Not another book! 10 fun alternatives to traditional chapter books

Reading is drummed into us as an important skill from an early age. We are told to read for a multitude of benefits. Not least, to gain a wider understanding of the world and to improve our vocabulary and language skills. At Meta Prep, we have crafted a list of our top book recommendations. Our list will guide your child in their reading choices for the 11+ and beyond. However, what if reading novels from a list is a constant battle? What to do if your child is bored of chapter books? 

Remember, the important thing about reading is that anything is better than nothing!  Specifically, it is simply about getting them to read. Passion and interest should be nurtured. Equally important, you want them to be challenged and interested but there are so many alternative options. Furthermore, do not be misled into thinking that lack of words does not result in deep thinking, often the opposite is true. 

Welcome to our list of 10 different options for children in Years 4-7:

  1. Manga: Manga are graphic novels originating from Japan containing cartoon images, onomatopoeias and speech bubbles to communicate great stories and themes. Genres range from fantasy, action, detective and sports. Whatever piques your child’s interest, you can find a Manga version.
  2. Graphic Novels: Like manga, graphic novels use cartoon images and speech bubbles to tell the story. Moreover, this style of books can be a great way to get children to read who find regular novels overwhelming with large amounts of text. There are plenty of graphic novel versions of classic novels presenting the story in a fresh and alternative way. In this way, children can be exposed to classic and more challenging texts in an easy-to-handle format. 
  3. Picture Books: Picture books have typically been the domain of younger children but there are some fantastic options for older readers. Some have no words at all which creates an opportunity for thinking in a different way and invites the reader to constantly ask questions. Thus, children can dig deep into the layers of imagery and are exposed to layers of meaning. Subsequently, you can ask how does the layout create tone/tension/hope? What words could be added to the images?
  4. Poetry: Some children find poetry tricky to understand. For other children, poetry makes sense. They like the rhythm and rhyme of it. The interesting language can really extend a child’s vocabulary and helps them understand flow and tone. There are plenty of compilation poetry books targeted at 8-12 year old children, or you can pick one poet and purchase a book of their poems.
  5. Newspapers and magazines: Many children are fascinated by what is happening in the world around them (not only in preparation for interviews!) Reading the news means they can hear about the world while practising their reading skills. You can read the weekend papers with them or sign up to a kids newspaper or magazine. Many of these can be found online and can be read on any device.
  6. Non-Fiction information books: Find out what your child is interested in and invest in some books connected to that topic. There are some fantastic series of books about influential women or complex science concepts for children. Your child can learn about something they are interested in while seeing a different way of writing, including report writing and fact writing. One of our favourites series is the ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.’
  7. Recipé Books: Cooking together is such a fun way to bond with your child. Use a recipe book to encourage reading and sequencing. Browsing and picking the recipe along with making the ingredients list enacts many cognitive steps. Likewise, inviting your child to be your sous chef so that they read the recipe and talk through instructions improving literacy. What do all the words mean? What makes sense for this recipe? You may need to explain some cooking concepts to them and thereby boost their word power! Win, win, win. 
  8. Travel guides and activity handbooks: Whilst overseas travel is still risky and expensive, inviting your child to plan a holiday or activity can be great for modelling  research skills. Of course, it does not have to be a big holiday overseas. How about a weekend trip to the Lake District or a day trip to a National Trust house? Ask them to research where they would like to go (useful to set a budget, time frame and distance). Ensure they find out the cost, the timing of when things are open, whether you need to book and what to do while you are there.
  9. Write a letter: Write your child a letter in your hand writing, on the computer and printed out or if you want to go old school, get a typewriter. There is something really special about receiving a letter from someone you know well and see everyday. Tell them a story you made up or about when you were growing up. Tell them how proud you are of something they are doing well. Write something you notice about them without any judgement, just noticing. Write them a poem, tell a funny joke or anecdote. Children will feel special receiving a letter and more likely to be motivated to read because it is personal. You can include some interesting language or grammar that they are learning in school to practice. 
  10. Parallel reading: Continue reading chapter books but read them alongside another medium. Listening to the audiobook while reading the novel can help for the information to sink in using a multi-sensory approach. This is particularly helpful for children with learning difficulties who find they can’t take in information through one sense or find it tricky to sound out words. BBC Sounds, local libraries and the Libby app have a wide-range of free audiobooks. You can also watch the film after reading to widen the dimension of sensory experience. If they struggle to gain the gist of the story, the movie can be a fantastic way to understand the overarching themes and plot line of the story while gaining more detail from reading the book. On the other hand, it can even be a great talking point about how the film compared to the book.

Remember, the important thing is to READ, whether the back of the cereal box, the signs in shop windows or the entire Harry Potter series! So if you are really struggling to get them to read, think of some other options and come back to those potentially pesky chapter books at another time. 

And perhaps snuggle down and find a quiet moment to read together over the holidays.

Check out our blog about reading to children who can already read: Guided reading.