It’s hard to believe, but The Lord of the Rings was written back in 1937, with the Hobbit following soon thereafter.
Tolkien intended it to be a book for children, but it turned out to be a lot darker than he expected when he started writing it, as there were so many dark topics to explore in the third age of Middle Earth.
The setting was one that was bright, cheerful, and innocuous; most of the time, however there were some fundamental elements of darkness building in the setting. The Dark Lord of Mordor has launched an attack on Middle Earth and Frodo must travel to Mordor to unmake the ring, but getting there will not be easy. There is peril at every step along the way.
The book is deep, rich and complex. As much as the writing is, supposedly, aimed to be accessible b children the characters are serious and challenging. There is a reality to everything that happens. It is not didactic, or simplistic. Unlike Scott and Dickens, who rely on big rhetoric, Tolkien lets out his small inner voice, and challenges the reader.
Tolkien took pride in crafting a vivid world with names that are appropriate for each character depending on their history and culture, and languages that bring the cultures to life. He took inspiration from Germanic history, modern England, and even the stories of Beowul and Snorri Sturluson. The rich and varied world is something that allows him to carry the story of Frodo across three books, and is a part of the reason that it appealed to not just children but adults as well.
The narrative is straightforward but virile. It is full of action, but the characters all have strong motives for what they do, and there are no apologies for who each character is. Boromir and Gollum play important roles in the trilogy, and their strong characterisation is what makes it shine.
One of the things our tutors always try to incorporate into their programs with students is a strong set of reading materials that are both challenging and fun for the children.
Even for many children who have read some or all of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, or seen the movies, we believe that going through these modern classics can help to develop the child’s interest and reading skill level, when done in a one on one setting.
The first book of the series is by far the most famous. The Sorcerer’s Stone, also known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK, brought the magical world of Hogwarts to children across the globe.
This novel is very appropriate for students in elementary school, especially those in 4th and 5th grades. The reading level is fairly straightforward, and the themes presented are simple enough for most children to grasp at a deep level.
Another great read for primary age students is the second book in the Harry Potter series: The Chamber of Secrets.
This book is slightly more complex than the first novel, but is still very accessible for students at a 4th or 5th grade reading level. The complexities have less to do with the writing, than with the themes that begin to emerge, and which later tie the series together.
For this reason, if a child begins this book but struggles through it, you might consider working with an audiobook recording of the novel in order to facilitate his or her understanding.
While the entire series is great, it isn’t all appropriate for an elementary school reader. As you progress into the middle and later novels, the books, and the writing, become increasingly complex.
I actually think Rowling does a tremendous job of paralleling the writing style of the novel to the age of the characters it represents, as both the language and the theme-complexity depends as Harry and his friends continue to grow older and become more immersed in the adult world, with political consequences to their actions.
The other reason these books are more appropriate for secondary school students is their thematic content, which increasingly deals with death and destruction, rather than fanciful games.
Compare the comic appearance of the troll in the early books to the series’ first death in The Goblet of Fire, and the appearance of the mysterious and disturbing Voldemort for the first time!
Click here for more Harry Potter pdfs for the later novels.