful way to pass a few hours at your local library, after the excitement of Christmas is over and all their friends are still out of town.

As a parent myself, I know how tricky it can be to ensure our kids are finding and reading books that they enjoy. I trawl websites such as GoodReads and quiz my friends on Facebook asking, “So what is your child reading right now?” to find the next great read. Here’s an idea – if you train them to order books at their library online then you can send them on their bikes to pick them up when they are there for them! Genius!

Many of my recommendations are from a book series which is a wonderful gift because once your child finds a new book that they love, you will sigh with relief to know there a few more that they can get on with.


Holes by Louis Sacher
An exciting and challenging read about stereotypes and mistaken identity. This was our class read aloud this term and it was very popular with my Year 3/4 class!

Tui Street Tales by Anne Kayes
Interlocking short stories set in New Zealand, with a twist.

The Hetty Feather series by Jacqueline Wilson
Stories set in Victorian times by this very popular writer.

Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story by Gavin Bishop
A stunning visual history that is slim enough to slip in your car pocket and pull out during roadies.

The Whale and the Snapper by Jo Van Dam
A fun new New Zealand book based on Aesop’s fable of The Lion and the Mouse and perfect for reading at the bach.

The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence
Learn about Ancient Rome as you read exciting mysteries. Inspire a love of classical studies within your children!

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
My personal favourite from The Narnia stories. I’m putting it in here to encourage you to read beyond the more popular books.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
The girls in my class carry this book with them at lunchtimes, they love it so much. Gorgeously illustrated and inspiring.

Just One More: Stories by Joy Cowley
I kept a copy of this in my bag when I was a relief teacher. Very quirky tales that will make you smile, by one of NZ’s most beloved authors.

My Animal Friends by Dick King-Smith
A sweet book for your new chapter book reader, containing memoirs of some of the many pets that this brilliant author had during his lifetime.


Malice by Chris Wooding
Quite a dark but exciting story about a world inside a comic book.

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
A classic novel from 1956 set during World War II and following the story of a family during the Nazi regime.

The Gone series by Michael Grant
What happens when every human over 15 vanishes?

Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks
An interesting story about parents kidnapping their own children. My daughter’s teacher read this to them this term and she said it was great!

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Very beloved by teens and for good reason. The characters are brilliant and they have been turned into wonderful movies.

Trash by Andy Milligan
A novel told from different perspectives set in an unknown third world country where children who survive by picking through mountains of rubbish, make an exciting discovery.

Zero Hour: The Anzacs on the Western Front by Leon Davidson
Historical but full of good yarns.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
A highly thought-provoking novel set in a Utopian future.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
A powerful wordless graphic novel about immigrants.

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Anything by this author rocks, but my daughter particularly loved this one.

High School

Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness
Creative and weird! My son is reading me this one and it is gripping!

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
An awesome book for those who might usually not be that ‘into’ sci-fi. It’s considered a modern classic too, so will impress your young adult’s English teacher.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Set in an alternative 21st century Britain with well-written characters.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
A classic book that’s pretty challenging.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Dealing with race issues with fabulous characters.

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
The classic coming of age novel that is still engaging and funny.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
A mystery novel narrated by a teen with Aspergers, which is filled with humour and pain.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A historical novel set in Nazi Germany about a girl taught to read by a Jewish boy being hidden by her foster parents.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A believable sci-fi novel set in a dystopian future following the antics of a Travelling Symphony. I loved this book.

The Cherub series by Robert Muchamore
Thrilling and very beloved. Your young teen will love this spy series and beg you for the next one every week!

So do anything you can to keep your child reading this summer. Download books on your Kindle as a treat, let them watch movie adaptations when the books are completed or take them out for a milkshake when they finish one. Ask them to create a book wish list for Christmas and their birthday so that you have a firm answer when Aunty asks what present your child would like.

Would they like you to read them a book that you loved when you were a child? My children have enjoyed listening to chapter books such The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Stig of the Dump for example.

If it all sounds like too much hard work, remember the wonderful benefits of reading. Reading daily improves their vocabulary, gives them ideas to help with their writing, helps them make connections and to learn new things. Being able to remember the intricacies of a more involved plot and keeping track of lots of characters in your head takes practice and needs time to develop. But best of all – it’s highly relaxing!

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