Each night I read to my daughters before bedtime – I spend around 20 to 30 minutes with each one. It’s a ritual. The youngest is six and just starting to grasp the fundamentals of reading. Six is a difficult age to gauge. Her brain is processing information at an incredible speed but she still really appreciates the visual aspect of books.
My six-year-old can listen to books that are aimed at older children, and that’s because she tends to sneak into her older sister’s bedroom and listen to what I’m reading to her – she’s quite used to hearing stories of tense drama. With both children, I have found it wise to not underestimate their ability to absorb stories of conflict and death. Old fashioned legends and folk tales are filled with murder and mayhem, but these stories have been around for centuries for a good reason – children like them. Roald Dahl knew this and there are horrible events in all his books. However, I do occasionally stop reading and ask if my younger listener is scared out of her wits.
I've tried to keep this list to books that work for a broad spectrum of six-year-olds – suitable for boys and girls - and literature that is a pleasure to hear aloud. I have assumed Dr Seuss already has a place on your shelves. A six-year-old needs stories that move along briskly, the text must be easy on the ear but regularly introduce new words, and the books must also satisfy the adult doing the heavy lifting.
This list offers a mixture of longer chapter books where you can read a chapter each evening, story collections where it’s a story per session and books to read in a single sitting. Some of these books – such as the Magic Tree House series and the Geromino Stilton books – are also ideal books for kids in the early stages of reading on their own. With my six-year-old, she is encouraged to read to me before I read to her. If she reads an early reading book from the likes of Mercer Mayer, or Clifford, or a Bobs’ Book, then it’s a little like a reward when I open a book and begin reading.
I heartily recommend The Sam Pig Storybook by Alison Uttley – these stories of rural life come from another age but are so readable. I listened to them as a child and they are a joy to read almost 40 years later. The Wind in the Willows is also as good as ever – my six-year-old was amazed at Toad’s misadventures although she had never heard of washerwomen. You cannot go wrong with Dahl, and The Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera has been a surprising hit in our household.
by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell