Archive for the ‘best books for children’ Category

Our recent reading study

September 18, 2012

The results of our recent reading study looking at how to get children reading for pleasure, have far exceeded our expectations (and, it seems, those of the children’s parents!). You may remember that we wanted to see whether the simple step by step programme we had designed, could get children who were reluctant readers, to read for pleasure . The second aim was to refine the programme by testing which strategies worked best with children.

Many parents and teachers end up tearing their hair out because they have a child who “doesn’t like books”. They try every type of book, on all sorts of subjects from animals to horse riding and football to dinosaurs in space. Nothing works! “This child clearly does not like books- they’d rather be out playing football or watching TV.” is what we frequently hear from parents. After months and sometimes even years of trying, you can understand why both parents and teachers feel this way. However, we challenge this view very strongly. Our findings have been that it is rarely because they don’t like books (how many children don’t like having a book read to them?) it is because the ones they are being given are too difficult, even if they are books designed for children of their age. Sure, they can often read most of the words, but a book needs to be at a considerably lower reading level than the child can actually read, to ensure that they understand the story and that it isn’t hard work. How many adults enjoy a book that is hard work when they’re reading for pleasure?

In addition, a book needs to be a really good one. In these days of copious reviews, for everything from washing machines to hotels and, of course books, it is indeed a brave person who will choose to buy a book that only has a 2* rating. That is why every book that we used on our study was one that had been previously recommended by children as being a really good 5* story.

Here are some of the comments made by parents whose chidren took part in the reading study. Most were 7 or 8 years old, but the final review comes from the mother of a 10 year old girl who is severely dyslexic.

“I would like to thank you so much for the help you gave James.  He has progressed in such a short time from a boy who wouldn’t read even small stories to himself , to one who is now enjoying reading children’s chapter books on his own. He has always enjoyed Maths, and now I can see his love of reading developing too.  This will only increase as he experiences more and more of what the children’s book world has to offer!  His favourites are Dirty Bertie and Secret Seven!  On the journey you set him, he definitely enjoyed the Greek myths!  Thank you so much once again.

” I can’t praise your reading scheme enough. My 8 year old daughter who found reading an uphill battle now wants to read and look up the meaning of words in the dictionary. She even has the confidence to read out loud in front of her friends. By going back one step, her reading ability has jumped three steps forward. Many thanks for your time and advice. A happy mum.”

From the mother of a severely dyslexic 10 year old. When she started the programme, she was not reading at all to herself. She stayed on the programme for a few weeks longer than the 6 weeks (2 months in all) because we could see she was about to launch into books in a big way.

“Louise is on her 3rd Jake Cake book; she loves them! She is on book 6 of the library reading challenge- I can’t believe it!”

For any of our blog followers wishing to try our programme for themselves, please see click on the following link which gives details of how you and your child can take part. The programme is suitable for children aged between 7 and 11 who have a minimum reading age of 6 years 6 months.

Why wait? Get your reluctant reader reading today.


Our pilot study “Encouraging 7 and 8 year olds to read for pleasure”

March 29, 2012

Next week sees the start of our reading study which aims to test which are the best strategies to get 7 and 8 year old children reading to themselves.Children who read for pleasure tend to do better in school than those who don’t and if they never pick up a book to help reinforce the reading process, it can cause problems trying to access the rest of the curriculum after the age of 11 because their reading skills are just not good enough.

The aim of this study is to test our simple step by step programme that parents can use with their child to encourage a love of reading.

This is a good age to get them reading on their own. It helps to reinforce the “learning to read” process, as well as helping them to really enjoy stories so that they find out just how enjoyable reading is and that reading is not just something you do day after day at school with some rather uninteresting school reading book.

Feel free to follow us over the next few weeks via this blog and maybe try the strategies yourselves.A brief outline of how it will work together with a list of the books we will be using is detailed on our next blog post  if you would like to have a go at home.

Happy reading- we hope you’ll enjoy this as much as the children!

Picture credit: John-Morgan at Flickr

Is Enid Blyton as popular today as she’s always been?

