11 Plus Reading List: Top Books to Boost Your Child’s Vocabulary

As a parent, you naturally want to do everything you can to help your child prepare for their 11 Plus exams. Of course, there’s past papers, school tests, exercises and quizzes… but don’t underestimate the simple power of reading with your child.

Reading regularly is one of the most important things your child can do to prepare for the 11 Plus. Why? Well, it improves your child’s vocabulary, comprehension skills, spelling, reading speed and ability to make reasoned judgements and inferences. These are key skills for both English and Verbal Reasoning tests… two key components of many schools’ 11 Plus assessments.

In this article, we’ll delve into the benefits of reading for 11 Plus exam success as well as a list of some of the best children’s books (both classic and contemporary) that your child will love.

How does reading help with 11 Plus exams preparation?

Regardless of 11 Plus exam preparations, reading is an essential life skill. Year 6 is the perfect age to start introducing your child to a wide range of materials. As well as fictional books, they’re also old enough to start exploring child-friendly news websites, magazines, newspapers and blogs.

Reading doesn’t just improve your child’s vocabulary and comprehension skills. When they read a book, your child naturally learns to identify and understand the use of literary techniques like similes, metaphors, adjectives and adverbs (vital knowledge for Verbal Reasoning  and English exams).

They’ll also spot grammatical constructions within sentences (like simple, compound and complex sentences) more easily. Your child will get used to seeing sentences constructed in different ways – and start applying the same rules of grammar and spelling to their own creative writing.

Reading a wide range of fiction also helps children develop their inference skills, learning to make thoughtful assumptions backed up with evidence. This is a crucial skill for any comprehension task.

Reading really does help 11 Plus preparation in so many ways. In short, you can’t afford not to!

So, how can you encourage your child to read more?

5 tips to encourage regular reading with your child

As anyone with children will know, encouraging them to read regularly can be a challenge. Even if your child lovesreading, there are lots of other activities, homework, sports clubs and sleep overs competing for their time and attention.

Here are some top tips for making reading a regular part of your child’s routine.

  • Read together: Choose a book you can read together with your child. This will help you bond and encourage them to see reading as something fun that both children and adults enjoy.
  • Create a reading nook: Creating a special reading nook in your home will make your child feel super special. If it’s somewhere cosy they can chill-out and read comfortably (with plenty of pillows and blankets), they’ll feel calm and relaxed – and look forward to book time.
  • Set aside time for reading: If you don’t set aside time for reading, it’s easy to let it sink to the bottom of the pile. So, schedule a specific slot each day for your child to read. This will help everyone develop a routine and make reading a lifelong habit.
  • Encourage variety: Encourage your child to read a wide variety of materials, including news articles, blogs and websites. This will broaden their knowledge and expose them to diverse types of language and perspective. There’s a comprehensive list of child-friendly news sources from the Literary Trust.
  • Ask your child what they like: Making reading fun is one of the best ways of encouraging your child to read. If you exclusively opt for classic Victorian texts, chances are they might not resonate. Keep experimenting and asking your child what they enjoy (and what they don’t). If you go to the library together (letting your child lead the way), this will give your child a feeling of ownership over their reading.

11 Plus reading list: classic and contemporary books for your child

When it comes to 11 Plus exam preparation, it’s so important to read widely and regularly. This means mixing up the types of books your child reads – including authors from all over the world, distinctive styles, topics, modern writers, contemporary texts and more.

To help, here are 20 suggestions of the best children’s books to read when preparing for the 11 Plus.

Bear in mind, this isn’t an exhaustive list. It’s important to let your child lead their own reading with authors and series they enjoy. Use this list (of high-quality, challenging texts) as a starting point for inspiration… and see where your child’s literary adventures go.

  1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: A timeless classic that takes young readers on a journey through Middle Earth. If your child enjoys the book, they can move on to The Lord of the Rings as a next step.
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: Another classic (part of the Narnia Chronicles) that’s perfect for improving inference skills and expanding vocabulary. A magical must-read for any 11 Plus candidates.
  3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: A modern classic that’s captured the hearts of millions of children around the world. If your child enjoys it, they’ve also got the rest of the series ahead of them!
  4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: A beautiful story teaching children the importance of friendship and the power of nature. A great read for children who love the outdoors.
  5. Matilda by Roald Dahl: An excellent choice for improving vocabulary and comprehension – as well as a fun and engaging story that children love.
  6. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: Another timeless classic, following the adventures of Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger exploring the English countryside. A beautifully written book teaching important life lessons on friendship, loyalty and the natural world.
  7. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster: A quirky and imaginative story that’s a perfect choice for children who enjoy fantasy stories.
  8. The Giver by Lois Lowry: A thought-provoking story (set in a dystopian, futuristic society) that will challenge and engage young readers.
  9. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: A heart-warming story teaching children about the value of friendship and support through Wilbur and the eponymous Charlotte. A perennial favourite.
  10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: A wonderful choice for children who enjoy science fiction, featuring a search for a lost father and exploring evil planets…
  11. Holes by Louis Sachar: A compellingly written and fast-paced modern story set in a correctional boot camp in a Texas desert.
  12. The Secret Series by Enid Blyton: Enid Blyton is an enduring children’s writer for a reason. Her timeless and fun writing is just as compelling today, as it was in the 1950s.
  13. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: A funny and engaging story that challenges and entertains young readers. Just remember your towel…
  14. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman: A spell-binding trilogy beloved by children all over the world, telling the captivating story of Lyra and her “daemon”.
  15. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: A captivating story about a young boy raised by ghosts in a cemetery. Perfect for children who enjoy spooky tales and suspenseful adventures.
  16. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer: This inspiring true story follows the journey of a young boy in Malawi who builds a windmill to help his village during a drought. It’s a terrific book for children interested in science, engineering and making a difference in the world.
  17. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini: A popular four-part series that focuses on the adventures of a teenage boy and his dragon as they struggle to topple an evil King.
  18. Watership Down by Richard Adams: One of the best known animal adventures of all time – featuring a group of rabbits escaping impending disaster and searching for a new home.
  19. The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson: A brilliantly written tale featuring a boy struggling with OCD and anxiety – before he turns his heightened mindfulness into his superpower, to solve the case of a vanished child.
  20. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: Written when Anne Frank was 13-15 years old, it’s one of the most impactful and educational books your child will come across. Essential reading for any young person.

Remember, this 11 Plus reading list is just a starting point. There are many more wonderful books that can help your child prepare for 11 Plus exams. The key is encouraging your child to read widely and enjoy the process. Reading should never feel like a chore or a task to complete. Instead, it should be a fun and engaging activity that lets your whole family explore new worlds and expand their horizons. 

Support your child’s 11 Plus preparation with Achieve Learning

For extra support and guidance with your child’s 11 Plus preparations, reach out to our team at Achieve Learning. With over 18 years’ experience, we offer dedicated one-to-one tutoring services helping your child build confidence and key skills. As well as personalised consultancy and revision plans, we offer mock exam practice to ensure they’re fully prepared for final exams.

To learn more about how Achieve Learning can support your child, book a free assessment today. Our team of experienced tutors are happy to answer any questions and determine the best approach for your child’s unique learning needs.