Nine Books to Get Your Kids Off the Sofa

It’s a dark and stormy night… no, actually, it’s just a dark and miserably wet January afternoon. It’s that time of the year when hardly anybody can be bothered to get off the sofa; the new year’s resolution crowd has already disappeared from the gym. The same is true for our children, who are far too addicted to their electronic gadgets anyway and would do well to spend more time outdoors.

So perhaps this a good time to offer them a good book in exchange for those gadgets; and why not make it a book that will encourage them out of doors? By the time they finish reading, spring will be just round the corner.

Nine Books to Get Your Kids Off the Sofa

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

And all its sequels. I wrote several posts about these books before, one of them only very recently, so I’m not going to repeat myself. For your convenience, here is the link to the earlier Swallows and Amazon’s posts:

In the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

The title of this classic story about rowing up the Thames speaks for itself: three men in a boat, not to mention the dog. A week of rowing upriver, camping out, dealing with the weather and each other. When your teen finished laughing, he can go out and take to the oars. Remind him not to forget the tin opener.

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts about my attempt to convince my family to row up the Thames a la Jerome K. Jerome and his friends. You can find out whether I succeeded here:


Two Years Vacation by Jules Verne

A party of school children aged between 8 and 14 and embarked for a school cruise are swept out to sea from Auckland Harbour while the crew is ashore. After being caught up in a storm, they are eventually wrecked on a desert island… This 19th century French adventure classic is a precursor of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies, except here all will turn out well.

Jules Verne of course wrote many books that would get anyone of the sofa – one of these days, I’ll dedicate a post all to him.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A sickly and not very likeable little girl is orphaned and sent to live at her widowed uncle’s house. Mostly left to her own devices, she discovers a hidden garden, makes friends with a local boy and meets her invalid cousin. And the more time she spends outdoors in the secret garden, the more her health and her temper improve… Perhaps a bit moralistic, but it is a beautifully written, uplifting story in which the power of nature transforms the lives of two miserable children.

Have you got a garden? Get that child out there this spring to plant something. If you haven’t, let your child take charge of a new flower pot.

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

A well-to-do city family’s life suddenly turns upside down: Father is obliged to go away in mysterious circumstances and the rest of the family moves to a small cottage in the countryside. While Mother is busy making ends meet, the children discover the railway and the canal… Their outdoor and village adventures come to a happy end when the mystery of father’s disappearance is cleared up.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The weird and wonderful adventures of Alice, who follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole… this is one of those books of which you don’t really write a brief summary. (Or a long one – even less.) You just read it. 🙂

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Nobody was less outdoorsy, not to say less adventurous!, than the respectable Mr Bilbo Baggins, who lived in a nice, comfortable hole in the ground. Unfortunately, one day the wizard Gandalf turns up, followed by a company of dwarves who are about to set off to steal a dragon’s gold. They desperately need a thief and to his own greatest surprise, off goes Mr Baggins, in capacity of the thief, forgetting even his handkerchief…

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Mr Baggins’s nice comfortable hole reminded me of the lovable Mole who was spring cleaning his own comfortable hole on one sunny day, but got cheesed off and went outside instead. Which child will not relate to his feelings? I’m not a child any more, but give me a nice sunny riverbank any day of the year in preference to cleaning the house. Mole found his way to the river where he met Ratty and the rest, as they say, is history…

A charming story beautifully evoking the English countryside.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Perhaps everybody has read this one already and I’m wasting my breath. But just in case somebody hasn’t… As far as adventures go, this is the original, unbeatable, mother-of-all pirate books. It’s never too late to (re-)read it! 🙂

And the Rest

There are of course other books – many – that would inspire a child/teen to get off the sofa but all good things have to come to an end and this post does too. Maybe I’ll write a sequel at another time. 🙂

In the meantime, I’m happy to recommend or discuss with any of you any other  books that could have been included here – leave a comment below.

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