Inculcating good reading habits in children has always been a concern for all stakeholders in education. The purpose is to create independent thinking individuals with the ability to not only create their own knowledge but also critically interpret, analyse and evaluate it with objectivity and fairness. This will also help students in learning and acquiring better language skills.
Creating learners for the 21st century involves making them independent learners who can ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’ and if our children are in the habit of reading they will learn to reinvent themselves and deal with the many challenges that lie ahead of them.
Reading is not merely decoding information or pronouncing words correctly, it is an interactive dialogue between the author and the reader in which the reader and author share their experiences and knowledge with each other which helps them to understand the text and impart meaning to the text other than what the author himself may have implied.
Good readers are critical readers with an ability to arrive at a deeper understanding of not only the world presented in the book but also of the real world around them. They not only recall what they read but comprehend it too. Their critical reading and understanding of the text helps them create new understanding, solve problems, infer and make connections to other texts and experiences. Reading does not mean reading for leisure only but also for information, analysis and synthesis of knowledge. The child may be encouraged to read on topics as diverse as science and technology, politics and history. This will improve his/her critical thinking skills and also help in improving his/her concentration.
Reading any text should be done with the purpose of:-
1. reading silently at varying speeds depending on the purpose of reading;
2. adopting different strategies for different types of texts, both literary and non-literary;
3. recognising the organisation of a text;
4. identifying the main points of a text;
5. understanding relations between different parts of a text through lexical and grammatical cohesion devices;
6. anticipating and predicting what will come next.;
7. deducing the meaning of unfamiliar lexical items in a given context;
8. consulting a dictionary to obtain information on the meaning and use of lexical items;
9. analysing, interpreting, inferring (and evaluating) the ideas in the text;
10. selecting and extracting from text information required for a specific purpose;
11. retrieving and synthesising information from a range of reference material using study skills such as skimming and scanning;
12. interpreting texts by relating them to other material on the same theme (and to their own experience and knowledge); and
13. reading extensively on their own for pleasure;
A good reader is most often an independent learner and consequently an independent thinker capable of taking his/her own decisions in life rationally. Such a learner will most assuredly also be capable of critical thinking.
Reading a book should lead to creative and individual response to the author’s ideas presented in the book in the form of:-
• short review
• dramatisation of the story
• commentary on the characters
• critical evaluation of the plot, story line and characters
• comparing and contrasting the characters within the story and with other characters in stories by the same author or by the other authors
• extrapolating about the story’s ending or life of characters after the story ends
• defending characters’ actions in the story.
• making an audio story out of the novel/text to be read out to younger children.
• Interacting with the author
• Holding a literature fest where various characters interact with each other
• Acting like authors/poets/dramatists, to defend their works and characters.
• Symposiums and seminars for introducing a book, an author, or a theme
• Finding similar text in other languages, native or otherwise and looking at differences and similarities.
• Creating graphic novels out of novels/short stories read
• Dramatising incidents from a novel or a story
• Creating their own stories
Call of the Wild, by Jack London
Jack London introduced some dark themes into this story of Buck, a sled dog in the Yukon who rediscovers his wild nature when put to the test.
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
Never was mathematical and philosophical playfulness given such entertaining shape. Tenniel’s line-drawings crown these classics.
The Outsiders, by SE Hinton
This powerful novel about school gangs was published when SE Hinton was just 18. The Greasers and the Socs clash in typical teenage fashion – but then someone dies.
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
Smith is better known for A Hundred and One Dalmatians, but although this, her first novel, is quieter, it shines brighter. Narrated in diary form by 17-year-old Cassandra, it documents the lives of her eccentric family.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken
1832, and wolves have over-run a fictional kingdom of England. Orphans Sylvia and Bonnie fall into the hands of an evil Miss Slycarp and must use all their wits to escape. A mercilessly shadowy thriller.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
A classic story of America’s Deep South. Scout and Jem see their father, Atticus, defend Tom Robinson – an innocent black man – from the charge of rape. Atticus is inspiring without being priggish.
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
The rousing story of Pip’s rise, fall and rise pips Oliver Twist as the best book with which to start reading Dickens, purely on account of his description of being in love.
The Owl Service, by Alan Garner
Welsh myths, a portrait hidden behind a plaster skim, adolescent yearnings…read this extraordinary confection at the right age and it will never leave you.
The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Holmes in fine Gothic form: rackety aristocrats, the Grimpen Mire, and a glow-in-the-dark hellhound conspire to chill the blood and thrill the deductive organs.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
A novel that embeds itself in the memory, and set feminism back 150 years. The human genome has yet to produce a teenage girl who isn’t a sucker for Heathcliff.
