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The 10 Best Reading Books for a 10 Year Old

There is great emphasis on getting kids into reading these days which is a wonderful thing but finding the right books is key to inspiring a love of reading in your kids.

If you’re struggling with this check out our post on 9 Ways To Encourage Reading.

I am always on the look out for new fiction books for my ten year old to get his teeth into and his taste is quite eclectic and rather selective (for example, he classes books by ‘daytime books’, which can be a bit scary and exciting, and ‘night time books’, which need to be innocuous).

So if your child is just going into UK Year 5 or 6 (or US 4th or 5th Grade) then here are my top ten best books to get your ten year old reading independently:

Recommended reading for Year 5 & Year 6

1. Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

My 10-year-old son absolutely loves this book and must have read it a dozen times now, but it seems the gentle plot and likeable characters plus the hint of magic really appeal to him.

I didn’t even realise but there is an entire Mary Poppins series of books – six of them in all:

Mary Poppins Comes Back, Mary Poppins Opens the Door, Mary Poppins in the Park, Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane & Mary Poppins and the House Next Door.

The latter two are short stories combined in one book, as well as the original book so many readers know and love — with fond movie memories of Julie Andrews and the unfeasible accent of Dick van Dyke.

He has since read all the books in the series and pronounced them equally great.

2. The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

Having read all the How to Train Your Dragon series when he was younger (they are perfect for 8 year old and up) my 10 year old was super excited to see this new series come out.

The story’s main characters: are a teenage boy, Xar who is a wizard and teenage girl, Wish who’s a warrior (another strong – literally and metaphorically – female book character).

There’s plenty of gripping storylines coupled with Cowell’s trademark wit plus enough slapstick humour to have your kids ploughing through this book eagerly.

The plot was so exciting my son devoured it in just two days.

3. The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman

Pullman’s fantastic His Dark Materials have somewhat over-shadowed his earlier books, but this was one I read and loved as a child and so was really happy that my son enjoyed it too.

The story is set in Victorian London and follows plucky heroine Sally Lockhart as she seeks to uncover the mystery of a stolen ruby. This is the first book in a series and I highly recommend the whole Sally Lockhart Mysteries series.

Some of the themes are quite serious (opium plays a part) but Pullman deals with them sensitively and so they are more likely to spark interesting conversations with your children than dodgy behaviours!

The fast-moving plot is a great introduction to mystery books and it is sure to keep your kid reading right to the end.

4. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

This is a marvellous book that tells the story half in text and half in stunning black and white pictures, switching easily between the two formats.

Wonderstruck follows two story arcs, one is set in 1977 and focuses on Ben a deaf boy who wants to find his father. He ends up hiding out in the Museum of Natural History in New York where he befriends Jamie, who takes him on a tour behind the scenes of the famous dioramas.

The other is set in 1927 and follows Rose, who also ends up in Museum of Natural History. The two stories ultimately intersect resolving the mystery of who Ben’s father is.

The story is really engaging and by unfolding through words and pictures is less of a challenging or intimidating read than some others on this list – just don’t be put off by its chunky size.

5. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Another classic adventure story that despite its slightly dated style (one of the characters is called Titty!) still manages to draw in the reader.

Swallows and Amazons follows four children as they set up camp on an island in a lake for a summer full of adventure.

The children swim in the water, sail their boat and catch their own fish — idyllic until the Blackett sisters show up determined to claim the island as their own.

My 10 year old was especially enamoured of the independence the children in the book had, marvelling that they were allowed to stay on an island all by themselves.

The story really caught his imagination as it was so familiar to many of the sorts of games he plays with his friends — making camps, raiding other camps and having midnight feasts! A good nostalgic classic.

6. The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club by Alex Bell

This was another book that my 10 year old’s teacher recommended when he was in Year 5, and sure enough it was a huge hit.

The mythical Arctic-style setting of this story and the competition between the rival clubs really caught my son’s imagination.

Many of characters battle with their own personal moral compass of right and wrong — some good moral tales for your young reader.

The icy landscape is richly described and numerous mythical creatures from unicorns to pygmy dinosaurs plus a magical boy who can talk to wolves ensured it kept my 10 year old’s interest right to the end.

7. The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall

This was one of the books on the class reading list (which is always a wonderful resource) as it tied in with the class topic on the Battle of Britain.

Set during the Blitz on London this story is about a group of children who find a wrecked German plane and take possession of the machine gun, lending them the jewel in the crown of their collection of salvage, much to the dismay of their rival collectors.

The drawing of World War II London in this story really helps children to visualise and understand what Britain in war time was like.

Educational and exciting at the same time – the best kind of kid’s book!

8. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

This was another of my childhood favourites that I foisted on my son. Thankfully he agreed that it was an exciting read. What’s more with two strong female main characters defying stereotypes it’s the kind of book I want my kids to read.

The story follows cousins Bonnie and Sylvia. Bonnie is rich and lives in a large house in the countryside and when her poor cousin’s aunt can no longer care for her Sylvia comes to live with her.

At first all is wonderful until Bonnie’s parents have to go away leaving mean old governess Miss Slighcarp in charge, and suddenly the girls face losing everything.

Despite the peril there is plenty of light relief provided by the feisty Bonnie and lots of plot twists and turns to keep your 10 year old’s attention.

9. The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

After a plane crash in the Amazon jungle four children must find their way out of the rainforest.

The children must search out food, shelter and way through the seemingly impenetrable jungle and as they journey onwards they realise that perhaps someone has already forged a path.

This book is packed with excitement, peril and adventure – themes which appeal to most 10 year olds!

It also won the Costa Children’s Book Award 2017, attesting to the quality of the writing as well as the story.

10. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This spooky tale tells the story of Bod an orphan boy bought up by the kindly ghosts of the graveyard. Bod is human and yet has some of the abilities of ghosts… but which powers and how Bod learns to master them is part of the fun.

An unusual and evocative story sure to appeal to your future goths.

Gaiman is an established author with many other titles to his name too — so this could be a great introduction to a new favourite for your avid, young reader.

Books are a real family passion so do keep checking back on the blog for new book recommendations for kids, and if you have favourites you want to share please do so in the comments.

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