The top 100 books

Inspire your children to get lost in the pages of books with this essential list of books for them to read before leaving school…


When Dr Seuss wrote; ‘You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child,’ he was right. Books keep little minds busy and stimulate their imagination in a way that sitting in front of a television never will – and better still, regularly dipping into books in the early years encourages a love of reading that can last a lifetime.

Science backs it up, with a recent study by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the US revealing through extensive MRI research that children from more stimulating home reading environments showed greater activity in the parts of the brain that help with narrative comprehension and visual imagery.

“This is a small and very early study, but the exciting thing it was able to demonstrate is that early reading does have an impact on the parts of the brain that are fundamental for developing literacy early on,” explains Dr. Thomas DeWitt at the hospital. “It’s biological evidence that transcends empirical studies.”

So we know encouraging our children to read has a huge benefit – and the next step is to arm them with the right titles for keeping their interest sparked. But with the shelves in bookshelves quite literally bulging with different titles, how do we know which ones we should read to our children in the early days and encourage them to pick-up as they become confident young readers?

Thankfully, two well-respected organisations in the UK – TES magazine and the National Association for the Teaching of English – have come to our rescue by teaming up to compile a list of teachers’ top 100 fiction books all children should read before they leave primary school.

Heading up the list is the Roald Dahl classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the 99 titles that follow blending together some of the best-known children’s classics.

The list will take some time to work through, but there is a real mix of age interest to appeal to children from the toddler days to their last year of primary school. TES are keen to point out that children don’t need to read every title on the list – but as a guide, it’s a great pointer for choosing titles and authors that will appeal to children in that age range.

What is striking about the list, however, is the fact that a lot of the stories have dark, sombre story lines.

“Many of the books are not full of joy and mirth, but are instead dark and full of horror – tales of ferocious monsters, abuse, abandonment and even death,” says TES editor Ann Mroz. “It’s not what you’d think the average primary child would want to read.
But these books serve an important purpose, giving children a safe place where they can take control of troubling subjects, where evil can be glimpsed and then shut within their pages.”

She adds, “Fiction teaches children how to navigate the journey of life.” And what better place to start than by picking up one of the
titles on this list, opening the cover, and getting lost in the story?

The List

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
2. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
4. Matilda by Roald Dahl
5. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
8. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
9. Dogger by Shirley Hughes
10. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
11. Stig of the Dump by Clive King
12. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
13. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
14. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
15. Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne
16. Funnybones by Allan and Janet Ahlberg
17. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson
18. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
19. Green Eggs and (meat) by Dr Seuss
20. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
21. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm
22. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
23. Peace at Last by Jill Murphy
Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
25. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
26. Not Now Bernard by David Mckee
27. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
28. The Twits by Roald Dahl
29. I am David by Anne Holm
30. The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes
31. The Paddington series by Michael Bond
32. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch
33. Esio (foot) by Roald Dahl
34. Five Children and It by E Nesbit
35. Clockwork by Phillip Pullman
36. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
37. The Magic Far Away Tree by Enid Blyton
38. Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury
39. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
40. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
41. The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy
42. The Alfie and Annie Rose series by Shirley Hughes
43. Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield
44. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
45. Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore
46. Sad Book by Michael Rosen
47. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
48. A Dark, Dark Tale by Ruth Brown
49. The Jolly Postman by Allan Ahlberg
50. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
51. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
52. Zoo by Anthony Browne
53. Treasure Island by R L Stevenson
54. Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
55. Cinderella by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti
56. (Animal) Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman
57. The Railway Children by E Nesbit
58. Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman
59. Kidnapped by R L Stevenson
60. The Sheep (Animal) by Dick King-Smith
61. Beegu by Alexis Deacon
62. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
63. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
64. The Mr Men and Little Miss series by Roger Hargreaves
65. Gentle Giant by Michael Morpurgo
66. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
67. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
68. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti
69. Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
70. Theseus and the Minotaur by David Orme and Wendy Body
71. The Just William series by Richmal Crompton
72. On the Way Home by Jill Murphy
73. Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
74. Street Child by Berlie Doherty
75. The Happy Prince and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde
76. Angelo by Quentin Blake
77. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Draywalt and Oliver Jeffers
78. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
79. My Mum by Anthony Browne
80. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
81. The Tunnel by Anthony Browne
82. Face by Benjamin Zephaniah
83. The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler by Gene Kemp
84. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
85. Click Clack Moo: cows that type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
86. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
87. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
88. I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
89. The Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy
90. The Early Years at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
91. Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
92. Birds Beasts and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
93. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
94. The Mrs Pepperpot series by Alf Proysen
95. The Asterix series by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
96. The Fib and Other Stories by George Layton
97. The Giant’s Necklace by Michael Morpurgo
98. The Kipper series by Mick Inkpen
99. The Milly-Molly-Mandy series by Joyce Lankester Brisley
100. The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson

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