Make your 8 year old fall in love with reading {again}

Recently Rob and I have noticed that our once keen 8 year old reader Daisy had started getting lazy. She was spending more time watching Merlin, than reading about him. Asking for picture books before bed rather than chapter books and generally just showing a lack of interest. For book lovers like us, it’s been hard to hear things like “reading is BORING” and “I hate reading” so I did what any Mum would do, I freaked out, panicked, overthought it while trying to act cool on the outside trying not to make a deal out of it. I also contacted my friend Megan from Children’s Book Daily for some help. I wanted to know if it was normal and for some suggestions to get back into the swing of things. She has delivered! For us all. Timely too given it’s Book Week. I can’t wait to get my paws on some of these for Daise and get that fire back in her literary belly. Thank you SO much Megan. 

Happy Book Week readers! Beth and I were chatting recently about children’s book which is my favourite topic of conversation with anyone who will stand still long enough. She was asking for some book suggestions for Daisy, who is a keen reader of nonfiction. I work as a teacher librarian in a beautiful girls school (I often say I work in school heaven) and my 9-11 year old readers are the ones I find I have to keep the closest eye on. Life gets busy for our young people with homework and after school activities and around this middle/upper primary age group, reading for pleasure often declines.

Picture One Option Two

It is also a really tricky age in terms of book choices as children begin their transition from younger reader books to more young adult books. I love it when the girls at school say to me ‘it’s such a shame you won’t have such-and-such a book in the library Mrs Daley, because you know we can cope with the ADULT CONTENT’. Some ten year old girls are still very happy reading the horrific colourful fairy books which I shall not name, while some young readers are really wanting to move into young adult literature with its mature themes– so there is a wide variety of reading ages and stages around the upper primary years.

I bore my students on a weekly basis with the importance of having a balanced literary diet and reading widely from a range of genres – even those they don’t necessarily enjoy at this stage. There is much research which tells us that children who read do better at school academically and socially. Fostering a lifelong love of reading is the number one way parents can support their children academically and while it’s not always an easy task, it pays dividends. Creating a home library of beautiful books for young readers, modelling a love of reading yourself, and even bribing your children to read (oh yes I said it) can keep reading momentum going when life starts to get busy and a little stressful for our young people.

If you do find that you have a child who has really stalled with their reading, I would highly recommend you try some of the following;

  • Sign them up to an online reading challenge like the MS Readathon or the Premier’s Reading Challenges in your state – there is nothing like a bit of pressure to read and the lure of a certificate and/or prizes;
  • Offer new books as a reward for tasks done or as end of school term gifts;
  • Browse blogs and book catalogues and let your child choose their reading material –then make a list and check them off. Everyone loves a list. Or is that just me?
  • Attend book launches, local library events, children’s literature festivals and book shops (which preferably also have good coffee). There is nothing like meeting an author to inspire reading. The power of literary events to improve reading interest blows me away time and time again.
  • Join a book club! I run a bookclub for 11 year old girls and their mum, grandma, aunt or older sister at my school. I run it like an adult bookclub – just without the wine. We read two novels per term, chosen because I know will be adored by the girls and their mothers. For many of my participants, it’s their favourite co-curricular activity (I have this vague idea to set up an online reading bookclub for young readers – but time and a safe online environment are hampering me!).

Some of these ideas might seem forced, even onerous, but if your child connects with some books they adore then they will be off and flying with their reading again. I promise you.

Below I’ve compiled some of my absolute favourite books of the past year for readers from 8/9-12 years old – I cannot recommend them highly enough. You can click through from title links to purchase from Booktopia*. There is enough here to see many readers through the next six to nine months!

Historical Australian Fiction

Historical fiction allows young readers to discover history through the eyes of (fictional) characters who lived it. Bringing history to life is the surest way to engage children in stories of the past; allowing them to experience the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and experiences of children just like them, but who lived in times long past. I have learnt more about history, particularly Australian history, from reading books aimed at ten year olds than I did in all my years at primary school. By glory – I even cried about Captain Cook’s goat – such is the power of Jackie French and her writing!