February 10, 2012

In our family, Enid Blyton played a big role in encouraging our love of reading. My Mum would buy us books like the Faraway Tree and The Secret Seven and many a cosy afternoon would be spent by the fire reading these books.

However, the value of Enid Blyton’s books hasn’t always been recognised. At one time, libraries removed her works from the shelves, doubting their “literary value” and later this happened in some schools as well.Now, however, it seems that we have seen the error of our ways and these books which are so popular with the children have been duly returned to our school and libray shelves.

How could you argue with stories as magical as “The Faraway Tree”? If you don’t know what a Pop Cake is ….or a Toffee Shock, do buy these books for your children. I remember my four year old son begging for “just one more chapter please” as he travelled with the children in the story to the “Land of Do-As-You-Please” and the delicious ” Land of Treats”. We had a vote in a children’s book club I ran a few years ago, and the book that won Best Book of all time as voted by the 8 year olds  was Blyton’s “Wishing Chair” books, a series quite similar to the Faraway Tree stories.

Then, of course you have the school stories – The Naughtiest Girl in the School  (great books for8 year olds) Malory Towers (from 9 or 10 years old) etc and then not forgetting The Secret Seven, Famous Five and the less well known, but possibly even more brilliant books,  “The Sea of Adventure“, “The Island of Adventure” etc (for a slightly older reader than the Famous Five), probably age 10+.

Enid Blyton actually wrote in excess of 1500 books, so there are plenty to keep your children going. Many of her books can be found at Hummingbird Books so why not have a look and lead your child into the magical story world of an author who has been delighting children for generations….. and don’t forget to take a glass of homemade lemonade with you………

New Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Out Today!!

November 16, 2011

The long awaited new  Diary of A Wimpy Kid book is out today! Jeff Kinney seems to have successfully accessed  the imaginations of 9-11 year olds with this brilliant series of books. They are especially suitable for boys who think they don’t like reading. Easy to read, they have tons of cartoon pictures throughout, making the actual reading child’s play for the more reluctant reader.

For more similar books such as the Tom Gates series, click on the following link to our “Easy to Read/Reluctant Readers section”

Help to find books that your child will really like

July 16, 2010

Finding books that their child will really like is a challenge for any parent. I have, on many occasions, stood in a bookshop or library wondering which are the really good ones. But it doesn’t have to be such a hit and miss affair these days thanks to modern technology and the web.

If I am looking for a book for my son to read, I usually go into a bookshop, note down possible titles and then go and look up the reviews, before putting the ones with high star ratings to my son for his approval. Obviously it takes a bit more work than just taking a chance on a book, but it certainly cuts out alot of frustration for my son and cuts down on the cost for me ensuring that I don’t purchase lots of mediocre books.

However, if you haven’t got much time, our site Hummingbird Books, cuts out a lot of this preliminary leg work , as we list only books that have been given good star ratings by our test readers. So, if you’re interested in only finding the very best books for children, click on the link and see what your children think!

Popular books for 6-8 year olds

July 5, 2010


Last week, we asked the frequently-asked question, “Is there life after Horrid Henry?”  Children seem to love HH so much, that he becomes a sort of comfort blanket and they find it very hard to move on to something else. The same seems to apply to Daisy Meadows’s Rainbow Magic books, but with a bit of patience it really is possible to move on.

Class 3 (a mixed age class with children from the age of 6-9) with whom I regularly work, have one 7 year old girl who was pretty much addicted to the Rainbow Magic books and just didn’t  want to move on to anything else. But now we have discovered the Secret Mermaid series – they look very similar, with a fairly large font, lots of illustrations and not too long a book and she seems very happy to read them.

Having discovered a new series that she is comfortable with, I don’t think it will be a problem now, to move onto other series. It was almost as if she felt, and others like her felt, that they wouldn’t be able to manage anything other than the Rainbow Magic books. It does appear that taking things very slowly at this critical point in their reading is the most important thing. Other possible series at this stage include the Stardust books eg “Magic by Moonlight” and  “My Secret Unicorn” books.

