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11 Plus (11+) Reading List

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Reading for the 11 Plus (11+)

One of the best ways your child can prepare for the 11+ English exam is to focus on reading. Reading across genres and subjects can help your child identify as well as understand essential language devices that come up in the 11+ English exam. These language devices include the key figures of speech (similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, personification etc.) and parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, verbs etc.).

The 11+ English exam usually contains a comprehension exercise; reading regularly can help your child develop their analysis and vocabulary, which will be very useful for this part of the exam. Improving their vocabulary and comprehension skills will also be helpful if your child has to sit a verbal reasoning paper as part of their entrance exam.

This article will provide you with a selection of useful, engaging, and captivating novels for preparing for the 11+. All the books in this list have either been used in 11+ exams before or contain language devices, themes, and vocabulary that will be extremely helpful in the exam. 

This is not an exhaustive list and there are many other novels that have been used in the 11+ exam. However, this should provide you with a foundational understanding of the kinds of texts that will be useful whilst preparing for this important exam.

Free 11+ Reading List PDF Download

Check out our free PDF to help your child’s 11+ reading journey!

This worksheet comes complete with a reading checklist, a colouring-in tracker and a summary table with questions for them to fill in. 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol Examberry
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A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens, tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a frugal and selfish man who is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve, his former business partner and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge becomes a much kinder and more generous man. 

Some of the themes presented in this story are greed and poverty, forgiveness and redemption, compassion and empathy, and the concept of time. 

This book contains tricky vocabulary and complex literary devices, making it an ambitious read for 11+ students. Extracts from A Christmas Carol are often used in the 11+ English Comprehension tasks, so becoming familiar with this text is vital. 

At Examberry, we have produced an illustrated reading workbook and study guide for A Christmas Carol. This guide comes complete with comprehension questions, open-style creative writing exercises, and an extensive vocabulary list to aid preparation for entrance exams, such as the 11+. 

Our reading guides help simplify the narrative, allowing children to grasp the plot’s subtleties, the nuances of characters, and the significance of themes.

They will enrich your child’s understanding of these classic texts, enhance their reading skills, and boost their confidence in the lead-up to the 11+. 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Wind in the Willows
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The Wind in the Willows recounts the English countryside adventures of neighbours, Mole, Rat and Badger, as they try to help Mr Toad, who has become obsessed with motorcars. Throughout the novel, the four friends experience a series of adventures, including Toad’s imprisonment and their fight to regain Toad’s house from the villainous weasels and stoats. 

This novel explores several themes, including friendship and loyalty, nature and the countryside, arrogance and social class, and pride. 

This book was first published in 1908 and contains difficult vocabulary and complex literary devices, making it an ambitious read for 11+ students. Extracts from The Wind in the Willows are often used in the 11+ English Comprehension tasks, so becoming familiar with this text is vital. 

At Examberry, we have produced an illustrated reading workbook for The Wind in the Willows. It is the perfect reading guide, complete with comprehension questions, open-style creative writing exercises, and an extensive vocabulary list to aid preparation for entrance exams, such as the 11+.

Our reading guides help simplify the narrative, allowing children to grasp the plot’s subtleties, the nuances of characters, and the significance of themes.

They will enrich your child’s understanding of these classic texts, enhance their reading skills, and boost their confidence in the lead-up to the 11+. 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island
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Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson tells the story of an ambitious young man called Jim Hawkins who finds a treasure map and embarks on an exciting adventure. This discovery plunges Jim into a dangerous world of pirates and treasure hunting. 

Some of the major themes in this text are adventure and heroism, betrayal and deception, morality and greed, and growing up. 

This children’s adventure novel was first published in 1883 and contains difficult vocabulary and complex literary devices, making it an ambitious read for 11+ students. 

Extracts from Treasure Island are often used in the 11+ English comprehension tasks, so becoming familiar with this text is vital. 

At Examberry, we have produced an illustrated reading workbook for Treasure Island. This study guide is the perfect reading accompaniment, as it comes complete with comprehension questions, open-style creative writing exercises, and an extensive vocabulary list to aid preparation for entrance exams, such as the 11+.

Our reading guides help simplify the narrative, allowing children to grasp the plot’s subtleties, the nuances of characters, and the significance of themes. 

They will enrich your child’s understanding of these classic texts, enhance their reading skills, and boost their confidence in the lead-up to the 11+. 

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables
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Anne of Green Gables, first published in 1908, is the story of an 11-year-old orphan named Anne Shirley who is mistakenly sent to live with two siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. Matthew and Marilla had initially intended to adopt a boy to help them work on their farm. 

This novel explores themes like the search for home and belonging, the value of imagination, friendships, personal growth and identity, and religion and morality. 

The book uses advanced vocabulary and period-specific language, making it a more challenging read for 11+ students.

This text has been used multiple times for the 11+ English comprehension exercise. A good grasp of its stylistic features and language will be extremely useful in the lead-up to the 11+ exams. 

This novel has also been adapted multiple times into television series and films, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the book. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

LordOfTheFliesBookCover
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Lord of the Flies is a novel by William Golding, first published in 1954. The book tells the story of a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island after their plane crashed during a wartime evacuation. The novel follows their descent into savagery as they attempt to govern themselves and survive. 

The major themes in this novel are civilisation and savagery, the loss of innocence, fear of the unknown, and nature. 

This novel contains complex themes, extended allegories, and sophisticated language, making it a challenging read for some 11+ students.

However, despite its complexity, it can be beneficial for 11+ preparation as it challenges students to think critically about advanced vocabulary, complex themes, symbolism, allegories, and societal structures.  

This novel has also been adapted twice into a film, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the book. 

Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

Kensukes Kingdom
Image property of Michael Morpurgo, michaelmorpurgo.com

Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo, published in 1999, follows the story of a young boy named Michael. The novel begins when Michael’s parents lose their jobs and decide to buy a boat to travel the world together.

Whilst sailing in the Pacific Ocean, Michael is washed overboard with his dog, Stella Artois. Upon waking up on a deserted island, Michael believes he is the only person there, however, he soon discovers he is not alone. 

Kensuke’s Kingdom is an excellent novel for 11+ preparation because whilst its language is relatively simple, the novel explores complex themes that require a higher level of maturity and comprehension skills.

The book raises important issues, such as war and cultural understanding, providing engaging material for essay writing and discussions. 

Whilst we have specifically chosen Kensuke’s Kingdom for this article, Michael Morpurgo has written many other books that are also great for 11+ preparation, including War Horse, Private Peaceful, The Butterfly Lion, and Shadow. 

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gullivers travels
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Gulliver’s Travels, written by Jonathan Swift and published in 1726, is a satirical novel that follows Lemuel Gulliver’s adventures as he travels to several magical, imaginary lands.

The book is divided into four parts, each describing a different journey: ‘A Voyage to Lilliput‘, ‘A Voyage to Brobdingnag‘, ‘A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan‘, and ‘A Voyage to the Land of the Houyhnhnms‘. 

Some of the major themes in this novel are satire and criticism of societal norms, human nature and morality, and the relativity of size and power. 

This will be a challenging read for 11+ students because of the novel’s historical context, advanced vocabulary, and satirical style. However, familiarity with this text and its major plot points will be highly beneficial for the 11+ exam, as extracts from this novel are often used in the English comprehension exercise. 

It is recommended that your child read this text with a reading guide to understand its complex language and themes fully. 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Tom Sawyer
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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, written by Mark Twain and initially published in 1876, is a coming-of-age story about a boy growing up along the Mississippi River. The mischievous and courageous Tom Sawyer has several adventures in the story, usually accompanied by his friend Huckleberry Finn. 

Some major themes in this novel are childhood and growing up, fantasy and escapism, the hypocrisy of adult society, and morality. 

Whilst still a challenging read for 11+ students, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is written in a relatively straightforward style making it more accessible to readers of various abilities.

However, the novel contains some complex themes, such as satire and social commentary, which could be challenging for some readers.

This novel is excellent for 11+ exam preparation and is often used in 11+ English comprehension. The book’s rich language can help improve reading comprehension and expand a student’s vocabulary. 

Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes Louis Sachar
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Louis Sacher’s novel Holes, published in 1998, is about a boy called Stanley Yelnats, who comes from a family plagued with bad luck. The novel begins with Stanley being falsely accused of stealing shoes and is consequently sent to a juvenile detention centre in the desert. 

The children in the centre have to dig holes all day as a form of punishment under the guise of character-building. However, Stanley soon realises that they are digging for something far more valuable. 

Some of the major themes in this novel are friendship and loyalty, fairness and injustice, destiny and free will, and cruelty. 

The language used in Holes is relatively straightforward, making it an excellent read for 11+ students. The non-linear narrative and multiple overlapping storylines make the novel more challenging, which can help improve your child’s ability to understand complex stories.

This novel has also been adapted into a film, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the books. 

Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit

Five Children and It
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Published in 1902, Five Children and It follows the adventures of five siblings- Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and their baby brother, Lamb.

The children stay with their uncle in the countryside while their parents are away and start exploring the surrounding area. They come across a sandpit near the home and discover a magical creature who has the power to grant wishes that only last till sunset. 

Some major themes in this novel are growing up and learning responsibility, family and unity, and the consequences of wishes.

Whilst some younger readers may find the older language slightly challenging to understand, the book is written in a straightforward and generally accessible way. 

