ACTION, ADVENTURE and fun are the ingredients which make reluctant readers pick up a book, a survey of teachers and parents shows.
While such staples as Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown and Northern Lights by Philip Pullman have been voted into the top five books for their age range, neither the Harry Potter nor Tracy Beaker series made it.
The survey of 1,300 adults more than two-thirds of them teachers was run by the website lovereading4schools and the National Literacy Trust. More than 330 titles were suggested. Final lists for different age groups and genders are expected next month.
Julia Eccleshare, children's book consultant, is among those drawing up the final lists. "What's interesting, but not surprising, is the books which attract reluctant readers are also the kind which attract boys," she said. "They are looking for a story that grabs you immediately and has a lot of action and drama.
"The list for 7-year-olds shows how important humour is for children who have just started reading. It is the least gender specific.
"But the 11-plus list is almost all for boys: Alex Rider, Young Bond and the Cherub books are really about boy action heroes."
Perhaps the most famous boy hero is not included in the top five of any list. Ms Eccleshare said: "Harry Potter is not necessarily a book for a reluctant reader."
Last term, the Government announced it will be sending every secondary school 20 free books to encourage teenage boys to read for pleasure. The 170 books schools can choose from include Jeremy Clarkson's I Know You Got Soul, classic literature such as Robinson Crusoe and Ark Angel, an Alex Rider adventure by Anthony Horowitz.
In another Government-funded scheme, all 11-year-olds will be able to choose a free book from 12 titles next month via their schools.
September will also see the start of the Making Good Progress pilot, in which 484 primary and secondary schools will try new ways of assessing English and maths at key stages 2 and 3. About 10 per cent of the pupils will get one-to one tuition. Jim Knight, schools minister, said: "This will also help us target boys to boost their English skills."
BOOKS FOR RELUCTANT READERS
Top five books for 7 plus
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
Unbearable (and others in series) by Paul Jennings
Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon
Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
Top five books for 9 plus
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
Flour Babies by Anne Fine
Thirteen Unpredictable Tales by Paul Jennings
Millions by Frank Boyce
Top five books for 11 plus
Holes by Louis Sacher
Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz
Cherub series by Robert Muchamore
Mortal Engines quartet by Philip Reeve
Young Bond series by Charlie Higson
Top three books for 14 plus
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman