The growing range of excellent books for this age group makes the task of encouraging reading for pleasure in Year 4 as delightful as it is essential. It is indeed an essential task – as children’s laureate Cressida Cowell puts it, ‘Decades of research show a reader for pleasure is more likely to be happier, healthier, to do better at school, and to vote – all irrespective of background’. When children choose to read, they gain access to a host of exciting ideas and worlds and this helps to flex the muscles of the imagination, develop empathy and better understand the lives of others, as well boosting language skills, vocabulary and comprehension.
In order to facilitate the enjoyment of reading, the provision of books that are age-appropriate, high quality and appealing is key. At the ages of 8 and 9, many children have learned to read short chapter books by themselves and have gained enough experience of books to articulate preferences about styles, themes and formats. Animal tales, fantasy adventures, funny stories, comic-style books and illustrated chapter books are popular at this age, as are non-fiction texts covering topics of interest like science or history. In addition to a wide choice of independent reads, stories being read aloud by adults continue to be an important – and much-enjoyed – aspect of the reading for pleasure journey at this age.
With these factors in mind, our team has carefully selected a range of recommended books for reading for pleasure in Year 4. Many of the books in the collection are well-known for getting children hooked on reading due to their humorous style and highly illustrated elements, like the comic-style Dog Man books, the pie-chart-filled Planet Stan and Liz Pichon’s fabulously relatable Tom Gates series. Other stories featured in the Y4 collection have been chosen especially for making children laugh out loud, like the gag-filled Alien Invaded My Talent Show or Nadia Shireen’s Grimwood
Many children at this age have developed the ability to make connections within a story and spot finer details in the text, and this enables them to enjoy a good mystery story. For a cracking mystery adventure, we recommend the Highland Falcon Thief, the Anisha: Accidental Detective series or, for an interactive, head-scratching mystery that puts the reader in control, try Solve Your Own Mystery: The Monster Maker. Animal rescue stories also remain popular with Year 4, with Jess Butterworth’s exciting Himalayan adventure When the Mountains Roared or Elizabeth Laird’s poignant story telling of the dangers of ocean pollution in Song of the Dolphin Boy being excellent choices. Dragons feature heavily in the Y4 collection too, and readers looking for fantasy adventures will be happy to let their imaginations feed on The Land of Roar, the spellbinding Starfell series or Cressida Cowell’s hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon books.
Not all of the stories on the list are longer reads. For readers looking for shorter texts, try Jennifer Gray’s short chapter book Magicat (specially formatted for reluctant and dyslexic readers), Catherine Johnson’s thought-provoking Race to the Frozen North or dip into the graphic novel style information book Children Who Changed the World. For picture books suitable for Year 4, we recommend I Talk Like a River, Colin Thompson’s playful How to Live Forever or the thought-provoking The Barnabus Project, which is stunningly illustrated by the Fan Brothers.
If you are looking for classic stories suitable for 8-9 year olds, you’ll find among the collection some favourites that have been entertaining children for generations, like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or Dick King Smith’s The Queen’s Nose. Poetry books that are proven hits with Year 4 are well represented in the collection too, and in particular, we love the alphabet of shape poems in Apes to Zebras, Josh Seigal’s humorous collection Welcome to my Crazy Life and the beautifully illustrated nature poems in The Lost Words.
We’ve also included a handful of favourite non-fiction books for Year 4, from printmaker James Brown’s visually appealing global tour in A World of Cities, to William Grill’s fascinating illustrated retelling of Shackleton’s Journey, to the wonderfully interactive illumanatomy, which comes with a magic lens to help readers delve deeper into the different systems that make up the human body. If you are looking for books themed around a particular topic, head over to our KS2 topic booklists.
You can find out more about the process of collating our Recommended Reads booklists here.
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