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Hi Reading Doctor,
My daughter is 11 and struggles with reading for enjoyment. She has a condition called Irlens which means she sees rivers, circles and words jumping around on the page. We have arranged for her to have special coloured lens which make a difference. The lenses mean she doesn't get as fatigued as before with reading. However, she has yet to find anything that she has really enjoyed, and can't imagine actually reading for pleasure.
Can you recommend any books or series that an 11-year-old girl could enjoy, that are interesting, but not a hard slog to digest? It also needs to be something that's interesting for an adult to read along with, because I will often read along too.
My first suggestion is picture books: many young readers move on from these too quickly, I think, in the excitement of being able to read chapter books. But picture books are fun and visually appealing, they engage their reader quickly with rhythm and rhyme, character and narrative, and they offer a kind of instant literary gratification. Likewise, children’s poetry can be very rewarding for young readers and might be worth experimenting with.
I wonder if reading along while listening to audio books might add variety and interest for your daughter: the books of Roald Dahl, David Walliams and the Harry Potter series have wonderfully lively audio versions.
These are some of my favourite books for middle readers; I hope something here appeals to you both.
· The One and Only Ivan, recently become a movie, is a very touching novel by K A Applegate told from the point of view of a gorilla in captivity (more than once, my children had to take over reading this aloud as I was overcome).
· Dave Shelton tells the story of A Boy and a Bear in a Boat, armed with a suitcase, a comic book, a ukulele and The Last Sandwich.
· Every child loves a fart joke, as proven by Jo Nesbo’s series, beginning with Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder about a scientist who invents a fart powder which can send you into space.
· Best suited to a child with a good grasp of irony are the Lemony Snicket books, A Series of Unfortunate Events.
· Brian Selznick has written and illustrated a number of books in which the narrative is carried as much by the artwork as by the words: try The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
· The Treehouse books, by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, are heavily illustrated, very fast-paced, pretty silly, and a delight to read aloud.
· The How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell is set in a Viking world and features an appealing cast of heroes, villains, and dragons of varying breeds and temperaments.
· Mercy Watson is a pig who enjoys toast with a good deal of butter on it, in a brightly illustrated series by Kate DiCamillo. If you like those, try her wonderful novels, which include The Tale of Despereaux (about a brave mouse), Flora and Ulysses (about a squirrel who acquires superpowers) and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (about a beloved china rabbit who is lost and must make his own way in the world).
· If pony books appeal, read anything by Stacy Gregg; Michael Morpurgo is a prolific writer, often featuring animals (my favourite is Kaspar: Prince of Cats, about a cat who survives the sinking of the Titanic); Sally Gardner writes magical books for early and middle readers and I recommend I, Coriander, set in 17th century London.