Historical Fiction

‘Our Australian Girl’ series

‘A New Australian’ series including ‘Bridget’, ‘Kerenza’ and ‘Sian’

‘My Australian Story’ series including ‘Surviving Sydney Cove’, ‘Escape from Cockatoo Island’ and ‘Convict Girl’

‘Birrung the Secret Friend’

The ‘Animals Stars’ series including ‘The Goat Who Sailed the World’ and ‘The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded’


I am a huge fan of children reading for meaning and nonfiction texts are a sure-fire way to achieve this goal and they are an oft-forgotten part of a balanced literary diet. If you want to cook and eat, craft, garden, find a place on a map – you have to read the text kiddo. Have a child who’s a bit of a foodie? You can’t go past ‘Alice’s Food A-Z’. I know Beth is a huge fan of kids craft (she says tongue in cheek) – and I’m pretty sure the girls need ‘Create Your Dream Room’ as glitter, bunting and craft glue abound). Alternatively, save the morning hair battles and get your child ‘Hair Romance’ so they can learn to do their own hair (I live in hope). If you have a child who loves the outdoors, I love ‘Terrariums’ for creating miniature gardens or the fabulous ‘Chook Book’ for chicken families. Our feathered friends (the Mavis’s) were recently taken by a fox and ChickPea, four, is very much enjoying loudly announcing to people in the supermarket that are our chickens are DEAD and the fox left their feathers EVERYWHERE. Sigh. In 30 years of chook ownership I’ve never had a massacre like it. It’s also so great to introduce young readers to biographies and autobiographies at this age and the best one I’ve read of late is ‘Ugly’ by Robert Hoge – every child should read it!

Non Fiction

‘Alice’s Food A-Z’

‘Hair Romance’

‘The Chook Book’

‘Create Your Dream Room’


Realistic Fiction

My favourite genre! Realistic fiction helps our young people to make connections with characters just like themselves, with stories which mirror their own or open their eyes to the myriad of people and experiences in the world. Meeting like-minded characters in books helps young people to feel not so alone in the world, and can help them to navigate their way through life – through watching the failures and successes of fictional characters who pave the way for them.

Realistic Fiction

The ‘Kingdom of Silk’ series

‘The Worry Tree’

‘The New Boy’

‘Figgy in the World’

Samantha Wheeler books, particularly ‘Smooch and Rose’

‘Anti-Princess Club’ series



Too often adults dismiss humorous books as not quite as worthy as more ‘highbrow’ literary choices. Literaryt is great but, so is page after page of laughter over witty writing and words which make young souls smile from the inside out. Writers like Griffiths and Walliams, and many others throughout the history of children’s literature, have used their wit to entertain, heal with laughter, educate and turn young people into lifelong readers. I’ve written more about this here.


‘Gangsta Granny’

‘Demon Dentist’

’Treehouse’ series

‘Weirdo’ series

‘Eric Vale’ series


Escaping into an alternate universe, flying with fairies, sleeping with dragons and talking with elves. We all need to escape reality at times and the world of fantasy writing is a beautiful place to inhabit. We encourage our very young children to dream of fairies and slay dragons in picture books – yet as they hit the pre-teen years, many well-meaning adults shun fantasy for the young readers in their lives. The very complex worlds created by the best fantasy authors, the moral dilemmas, the characters who explore good and evil in the world; fantasy writing should not be passed over and indeed should be encouraged.


‘Star of Deltora’ series

‘The Key to Rondo’ series

‘The Red Wind’

‘The Impossible Quest’ series

‘The Locket of Dreams’


My ideal Friday night is spent watching ABC Crime – Phryne Fischer, Miss Marple, Silent Witness…anything but Midsummer Murders. I’m no crime buff…I leave that to my dad who’s a professor in violent extremism and he knows who committed the crime pretty much before the show even starts. So fun to watch crime shows with dad #saidnooneever. Like many of us, children enjoy the escapism of mystery and crime fighting and there have been some fabulous books in this genre published in the last two years.


