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Why it’s important to read classic books for 11 Plus (11+) preparation 

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preparing for the 11+ exams can be a daunting experience for both students and parents. With top grammar and independent schools becoming increasingly selective, it is essential that your child is well-equipped to tackle the challenges that face them.

One of the most important and effective ways for your child to prepare for their upcoming 11+ English exam is to focus on reading. Reading books across various genres help your child to build their vocabulary, which is very important for the verbal-reasoning paper and especially useful in preparing for the comprehension section in the English paper.

Classic texts are often used as extracts in 11+ English papers, which can be daunting and anxiety-inducing if your child is not familiar with the style or structure of these classic texts. Not only do these books offer timeless wisdom and stories, but they also help to build essential skills that will help your child throughout their educational journey.

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Key reasons your child should read classic books to prepare for the 11 Plus (11+)

1. Enhancing their vocabulary

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One of the most important benefits of reading classic literature is how it can improve your child’s vocabulary. These books often contain complex language, including unfamiliar words, phrases and expressions not usually found in contemporary literature.

Children can develop a stronger command of the English language by engaging with unfamiliar vocabulary early in their 11+ journey.

Recognising and understanding these phrases can ensure your child is not faced with nasty surprises or anxiety-inducing confusion in the exam.

Enhancing your child’s vocabulary can significantly help in the lead-up to the verbal reasoning and English papers in the 11+. The verbal reasoning paper assesses your child’s language-based problem-solving skills by testing their vocabulary, arithmetic, pattern recognition skills and spelling, so having a developed and broad vocabulary can significantly help in this paper.

2. Better comprehension skills

Classic novels often contain more elaborate plots, complex character choices and confusing developments that can be difficult for children to comprehend. Children can vastly improve their comprehension skills by engaging with these challenging texts, allowing them to understand and better analyse these complex extracts.

Classic texts are often used as the extract in the reading and comprehension section of the English paper.

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Reading classic novels can help your child identify and understand various language devices, techniques, themes and complex words, which they will be tested on in their exam.

Suppose your child is already familiar with the story from the extract or has knowledge of novels written in a similar time period that uses the same language and devices. In that case, they will find this section of the paper far more manageable and will be able to answer the questions much better.

3. Improved critical thinking

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Encouraging your child to read more classic literature will develop their critical thinking skills and allow them to grasp different styles, tones and purposes of texts, helping them prepare for the English paper’s comprehension section.

Classic novels often present thought-provoking themes, moral dilemmas and philosophical questions. 

Encouraging your child to engage with these texts can help them foster their opinions, improving their writing and articulation skills.

In the 11+ exam, students are required to think analytically and critically about various topics, and developing the ability to do so will give them a significant advantage.

4. Better writing skills

Classic literature is often recognised for its beautiful and sophisticated language, which can influence students’ writing, allowing them to emulate styles, techniques and word choices.

In some 11+ English papers, students are given a comprehension task, usually, an extract from a classic novel, followed by a writing task which asks students to write a continuation of the story they have just read.

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The task examines children’s ability to be creative and how well they have initiated the tone and style of the passage.

Therefore, your child must be familiar with the style of classic novels before this exam to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of these texts.

Encouraging your child to read more classic fiction

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Getting your child to read and engage with classic fiction can be an uphill battle. These unfamiliar texts are often challenging for children who have only read contemporary literature. Jumping straight in and expecting your child to understand these novels immediately will likely make them feel overworked and stressed. 

There are a number of things you can try to get your child to read classic novels:

  • You could read these books with them. Set aside some time to read with your child, have discussions with them about the characters and share your enthusiasm for the stories and messages.
  • Make reading fun and engaging by adopting different voices for characters, getting your child to create art or crafts based on the story, or watching film adaptations after or whilst reading the book.
  • Select books together based on what your child is interested in. Start with novels that have engaging plots, interesting characters or themes that they can resonate with.
  • Consistently praise and reward your child for their efforts by setting up a rewards system.
  • Introduce them to a wide range of resources they can use in their studies. 

Examberry Papers

Whilst reading with your child is a great way to spark their interest, there are also a number of resources they can use to help them understand the story, keep them entertained and challenged, and prepare them for the 11+. 

At Examberry, we have a collection of illustrated reading workbooks in our Children’s Classics range. We have workbooks of the beloved classics A Christmas CarolThe Wind in the Willows and Treasure Island, with activities at the end of each chapter, including comprehension questions, open-style creative writing exercises and fun tasks. 

Our beautifully illustrated workbooks will help your child become familiar with and confident reading classic fiction. You can ensure their skills are developing with a detailed answer guide at the back of the workbook. 

Further Recommendations for the 11+

One of the most effective way to prepare for an 11+ entrance exam is to use practice tests written by experts.

We offer a range of  11+ revision resources including area & school-specific papers, subject-specific papers, spelling & vocabulary resources, and reading books.

Each of our practice tests:

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