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Flea is living proof that kids pick things up in their own good time. And that idle parenting isn’t necessarily a disaster.

As a pre-schooler, Flea could identify the letters of the alphabet but that was it. She was the only child in her class who started school unable to do something called ‘blending’ – so she could sound out the letters ‘c’ ‘a’ ‘t’ if she saw them, but she had no notion of the fact that this might mean ‘cat’.

I’m sure I could have taught her these things but she just wasn’t that interested – even as a three-year-old, she was more interested in imaginative play. Give her a jigsaw and she’d imagine them into a class of children; give her some letters and she’d imagine them into animals at the zoo, or pirates.

That said, Flea has always loved stories, and she had no problem memorising them and ‘reading’ them back to me:

But making an effort to read the words for herself? Not so much.

However, not quite two years down the line and Flea’s reading is quite something to behold. She gets a book to read from school each day and it’s completed before we’ve left the car park. If she goes to breakfast club at school she is allowed to choose what she does – and Flea will always, always choose to take a book and read in a quiet corner.

We don’t even talk on the school run any more, because she would rather read a book.


Our problem, though, is that we’re running short of books to read.

Flea is reading chapter books and can devour 100 pages of Horrid Henry in a day. She also loves books about dogs, and has read everything ever written by Holly Webb involving lost puppies, stolen puppies or orphaned puppies. Then we read the Faraway Tree books and the Wishing Chair books, which she’s enjoyed.

What now?

My challenge is that while Flea might be reading at the level of a nine year old, she’s still only five. So she doesn’t necessarily understand the storylines of books for older kids, and I don’t want her reading things that might scare her. It does of course go without saying that Flea would rather poke herself in the eye than pick up a book with a pink cover relating to fairies or princesses or any of that nonsense.

So we’d love your recommendations. What chapter books do your kids love?  


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.

About The Author


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.


  1. Sharronannb

    My daughter is 8 1/2, and she’s been the same for years, she’s an absolute nightmare to keep in books! She’s loved anything by Jacqueline Wilson for years – they are about older girls, but most of them are very innocent, but the girls in them are tough, independent, sassy, and quite naughty – there are a couple (tho off the top of my head I can’t remember which ones) that Rhianna hasn’t been allowed to read yet, but I normally scan through them first before passing them over.
    Rhianna also loves anything by Roald Dahl – Matilda is a lifelong favourite, as is the BFG, she’s read the Spiderwick Chronicles, the complete Chronicles of Narnia, etc.
    For crying out loud, do NOT let her read any of the Rainbow Fairy set, they aren’t stories, they are torture for parents, and complete and utter mince! Good luck, and get raiding charity shops!

  2. Nikkii

    Mr Majeika 🙂
    Oh and Roddy Doyle – he’s brilliant – she will love The Rover Adventures.
    I’ll go check the bookcase – we’ve kept all the big ones books for Paul – not that he shows any interest at all yet!

  3. jo

    oh my days that is fantastic what a brainiac !! please get her to post my son some love of reading 🙂

  4. jo

    my naughty little sister series
    mrs pepperpot stories
    roald dahl – the magic finger, the enormous crocodile, fantastic mr fox
    gobbolino the witch’s cat
    flat stanley chapter books
    stuart little
    all dick king-smith
    the adventures of captain underpants
    the family from one end street
    clever polly and the stupid wolf
    arabel’s raven
    got other ideas if you need more ! 🙂

  5. geekmummy

    Great suggestions Jo! I was a real bookworm as a kid, and I remember almost all of those very fondly 🙂
    My personal favourite book was The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Maray Williams. In fact anything by her is good – Bogwoppit is also fun!
    Another author to look out for is Rumer Godden – she writes some lovely stories about dolls coming to life, and I don’t remember them being as “twee” as all the fairy stuff is these days.

  6. geekmummy

    Oh, and I meant to add, the video is so cute – the geekdaughter was a captive audience all the way through, and wanted another one when it finished!

  7. se7en

    I loved her name change and the letters on her door – I think you have a little genius on your hands!!! Oh you have such a cute and clever reader!!! My first kid was wildly avid and we never ran out of books… best advice I got was don’t let them read books far ahead just spread them wider. I made it a rule of thumb to make sure the characters were of a similar age to the reader… no teenage pranks for my preschooler, thank-you very much!!! I wrote about avid bookworms last week and if I were you I would head straight for number 8 in this post: The book I recommend, 1001 books to read before you grow up, is packed with suggestions and most of them are parts of series or the author was prolific!!! When you find an author they love go with it let her read the whole lot: all my kids adored secret se7en and famous five… roald dahl, usborne has a fabulous series of puzzle mysteries, the box car children, just william, Little house in the Big Woods, rumer godden, Michael Bond (Olga Da Polga) … I am planning to have a week of books on our blog this week – my week only gets going about Wednesday, so pop over for a visit then for heaps of lists!!!

  8. se7en

    Oh I forgot the The Bullerby Children by Astrid Lindgren and Beverly Cleary and E.B.White …ok I will stop already!!! HAng on the Borrowers, Mrs Pepperpot….

  9. Merry

    Ha! I’ve got a half written reading styles post somewhere and I’ve just been rounding up books that my lot loved when younger. My only early reader, having taught herself, is now happy to mooch along much where she did two years ago but currently Horrid Henry and Mudpuddle Farm are favourites (co-incidentally really). Witch Baby was also well liked.

  10. Carrie

    My five year old was obsessed with the Henry and Mudge books for a while (and a big sloppy dog in there that Flea would surely like). My six year old had read ALL of the Magic Treehouse books and loved them.

  11. Vic

    Beast Quest – there must be about 60 of them now so that’ll keep her going for what, a month?

  12. Mwa (Lost in Translation)

    My son (who’s six but ahead as well) LOVES Geronimo Stilton, as do most Belgian kids. It’s an Italian thing originally, but the books exist in English, too. They are gorgeous, colourful, don’t shy away from big words…
    Here’s the one my son started out with. It’s more than 320 pages, but provides a great sense of achievement when finished.
    If Flea loves it, there’s about a hundred more where that one came from. And I’m guessing she will, from what you’ve told us about her.

  13. Rachel Calderbank Jones

    The ‘Sheltie’ series are excellent for young readers, pony orientated though, so you may well end up forking out for a lot more than a puppy…

  14. The Coffee Lady

    There are stacks. The Daisy books are good (the novels, not the picture books) and also the Clarice Bean ones.
    Sheltie? You can pick them up second hand. If she likes horses. There are loads of horses books if you can convince her away from puppies.
    Anne Fine books I would recommend – she does books for many ages – and Jenny Nimmo has some lovely ones – shorter novels and longer ones. We listened to the first Charlie Bone book in the car on holiday, which is quite a fat, ‘grown-up’ novel when Littlest was only five, and though she wouldn’t be able to read it she enjoyed it loads.
    But mainly, above all else, go to the library. I very, very much regret buying books that only get read once.

  15. Jodie Smith

    I was similar, reading far beyond my age. You can’t really go wrong with Enid Blyton and there are sooooo many of her books should keep you going for a while. And I enjoyed re-reading these books.
    What about Roald Dahl? You’d be surprised actually at what kids can cope with. I recently watched the BFG and found it quite horrific, kids being taken and eaten etc but I remember reading it as a kid and it not bothering me one little bit.
    What about the old school stories? Mallory Towers etc? Secret Seven, Famous 5? Mind they are all Enid Blyton aren’t they?

  16. Josie

    Brill news that the ‘hands off and let them discover for themselves’ approach really works. My four year old son is at the stage Flea was at when she started school and I have been having slight panics that most of his class seem to be whizzing through the (pretty dull) phonics reading books. He’s too busy making mad creations and crazy imaginary worlds to be that into reading yet, but he does love to be read to. Chapter books that have been a great success recently include the Finn Family Moomintroll (he’s looking forward to hearing some more Moomin adventures); Stig of the Dump; the Iron Man; The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark; The Aardvaark Who Wasn’t Sure; The Worst Witch and all the slightly less dark Roald Dahl.
    All the fantastic suggestions make me want to dig out my bookcase from when I was teeny. Good children’s books are fab!

  17. Nina

    My sister was exactly the same and read everything she could find when we were little. Think they might be a bit too old for Flea just yet, but I remember my sister devouring the Just William stories – and there are hundreds of those.
    And I second anything Dick King Smith – I loved those stories so much!

  18. Iota

    Yes, there’s a real gap in the UK market. In the US, there are a couple of series that (if you can get them on Amazon in England) I’d highly recommend. The first is the Magic Tree House series, by Mary Pope Osborne – the adventures of two children who are transported in time and space in a magic tree house. Really good stuff. The other is Junie B Jones, by Barbara Park. Possibly a bit American for English readers, but quite engaging.
    The good thing about these are that there are numerous books in each series, so if Flea’s imagination is captured, they’ll keep you going for a while.
    Otherwise, Narnia? Or is that too potentially scary?
    And – repeating others here – the Sophie series (Dick King Smith) and The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark (also a series).

