Bedtime stories: choosing books for ages 7-11 wisely

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I like to complete a task.  At work, my execution is thorough, and at home I relish crossing errands off lists and finishing chores. I’m not someone who can walk out of a bad movie, turn off a tiresome show, or stop reading a tedious book.

But that dogged instinct can sometimes get in the way.

One of my great joys as a parent is reading to my kids. As they get older and our lives get increasingly busy, it’s difficult to find the time, but when we do, I love snuggling in their beds and sharing a story. My 13-year-old is too cool to partake, but 9-year-old Aden and 7-year-old Eli are a good audience.

Lately we’ve had trouble getting into a good book. I’ve never read the Harry Potter books because I wanted to read them with my kids, but disappointingly, Aden’s not interested. Maybe I’ll get another shot with Eli.

the horse and his boy cover best books boys 7-11

We decided to tackle the C.S. Lewis books and started with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which we loved.  (The movie is also excellent if you liked the book.) Next in the series was The Horse and his Boy, which we just couldn’t get into. It was very slow and the characters didn’t grab us. We started and stopped and then forgot about reading altogether for many weeks.

Every time I thought about picking that book up, I felt ambivalent, but it was hard to let go of the idea of carrying through to the end. It was only number 2 in a series of 7, and I wanted to finish what we started. We could have skipped Book 2 and moved on, but that option also made me squirm.  So basically, I avoiding reading time, which left me feeling blue.

Until last week, when I recognized how much I missed that time at night, winding down and reading together. I opened my mind to the possibility of dumping the boring boy and his humdrum horse and starting a new book.

Danny Champion of World cover best books 7-11 years

I went to Aden’s shelf and picked up Roald Dahl’s Danny, Champion of the World, and started reading that night. We love it. It’s a more modern story with sharper focus on character development, rather than plot. I realized that despite their popularity and value, the fantasy genre might not be for us, and that’s ok.

Dahl’s classics Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach captivated us, so I was hoping we’d like Danny too.  (FYI: Despite marketing, not all Dahl books are appropriate for kids: we tried a few others, including Esio Trot, and some of the Henry Sugar stories but found them dark and creepy.)

One of my fondest childhood memories is my father reading to me before bed. I love carrying that on with my kids. My dad read Danny to me, so experiencing it with Aden and Eli has special meaning.

Once I let go of the idea of finishing the Lewis books, I felt free and excited about reading with them again. I also felt foolish that I almost let my stubborn need to complete a task stop one of my treasured activities with my boys.

Maybe I’m growing after all.

hugo cabret book cover best books 7-11 years boys

I’d love to hear about any books you recommend for boys, ages 7-11. Other books we’ve loved are the Kate DiCamillo books (Because of Winn Dixie, Edward Tulane, etc.) and Brian Selznick’s Hugo.  Please tell me your suggestions in the comments.

We’ll need a new story soon!

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3 responses to “Bedtime stories: choosing books for ages 7-11 wisely

  1. We loved MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE by Anna Staniszewski (and its sequel: MY EPIC FAIRY TALE FAIL) – this series is popular both with my daughters and my son, which is not always an easy thing to find.

  2. Marcy Berkowitz

    Avi’s Ragweed and Poppy series are amazing read alouds for this age, both my boy and girl loved them. We also devoured The 39 Clues series – may be a bit much for a 7 year old. I kept thinking they were not the type of book I wanted to read, but then found myself so excited for the next one to come out, something about them is very compelling. The Spiderwick Chronicles are also fun to read aloud. My kids are 9 and 11 and we are getting ready to head into some more serious stuff, I think Number the Stars is next. I will keep reading with them as long as I can, it is often the highlight of my day.

  3. Mine both love Harry Potter. The last non-HP books that Madeline loved were Winn Dixie (I want her to start Edward Tulane next) and PL Travers’ Mary Poppins. She liked the Roald Dahl books as well, the Mysterious Bemedict Society and the Diary of a Wimpy Kkd books, and Hugo, too. Recently, a librarian friend recommended Wonder, The One and Only Ivan, the 39 Clues series, and the Candymakers series for this age group.