‘Kizmet’ series


Alice Miranda’ series

‘Friday Barnes’ series

‘Truly Tan’ series

‘Daisy Malone and the Blue Glowing Stone’

Verse Novels

I’d love to say I’m a poetry buff – it adds a certain air of authority to one’s character does it not? Sadly I am not – in fact I struggle greatly with poetry. However – give me a verse novel and I’m a very happy little poetry buff indeed! Verse novels are a series of free verse poems which, when combined in order, create a narrative. Sounds bizarre – is brilliant and a very non-confronting way to introduce young readers to poetry. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I adore all the verse novels below. Each and every one is a work of art and have reduced me to tears.

Verse Novels

‘Bully on the Bus’

‘Roses are Blue’


‘Do Wrong Ron’

‘Pookie Aleera is Not my Boyfriend’

Picture Books for Older Readers and Graphic Novels

These books use words and images to tell a story and in a world which is full of visual images, picture books and graphic novels should not be underestimated. They are a powerful tool for teaching our young people visual literacy skills and should be included in all reading piles. Picture books aren’t like the ones you and I read as children – they are now complex reads requiring an eager and switched on little mind. Graphic novels in particular have had a phenomenal rise in popularity and oh my glory – I just received ‘The BabySitters Club’ books as graphic novels – I KNOW!I can hardly contain my excitement.

Graphic Novels

‘The Nelly Gang’

‘The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip’

‘The Beach They Called Gallipoli’


‘The Secret Lives of Princesses’ (not princess at all!)

‘Eerie Dearies’ 26 excuses to not go to school

*I support my local Indie bookshops where possible and use Booktopia for all online sales as it is 100% Australian owned and a member of the Australian Booksellers Association – tis like an Indie bookshop online. Purchases clicked through from affiliate links result in a small commission which is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and then to support community groups which connect children with books such as the MS Readathon, Indigenous Literacy Foundation and World Vision.

Is this not THE best no nonsense and practical guide for books within this pre-teen age group? Share away friends – this is going to be my Birthday/Christmas list to pass on to all the Grandmas! Thank you SO much Megan for this epic answer and of course to know that this is a common problem for kids this age. Megan’s blog is an excellent resource for all things kids books make sure you check it out!

Happy Book Week everyone!


  1. Amazing list of books! I have been trying to find some new books for my 7 year old who has recently started reading novels & to start ordering some books to put away for Christmas. This list of suggestions is perfect! I’m so glad to have discovered Megan’s blog. Thank you Beth x

  2. What a fantastic compilation ! I have the opposite problem with Miss 14 – she never has her head out of a book (I think its genetic) hopefully not to the detriment of her pile of assignments due in a matter of weeks. On our recent trip to the Southern Highlands we discovered the Bowral Bookshop, quite possibly one of the best independent bookshops we have ever found. Thanks Beth and Megan.

  3. Such wonderful book selections. Great post.

  4. I’m so lucky that my 8 year old loves reading. He is quite freakish about reading actually and I even have to use the old “If you don’t do XYZ, then I’ll have to take your books away for a day”. I’m at the local library every week. I find that if he can get into a new series, we just order the next books in that series from the library. I mix it up with non fiction and non fiction for him (he loves both). And the free online library is handy too for travelling – I’ll download books to his Ipad. Something tells me my 5 year old is going to be much harder to get into reading …

  5. Thank you Beth and Megan! My nearly 9 year old is a great reader but I’ve been hopeless at getting him new books to read. You have inspired me. Thank you so much. I’m printing off your list and hitting out local library today. Gail

  6. Thanks so much for this post Megan and Beth! Will definitely come in handy for Miss 10, I can see many a book that will be to her liking in those lists. Poor thing might not be getting much other than books this Christmas!