  19. Nicole

    For books that come in series (so lots of them to get through) try Animal Ark (not amazingly well written, but very appealing for animal lovers), Saddle Club, Babysitters’ Little Sister. I also second the suggestions of Roald Dahl (especially Matilda!), the Sophie series, Enid Blyton, Sheltie – I read all of those between the ages of 5 and 7. Or the proper Winnie the Pooh stories are wonderful and not too basic.

  20. Sally Whittle

    Ah, they are both new to us, will check them out, thanks!

  21. Sally Whittle

    I have seen those Rainbow Fairy books in other parents’ homes and I don’t think I’ve ever been more glad to have a tomboy daughter!

  22. Sally Whittle

    New to me, will have to check them out in the library, thanks!

  23. Sally Whittle

    Oh, that’s a fantastic link, thanks – I’ll have a good rummage through it, later.

  24. Sally Whittle

    We’ve not done Mudpuddle Farm, thanks!

  25. Sally Whittle

    Fab, thanks – Magic Treehouse sounds like a good option to explore.

  26. Sally Whittle

    Sounds alarmingly up Flea’s street…

  27. Sally Whittle

    I think that might be worth a go, actually – Flea regularly reads 200 pagers so she shouldn’t be too far off being able to read it, thanks!

  28. Sally Whittle

    So not introducing her to ponies. Can you imagine??

  29. Sally Whittle

    I agree – we do a weekly library visit, new books are so expensive and wasteful!

  30. Sally Whittle

    Ooh, I read anything and everything Enid Blyton as a kid, but at the moment Flea’s more interested in animals and adventures – I might have a dig around and see what i can find. Thanks.

  31. Sally Whittle

    Oh, honestly, Flea was EXACTLY like that – she had to catch up on handwriting, too, because she’d never been interested in drawing or modelling or anything like that – all she ever wanted to do as a pre-schooler was create imaginary worlds of one sort or another. And her writing has come on in leaps and bounds, too. It makes me look at those parents who were pushing the kids two or three years ago and think, “What was the point of THAT?”

  32. Sally Whittle

    She does like things involving naughtiness 😉

  33. Sally Whittle

    Magic Tree House sounds brilliant, I’m definitely going to check those out today. Thanks for the ideas!
    We did try one Narnia but she got a bit confused by the storyline, I think – maybe in another year.

  34. Sally Whittle

    I loved Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton but Sheltie passed me by entirely, will have a look, thanks.

  35. Lucy Pask

    Was reading your post just as I was writing an “ILoveYou” blog post on Jan Pienkowski so will have to recommend Necklace or Raindrops and Kingdon Under the Sea by Joan Aiken (but get the ones with Jan’s illustrations)
    Yes I was given the Narnia books aged 7 but didn’t get into them until 8.
    I used to EAT books when I was 6-16 years old. Agree with all of the above in particular:
    Gobbilino / Little Wooden Horse
    Animals of Farthing Wood
    Roald Dahl, in particular About a Boy, Charlie Great Glass Elevator, Matilda and Danny Champion of the World
    Enid Blyton Faraway Tree (save Famous Five for later)
    Redwall Abbey books by Brian Jacques
    Hope that helps! x

  36. Iota

    If Flea is into imaginary worlds (if…) then I think she’ll like the Magic Tree House. Plus, they are so EDUCATIONAL – the kids get transported to spend a day with Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, ninjas, you name it, they go there. Because I know that you insist on everything Flea does in her spare time being educational…

  37. Nikki

    Great post Sally – my daughter started school in Sept just five (straight into Y1) and couldn’t read at all, but in the past 7 months has picked it up and hasn’t stopped reading since! She’s not at chapter level yet, but hopefully as we foster that interest and ability she’ll get there. Thanks for the blog as all of the suggestions you’ve received are really helpful to share for when we do get there – can’t wait! The joy of reading and stories opens up new worlds 🙂

  38. Nikki

    Ooo loved Mallory Towers, great suggestion but may a bit old don’t you think? The Naughtiest Girl in the School books were aimed a bit younger and loved those too – oh to dig out my copies!!!!

  39. Susan Mann

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing. Children learn in their own way and at their own pace. It’s nice to hear that’s true x


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