7 Smart reads for Key Stage 3 students

by Anita Naik

Getting teenagers and Key Stage 3 students to read isn't easy. Yet, daily reading not only expands their vocabulary but also shows them how to improve their writing, grammar and spelling skills. Plus pupils in years 7 to 9 who read classic modern fiction, gain stronger skills in handling complex ideas. If you're struggling to find good choices for this age group here's 7 compelling reads to try.

The Outsiders by SE Hinton

A classic modern-day novel about peer pressure, class conflict, and gangs. It's a great read and one that may appeal to reluctant readers. Set in the 1950s, it looks at issues still prevalent today around stereotyping, growing up and the power of friendship.

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

A strong and intense ready set in an alternate reality in which there are two races: the Crosses (darker-skinned people) who are the superior race and the noughts (lighter-skinned people are at the weaker end of society. The plot revolves around a Romeo and Juliet scenario but is a very thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

This is one of the most influential reads for this age group. It's, in essence, it's a critique of the Russian Revolution it's told through the story of animals. Old Major, a prize-winning boar, tells the animals of a dream he has had in which all animals live together with no human beings to oppress or control them. When he dies, three younger pigs formulate his principles into Animalism. Late one night, they defeat the farmer running him off the land and so Animal Farm begins.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Christopher is a fifteen-year-old boy who is implied to be on the autism spectrum, who lives with his father. When he discovers the dead body of the neighbour's dog, Christopher comes under suspicion. He decides to investigate the dog's death, despite his father's orders to stay out of other people's business. He is severely limited by his difficulties but his struggle to become independent is inspiring.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This story of schoolboys marooned on an island who end up turning to savagery. The central concern of Lord of the Flies is the conflict between two impulses: the instinct to live peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the ability to gratify one's immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others. It's a terrifying but strong read and well worth reading.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

This novel looks at the nature of human existence in hard times. Nearly all of the characters admit, at one time or another, to having a profound sense of loneliness, isolation and fear. The story centres on the friendship of George and Lennie, two very different migrant workers. It's set in the depression of the 1930s and is an emotionally intense read that brings up many themes.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a child's view of race and justice in the Depression-era South sells over a million books a year. It's a story about the importance of moral education and not giving in to hate and oppression even when it surrounds you. It's also a story about growing up, finding out who you are and seeing that justice isn't always served the way you believe it should be.

For more help on GCSE English see our blog posts on How to Become a Better Reader, How to Revise for English Literature and How to Pass GCSE English