The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
On June 12, 1942, Annelies Marie Frank started writing a diary. It was her 13th birthday. She died three years later in Belsen. An ordinary teenage life, made poignant by the knowledge of how it ended.
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, by Mildred D Taylor
A tale of oppression in the American South, this tells the story of the Logans, a black family living in rural Mississippi during the 1930s.
A Kestrel for a Knave, by Barry Hines
Filmed by Ken Loach as Kes, this snapshot of deprivation in 1960s Yorkshire describes a troubled boy’s relationship with his pet kestrel. Bittersweet and grimly artful.
The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
A wonderful curtain-raiser for The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit finds Tolkein in a playful mood. The adventures of Bilbo Baggins, while never less than exciting, are spiked with gentle humour.
War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo
Michael Morpurgo’s moving story plunges into the horror of the First World War by following the story of Joey, a cavalry officer’s horse on the Western Front.
Beowulf, by Michael Morpurgo
Beowulf is a great story: scary monsters, fearsome matriarchs, boasting, singing, feasting, fighting and booty. Michael Morpurgo’s rendition brings it to a new generation.
King Solomon’s Mines, by H Rider Haggard
Hunter Allan Quatermain searches the African jungle. Its attitudes might be outdated but this is still terrifically exciting.
Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
Kimball O’Hara, the orphaned son of an Irish soldier, wanders Lahore cadging, playing and living a carefree life – until he’s forced into espionage.
The Road of Bones, by Anne Fine
Anne Fine weaves a disturbing parable of life in a totalitarian state, as young Yuri learns the cost of speaking the truth.
Frenchman’s Creek, by Daphne Du Maurier
A swashbuckling love affair between a lady and a pirate on the Cornish coast. Romantic adventure at its overblown best.
Treasure Island, by RL Stevenson
The riddles of Stevenson’s tale endure. Why does X mark the spot? What is it with parrots? And why did Pugh go blind?
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
(Oxford Children’s Classic)
The tale of four sisters – Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy – growing up in the US Civil War, this is a charming and insightful story of childhood and family.
Anne of Green Gables, by L M Montgomery
Spirited ginger-nut, adopted in error for a boy, comes of age on a remote island off the Canadian coast.
Junk, by Melvin Burgess
Burgess’s refusal to patronise teenagers has earned much praise. This tough, clear-eyed story of heroin addiction is among his best.
Cider With Rosie, by Laurie Lee
A lyrical description of a childhood spent in rural bliss in the Cotswolds. This is a homage to England as it was, filled with light, joy, and fun.
The Go-Between by LP Hartley
(Penguin Modern Classics)
More than a famous first line. When 60-year-old Leo Colston looks back on his youth in 1900, the nostalgia is stifling. But as the story develops, it takes a darker turn.
The Rattle Bag, ed by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes
This rich anthology of poetry – whose name aptly describes the higgledy-piggledy mix of glories within – is something no teen’s bookshelf should lack.
The Song of Hiawatha, by H W Longfellow
Just say something in this rhythm. It will sound like Hiawatha. Read it to your horrid children. Hear them chant the verses loudly. On it goes ad infinitum. Heaven help the hapless parent.
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
Fiver and his brother Hazel know that something terrible will happen to the warren, and set off for safety. Their story has implications beyond the usual concerns of rabbits.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Less ambitious than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but just as exciting. The language is hard to begin with but the hero is one of the most endearing in literature.
True Grit, by Charles Portis
Mattie Ross – spirited, witty, probably beautiful – is out to avenge her “father’s blood” in this slim Western. It should be given to every girl turning 16.
Holes, by Louis Sachar
Sentenced to dig holes in the desert for stealing trainers, the wrongly convicted Stanley discovers that the holes are not so pointless as at first thought. Wit dry as a salt flat.
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
(Faber & Faber)
When a gang of boys are marooned on an island they try to set up a community based on cooperation. Some hope.
My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell
When the Durrell family takes a villa in Corfu one summer they do not imagine staying five years, but so they do. In that time Gerald, a boy of 10, discovers the joys of the local flora and fauna, and describes it with a delightful wit.
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
This spooky story won’t soon be forgotten. Coraline is a girl who finds her way down a corridor to a flat just like her own – but slightly different. And where her doting “other mother” has buttons for eyes…
Carrie’s War, by Nina Bawden
Carrie and her brother are wartime evacuees billeted on a bullying Welsh grocer. A wonderfully crafted novel full of memorable characters.
The Story of Tracy Beaker, by Jacqueline Wilson
A slice of life in a children’s home narrated by 10-year-old Tracy, through whose eyes we confront tough dilemmas. Required reading.
The Lantern Bearers, by Rosemary Sutcliffe
As the Roman army prepares to leave for home, Aquila is forced to desert to protect his family.
Some Other Books for Teens Click Here