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Nine go-to books for children in key stage 2

On day nine of the Tes 12 reading days of Christmas we bring you nine books that are perfect to read with pupils in key stage 2

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On day nine of the Tes 12 reading days of Christmas we bring you nine books that are perfect to read with pupils in key stage 2

As we prepare for the new term ahead, I am already thinking about my reading recommendations for my key stage 2 children.

Below are some of my top picks. I have selected novels that I believe will inspire young readers and nurture their imaginations, helping them to produce creative writing of their own.

Some of the following titles are tried and tested favourites of mine, but I also asked some of my Year 5 and Year 6 pupils to make their own choices from a carefully chosen selection of quality newer books.

1. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo 

This First World War tear-jerker is as steadily reliable as its two protagonist horses. My class enjoyed researching the animal charity, the Blue Cross – and it generated some great persuasive writing.

2. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen 

This is a survival story set in the Canadian wilderness. The exciting, beautifully-paced opening chapters detail thirteen-year-old Brian’s attempts to land a bush plane after the pilot dies from a heart attack. This novel is a perfect stimulus for news report writing.

3. Skellig by David Almond

I have used this book as both a class reader and for teaching writing for several years and it still blows my mind. The textual depth is so rich that it inspires young readers every time.

4. Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman 

This is a great PSHE read about bullying. I use it as a class reader towards the end of Year 6 for generating discussion on this very important topic.

5. Tins by Alex Shearer 

Fergal collects tins. One day, he opens one to find a bloodied, human finger inside. This is a wonderful book for generating suspense writing at KS2.

6. The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

This novel tells the story of a bad rabbit, son of the chieftain, who must step up to fight the evil Gorm. Gradually, Podkin One-Ear changes from rabbit-brat into rabbit-hero. My Year 6 reviewer has chosen this book for next term’s KS2 book club. 

7. Sky Dancer by Gill Lewis

This is a touching story, suitable for readers aged 9 and above. As my Year 5 pupil wrote in his review, “If you like birds, but don’t like birds being killed, then this is the book for you!”

8. Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll 

This novel about the Second World War was reviewed by a Year 6 pupil as being the “best historical story” she has ever read. It is certainly action-packed and its suspenseful narration feeds its reader a diet of both secrets and spies.

9. The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell 

I’m halfway through this fabulously illustrated novel and I’m thoroughly enjoying the adventures of the wizard boy, Xar, as he tries to catch an evil witch. I sincerely hope he manages it. I'd hate to get the new term off to a bad start.

Amelia Ellis is a Year 5-6 teacher and English lead at Woolavington Village Primary School, Somerset. She tweets @AmeliaEllis23

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