Engage your readers with these Secondary School Books
Finding secondary school books which appeal to your class or form can seem like a daunting task. To save you time searching, here are five recommended reads for reluctant KS3 and KS4 students.
The Beast Quest series by Adam Blade
Sadly, the name Adam Blade isn’t a wonderful example of nominative determinism – in fact it’s a pseudonym for a collective of writers who pen the extensive Beast Quest series. There‘s over a hundred of these books, so if you strike gold and they’re a winner with your reluctant readers, then there’s plenty of material to get through!
The books are adventure fantasy (think Game of Thrones for kids) and primarily aimed at KS2 students. But if you have KS3 students with below-average reading ages, these can be just the secondary school books to get them interested in reading. The chapters are short and interspersed with line-drawings to keep them captivated. The font is large but not excessive, and the language is simple without being patronising. There are also spin-off mobile games and a Beast Quest Club, so students can engage with the books in other ways. The Beast Quest series are pretty much some of the most essential secondary school books for reluctant readers!
To Wee or Not To Wee by Pamela Butchart
Again, this is a book which is targeted at KS2, but still holds its appeal for Year Seven and Eight students who struggle with reading. It’s funny, irreverent, and has wide-spaced lines with in-text illustrations, so the pages don’t look too daunting.
This secondary school book has the added advantage of being four retellings of popular Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth), so it’s a great pick for students who groan as soon as the bard’s name is mentioned!
The Falcon’s Malteser by Anthony Horowitz
Way back before Alex Rider burst onto our bookshelves and our screens, Anthony Horowitz dreamed up the Diamond Brothers – a hapless duo who frequently find themselves embroiled in the murky world of crime.
The narrator is the younger of the brothers, Nick, who is 13 when finds he is being chased by a collection of rogues. Car chases, gun fights and kidnapping ensues. The narrative is fast-paced, funny, and has lots of classic crime references thrown in. (In fact, this book is the second in the series – the others being Public Enemy Number Two and South by South East – geddit?)It’s a great secondary school book for students who might want to try Alex Rider, but need a step up first.
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
Set in the Arctic at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Sedgwick’s novel is a tense, compelling page-turner. It tells the story of a boy who finds himself alone in a cabin with his father’s dead body – and a murderous stranger knocking on the door.
The themes of this secondary school book are mature at times – there’s death and assault, for example – and they are delivered without sugar-coating. The story is told in a sparse style and is a slim volume, so it’s not daunting for those readers who prefer adult-style thrillers and mysteries. There’s also a great reveal at the end which should have most students picking their jaws off the floor!
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
This novel won the 2014 Clip Carnegie Medal, and it’s not hard to tell why. It’s a terrifying, claustrophobic thriller which is hard to put down. It’s also extremely mature in terms of themes and language (the author doesn’t hold back on his use of expletives), so it’s definitely a choice for KS4 readers. The novel is told in diary form, which makes it great for reluctant readers, as it chunks up easily. The premise is that the writer of the diary has been kidnapped and imprisoned in an underground bunker. Slowly, the bunker starts to fill with other prisoners – and their fight for survival quickly becomes brutal. This is definitely not a novel for vulnerable or immature readers, but older students who want a challenging, non-patronising read which is also accessible, should love it.
You might also want to read: GCSE Reading List: How Many Have You Read?