  7. A fantastic list, I have shared on my FB page x

  8. This a great list. I’d love to see one with more of a boy focus for my 9 year old who was once an avid reader but is losing his voracious appetite for books.

  9. Oh my gosh, thank you so much. We have been struggling here with a 9 year old girl who seems to have lost all interest in reading. Am on to it now though thanks to that super list. And I have discovered a new blog in the process. Happy Wednesday!

  10. i also recommend Nanny Piggins. She’s hilarious. Like Mary Poppins on speed. Also she’s a pig.

  11. Looking at this list makes me wish I was a little girl again. The Australian historical fiction would have been just the type of thing I loved to read. I have a 12 year old girl that constantly has a book in her hand, she reads obsessively which is amazing considering they considered making her repeat kindy because she just couldn’t get the hang of reading at all. The light went on term one in year one & she hasn’t stopped reading since 🙂 She has a totally different taste in books to me so choosing for her is difficult, think I need to check out Megan’s blog for inspiration

  12. Awesome post – I work with dozens and dozens (or hundreds) of students who struggle with reading and can be 2-3-4- years behind with schooling (thousands in NZ like this!) – always fab to get more ideas on what to spend a $12K library budget on :). BEST job!

  13. What a great resource! Also try ‘the adventures of sir roderick the not-very-brave’. I read it aloud to my 3/4 class and had a series of children, male and female, ask to borrow it to read themselves afterwards. A real can’t put it down book.

  14. Thank you!!! Not quite there in age yet but I will definitely be keeping this bookmarked for reference. Now I want to get off Facebook and go read a book myself.

  15. My prob not so much loss of interest but keeping up with a voracious reader who reads beyond her age but not ready for adult content at 10 yo. Would love a mum- daughter bookclub….might talk to the school about that. Some other good ideas – get your kids (or self) on to Goodreads. Great way to find new authors/books and also a way to keep a list of what you’ve read and a wish list of TBRs, also sites like Book Depository awesome for browsing (if a little dangerous…lock up the cc) , visit your local independent bookstore regularly to browse and chat and get to know the owners to see what’s out/new and order things in, and theres a great app called Common Sense Media that has been a godsend – detailed reviews and can set up profiles and filters etc. The our Australian Girl series is just the best for 8 yo -.Violet Mackerel good too for maybe 6-8 ish. The Little Fur series a lovely one too. And the Lemony Snicket series (such clever writing) And can’t go past anything and everything by Roald Dahl

  16. This is such an amazing post. My first started kindy this year and she is positively enjoying the wide world of words. I cannot explain how proud I am every time she cracks a new word and to see the look of amazement on her face. I cannot wait to buy her some of these suggested reads. We have been thoroughly enjoying reading chapter books together at night. Sad to say that children’s books are the only ones I’ve been reading for quite a while now but I picked up 4 books for $5 bucks at a garage sale last week and am going to hit the sack earlier in the evenings to once again indulge in reading for me. Thanks again for a fab post.

  17. Perfect post! I have a 8 year old son who has always been a avid reader, always asked for reading time before bed and progressed well with readers at school. It’s suddenly just stalled for no reason other than ‘he doesn’t feel like reading today’. I’m quietly devastated as I have a huge love for kids books and enjoyed sharing them with him as he grew! I’ll go through this post with him and get him to point out some titles that interest him. Thanks so much for the ideas x

  18. I’m wondering if there are any mystery books that could be recommended with a male character, I think my 11 year old boy who enjoys reading may enjoy a mystery book

  19. What a fabulous post. Thank you for the detail. We are heading off to shop tomorrow after school, post in hand. Many of the books and authors we have read but the advice to read from many genres was great. Next we need suggestions on how to help our 7 year old who has problems decoding words read!? Thanks again

  20. Fantastic post, thanks ladies. My oldest daughter is seven and she’s starting to venture into some more advanced chapter books now, so many of these will be perfect. And I love the idea of a mother-daughter book club, I might just steal that one!!

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