Gaps in the market #3: books for more able 9 year olds.

A bit like the six year old not challenged by the books that she is actually interested in, the more able nine year old has a similar problem.

This is another of my gaps in the market.

A more able nine-year old has the reading ability of a teenager, but books for teenagers are all a bit, well, teenagery. Books like Skulduggery Pleasant, where the hero is undead, or Beautiful Creatures, with just a hint of sexuality. These books may well be fine for the average 14 year old, but if they’re the current in-thing and the next step up for someone with the reading age of a twelve-year old, they not really suitable for a nine-year old.

Myself, I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy and so I wouldn’t mind encouraging my son to read the same sort of books. I’m not going to force him, mind, just a gentle steer. He already read Lord of the Rings when he was eight, so where do I go from there. George R. R Martin is the current successor to Tolkien, but George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones series is barely appropriate for me, and I’m 40, let alone my little boy.

And so he’s reduced to reading Cressida Crowell’s ‘How to Train a Dragon’ series and the Beast Quest books. All these are fine and firmly within the 9-12 category found in many bookshops. But they level of the text is too easy for my boy – he’s read them in an evening, which means either that reading becomes an expensive hobby, or that the 8-book visit to the library is a weekly visit.

There is an answer of course. Appropriate books at a challenging level do exist and many of them are free. The ‘classics’, like Treasure Island, are a step up and being older than seventy years can be downloaded for free from many places, including the Kindle store. I’m going to encourage my son to read these books of course, but what I would really like is for the authors of popular series for 9-12 year olds to step up their language just a little. Maybe they could write the odd book in their series with just a bit more challenge – so that a book takes more than a single evening to read.

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