The Literary Trust released some rather alarming news recently, announcing that, in 2023, they had recorded the lowest level of children reading for enjoyment since they started asking in 2005. The Annual Literacy Survey was based on 71,351 responses from children aged 5 to 18, and, to be specific, found only 43% of children enjoying reading in their free time. Perhaps most notably, girls and those aged 8 to 11, traditionally avid readers, showed a decline in enjoyment. Reading frequency has also decreased, with only 28% reading daily, reflecting a 26% drop since 2005. The report underscores the need for collective efforts to reignite a passion for reading among children and young people.
Not one to shy away from a cause such as this, today we start a new series of book recommendations aimed at young people, with the idea of spotlighting books that will spark that love of reading, with recommendations for both confident readers, and those who may need a bit more support. After all, everyone deserves the chance to experience a great story. First up, a double bill of spy thrillers full of action, tension and excitement!
Before he was 007. Before he worked for MI6 and before he even had his licence to drive, James Bond was already doing what he does best. SilverFin by Charlie Higson is the first book in the Young Bond series, offering a captivating origin story for the iconic James Bond character. Set in the 1930s, the novel follows a teenage James Bond as he embarks on his first adventure at Eton College. Bond begins unravelling a sinister plot involving a reclusive millionaire, Lord Randolph Hellebore. As he delves deeper into the mystery, Bond encounters dangerous adversaries, including sociopathic schoolmate George Hellebore and his enigmatic guardian, Wilder Lawless. Bond’s intelligence, resourcefulness and courage are put to the test as he faces treacherous waters, deceptive alliances, and a looming threat that could have catastrophic consequences.
Higson skillfully weaves action, suspense, and the classic elements of a spy thriller into this coming-of-age tale, providing readers with a riveting glimpse into the early life of one of literature’s most iconic characters. His writing style is characterised by its fast-paced action, intricate plot twists, and meticulous attention to historical details. The language and pacing of the novels are crafted to keep readers hooked. Action sequences are frequent and the plot unfolds rapidly, preventing the narrative from becoming stagnant. Moreover, Higson introduces elements of humour and wit, injecting a lightness into the narrative that appeals to a younger sensibility. The balance of adventure, suspense, and humour creates an engaging reading experience that doesn’t feel overly serious or daunting. In essence, Higson’s consideration of language, relatability and pacing collectively contributes to making SilverFin more digestible and enjoyable for a younger audience.
Another read for those who may find it more challenging is the shorter and more accessible story of Alex Rider, which is by no means any less exciting. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz follows its teenage protagonist as he is thrust into the world of espionage. After his uncle’s mysterious death, Alex discovers his guardian was an MI6 agent, and he is recruited to complete his uncle’s mission. Sent undercover to investigate the sinister Stormbreaker computer project, Rider unveils a plot to unleash a deadly device upon the world. Packed with adrenaline-pumping action, gadgets and intrigue, Stormbreaker sets the stage for a thrilling young spy series.
Horowitz’s language used is generally not overly complex, making it easier for readers with varying reading abilities to understand and follow the narrative. The books often have short chapters, which can be less intimidating for those who may find longer ones challenging. This format allows for a sense of accomplishment as readers progress through the story. The series’ popularity, coupled with its adaptations into movies and graphic novels, may also attract readers who are familiar with or interested in the franchise from other media.
These are two brilliant options for those looking to get into reading with a couple of action-packed thrillers that feel like they’ve been pulled straight from the big screen and are guaranteed to start a love of reading. Both titles are part of their own long series too. One extra thing of note: regardless of your reading strength, both are also available in audio format from wherever you get your audiobooks as well! Whichever spy you choose, you will not be left disappointed.