Five Children and It is a good book for 11+ preparation because its fantastical elements can inspire imaginative thinking and creative writing ahead of the 11+ English exam.

Furthermore, the moral and ethical dilemmas posed in the novel serve as insightful topics for discussion and, therefore, can help develop your child’s comprehension skills. 

This novel has also been adapted into two BBC television series, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the book. 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice in wonderland
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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll and published in 1865, follows the story of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a surreal and fantastical world filled with peculiar creatures.

Alice’s adventures and interactions with eccentric characters change her perception of the adult world, leading her to question societal norms and conventions. 

This book explores multiple themes, including growing up and losing childhood innocence, identity, curiosity, and a critique of Victorian society and etiquette.

This book contains absurd elements and sophisticated wordplay, which some 11+ readers may find challenging. However, this advanced vocabulary is beneficial for both the 11+ English and verbal reasoning papers.

This novel is often used in the 11+ English exam as the comprehension exercise, so developing a familiarity with the narrative and language will be extremely helpful for your child.

This novel has also been adapted multiple times into television series and films, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the book. 

His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials
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His Dark Materials is a series of three books written by Philip Pullman: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

The trilogy is a coming-of-age story set across multiple parallel universes. The protagonist is a young girl named Lyra Belacqua, who lives in a universe where every person’s soul is a living animal companion accompanying them everywhere.

In Northern Lights, Lyra embarks on a journey to the Arctic to save her friend Roger, who has been kidnapped and ends up uncovering an evil plot.

In The Subtle Knife, Lyra meets a boy named Will Parry, who becomes the bearer of a powerful, reality-cutting knife. 

In The Amber Spyglass, an epic battle involves all the different worlds in the multiverse, leading Lyra and Will to discover the true meaning of life and death. 

The major themes in this series are free will and authority, coming of age and the loss of innocence, love and sacrifice, and the pursuit of knowledge. 

This series is a challenging read due to its intricate narrative and complex themes, however, it can benefit more advanced readers taking the 11+ exam. 

Its sophisticated language can significantly enhance your child’s vocabulary and examining its complex themes can help improve critical thinking. 

This series has also been adapted into a television series and film, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the books. 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

the hobbit
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The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is a 1937 fantasy novel that introduces readers to the intricate and expansive world of Middle-Earth.

The story follows a home-loving and unambitious hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who joins an exciting adventure with a wizard named Gandalf and thirteen dwarves. Bilbo’s quiet life is disrupted as they embark on a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ home and treasure from the dragon Smaug. 

Some major themes from this text are heroism and adventure, greed and power, race, family and character, and destiny. 

This book is excellent for 11+ readers and is often used in the English paper as a comprehension exercise. 

It was written as a children’s book, so whilst some of the language is complex, it is an accessible and engaging read for children. The novel follows a classic ‘hero’s journey’ structure, which is both engaging for young readers and can help them understand storytelling. 

Tolkien’s detailed narrative and intricate world-building can help improve your child’s imaginative thinking, whilst its complex themes can help enhance their analytical skills. 

This book has also been adapted into a film series, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the book. 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

secret garden
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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic children’s novel, first published in 1911. The story follows Mary Lennox, a spoiled and emotionally neglected British girl living in India. 

After an outbreak of cholera kills her parents and servants, Mary is sent to live in England with her reclusive uncle and sickly cousin in a vast, mysterious mansion. 

She soon discovers a hidden walled garden and invites her cousin to help restore it. They both undergo remarkable transformations in their physical health and attitudes. 

The major themes in this novel are nature and healing, transformation and growth, empathy and companionship, and loneliness. 

This book is excellent for 11+ preparation and has been used as an English comprehension extract before. Burnett’s symbolism, descriptive language, and recurring themes engage young readers, helping them develop critical reading skills. 

This novel has also been adapted multiple times into television series and films, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the book. 

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

narnia
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The Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-book series written by C.S. Lewis, which includes the following books: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle.

The series follows the adventures of various children, beginning with the Pevensie siblings in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, who are magically transported to Narnia, a world filled with talking animals and mythical creatures, where they help fight against evil. 

Some of the major themes in these texts are good vs evil, faith and spirituality, courage and heroism, and redemption. 

The Chronicles of Narnia is an excellent read for 11+ students. The language is relatively straightforward, and the plots are engaging, whilst the underlying themes are challenging and can help with critical engagement. 

The magical world of Narnia is a great inspiration for a child’s imagination, which will be very beneficial for the creative writing tasks in the exam. This series also presents several extended allegories and contains a lot of symbolism, which can be very helpful in developing literary analysis.

This series has also been adapted multiple times into television series and films, which could be a helpful accompaniment to the books. 

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