Nothing gets the imagination of young readers going more than stories of magic and mystery. Unfamiliar settings and complex world-building allow them to stretch their comprehension abilities in a fun and engaging way.
One of the most obvious benefits of reading fantasy for young people, is that it allows them to experiment with different ways of seeing the world. It takes a hypothetical situation and invites readers to make connections between this fictive scenario and their own social reality.
Fantasy writing, operates through metaphor – so that the unfamiliar is used to stand in for, or comment upon, the familiar. Metaphors are obviously less precise than other forms of language (they are subject to more complex interpretive processes) and this is perhaps a significant advantage of fantasy over realism.
Fantasy’s use of metaphor makes it more “open” to different readings and meanings. This allows fantasy to explore quite complex social issues in ways that are less confrontational than realism because it takes place in a world that is distanced from social reality (and can also be mediated with humour).
The Better Reading Top 50 features some brilliant fantasy series that have become part of the reading canon for children. Here are five that we think are essential reading experiences:
The Harry Potter Series: Exploring Hogwarts and the wider wizarding world with Harry, Ron, and Hermione has now become a right of passage for most young readers these days. J.K. Rowling started her literature juggernaut in 1997 and her fan base grows daily. Whether you’re reading together or alone Harry Potter is an essential reading experience for all.
The Rangers Apprentice Series: John Flanagan has created a wonderful character in young, energetic and agile Will – the titular ranger’s apprentice. Reluctant, yet gifted – Will learns reluctantly to use the weapons and tools of a Ranger a bow and arrow, a mottled cloak and a stubborn little pony. (ages 10+)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy have enchanted readers for over sixty years and considered a classic of children’s literature, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages. Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals, the series narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of that world. Adults will also gain pleasure from revisiting this world with the small people in their life. (ages 9+)
The Deltora Quest Series: Written by legendary Australian children’s author Emily Rodda, Deltora Quest tells the story of three companions — Leif, Barda and Jasmine — who are on a perilous quest to find the seven lost gems of the Belt of Deltora. Full of appealing brainteasers, puzzles, clues and mysteries that the adventurers must solve to fulfil the quest, curious kids will love this series. (ages 8+)
The Percy Jackson Series: Inspired by his son’s struggles with dyslexia, Rick Riordan has created one of the most wise-cracking and relatable child heroes currently being read today. When Percy Jackson finds out that his dad is actually Poseidon, god of the SeaOne he sets off to Camp Half-Blood – a training camp for demigods. Jam-packed with rich, well-drawn, and flawed characters, you’ll quickly learn why this is one of the most successful children’s series ever. (ages 9+)