- Children who achieve qualifying scores for the grammars as usually those who are in the top two or three at maths and English in their schools. They will be consistently getting high scores.
- Children who do well are usually avid readers who enjoy a wide range of books – and read for pleasure and not because they have to.
- Children who do well usually know things about the world – geography, history, current affairs… not as experts but just have an interest and know a few things. For instance, can your child answer the following questions: What is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famous for? Where is Paris? Who is the Prime Minister? What’s Brexit? Can you name any books by Charles Dickens? Can you name any plays by Shakespeare? When did the Second World War finish? What’s the Mona Lisa?
- Children who do well look at a tough problem and think ‘how can I do this?’ rather than ‘I don’t know how to do this.’ It’s an important difference.
- Children who are less likely to achieve the score can also benefit from preparing for the test because it teaches a way of approaching difficult questions, a way of thinking.
As far as reading is concerned, many primary schools focus on a similar group of writers – mainly because they are good, and they are accessible! These include JK Rowling, Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and David Walliams.
I think the most important thing for primary school pupils is that they read with parents, and they read independently. It is crucial to discuss a book with someone and check on understanding. So, children reading anything is better than children reading nothing.
I used to encourage my pupils to read at least one classic novel, and there are so many to enjoy:
The Railway Children
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Secret Garden
The Little Princess
There are many ideas and different lists here:
Among my other favourite novelists for children are Joan Aiken, Michelle Magorian, Theresa Breslin and Eva Ibbotson.
This is an excellent site, which provides suggestions and reviews:
On this site, you can type in the book you are reading, and it will suggest another author:
You could also join Good Reads which is a massive resource of reviews and has a good phone app.
I recently read an article in The Guardian called the Top 10 best books bloggers. You can read it by following the link. The article is a guide to some of the best bloggers around who obsessively read and review children’s fiction.
I’m not just talking about Roald Dahl here – though his work is certainly an inspiration for many of the children I have taught. At primary level, I found the most popular authors (amongst authors) were:
Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Jeremy Strong, Enid Blyton, J K Rowling and Rick Riordan.
These are all excellent authors to get children started, particularly with books which are part of series. However, enthusiastic readers will soon by asking: What else can I read? I liked that author, which other authors can I read like that?
The list of bloggers found by The Guardian provides plenty of inspiration. For instance, Kirsty, who writes The Overflowing Library, has read and reviewed over 200 books in 2014 (and she works as a history teacher as well!)
Another one of interest is The Book Zone for Boys, written by Darren who says it is his mission to find boy-friendly books since Harry Potter burst onto the scene.
Have a look at some of them, and tell me your favourite! Or why not start your own blog about books and share it with others.