For more book ideas at Hummingbird Books click here.

Is there life after Horrid Henry?

June 29, 2010

This seems to be a regularly asked question by teachers and parents. At one of the schools I work in, so many children who are really good readers (Stage 13+ of the Oxford Reading Tree) seem to find it difficult to move on from Horrid Henry. Good all Francesca Simon really seems to have got it right in terms of the subjects children like, a simple reading level as well as lots of pictures.

My feeling is that to stick with this formula is perhaps the best and not to try to leap from Horrid Henry to the Famous Five or other thick chapter books, however much we enjoyed them as children – it has to be a really gradual transition!

Try Ricky Ricotta, which although quite simple will show your child that there really is life after HH! Also the Geronimo Stilton books which have lots of pictures throughout the text and are great fun!

All the best children’s book recommendations from Hummingbird Books.

June 28, 2010

 Hummingbird Books is a site which recommends books that children themselves have rated as “amazing”, “5-star” or just “really, really good”. We believe that the first step in encouraging children’s love of reading is to make sure that they have access to books that they really want to read. That’s why we talk to children every week to find out their current favourites and it is these books that we feature on our website.

We have now joined a brilliant scheme which enables you to have our great recommendations and be able to buy them at great prices too! Every time you click on a “Check price/BUY NOW” link at Hummingbird Books, you will be redirected to, where you can buy at their amazing prices, knowing that you will be helping to keep our site going through the commission we receive on every book sold .

The “H.I.V.E.” series by Mark Walden

April 21, 2010

If you are looking for a great adventure series for boys aged 10+, you must try the H.I.V.E.series by Mark Walden. This link will take you to the first book in the series, on Amazon. My son is 12 now and has eagerly awaited each new book in the  series.

In “Rogue”,  the leaders of the world’s villainous forces are being picked off one by one in a series of mysterious attacks and Dr Nero is forced to take temporary control of G.L.O.V.E. when Diabolus Darkdoom is seriously injured. He then discovers that Otto, who has now been missing for several months since Dreadnought, is leading the attacks. Under pressure from the remaining members of the ruling council, Nero is left with no choice but to issue a capture or kill order for Otto. Wing learns of the order and persuades Raven to allow him to join her on her mission to retrieve Otto. Other members of the ruling council, suspicious of Nero’s relationship with the boy, have initiated their own missions to eliminate Otto. Wing and Raven find themselves in a deadly race against time to track Otto down before the other G.L.O.V.E. assassins get to him. Their pursuit takes them to a secret facility hidden deep within the Amazon rainforest, where they face a mysterious operative even deadlier than Raven. Meanwhile back at H.I.V.E., the school’s own automated defence systems turn against the pupils and staff. And there is no one there to stop it. Check it out  at  Amazon.

Children still loving favourite books published 30 years ago

May 16, 2009

One of the  test readers for my children’s book site emailed me this morning to say how much she was enjoying the Nancy Drew mysteries written by Carolyn Keene. This test reader is a girl aged 11. I had heard a number of children say this recently, which goes to show that a good story really can survive the test of time.

I currently list many of the Enid Blyton books on my site, as well. Children never seem to tire of the Magic Faraway Tree and adventure books such as The Mountain of Adventure and The Circus of Adventure.

What I do find with some of the classics, though, such as Noel Streatfeild’s White Boots is that although some children have the tenacity to wade through vast amounts of description,  many modern children cannot be bothered. They want the action “now”. I can only presume this is to do with our faster pace of life, computer games etc. Everything happens for our children alot more quickly than it once did.

Interestingly,alot of reviews on the internet  for “children’s classics”  seem to be from adults, remembering how wonderful a book was from their youth.Perhaps a bit misleading for today’s children looking for 5-star rated books to read.In a small way, we try to deal with this issue at Hummingbird Books by only listing books that children have said are “brilliant”, “amazing” or “5-star”.

In this way, we aim to encourage a love of reading.