Choosing Books For Reluctant Readers
Your child knows how to read but prefers to do anything rather than pick up a book. How do you entice them to start reading?
Often it can be as simple as finding that one perfect book.
A cover grabs their attention and they pick the book up to look at the picture more closely. They start to flick through the pages and look at the illustrations, building their idea of what the book is about. It looks like it might be interesting. There don't seem to be too many words, and the words don't look too long. Maybe they'll just read the first page or two to find out more about what happens. They start reading. The character reminds them of someone they know. The plot sucks them in. They're hooked!!
But how do you find suitable books for reluctant readers? Start by asking yourself the following three questions and soon you will find just the right book to persuade your child to start turning those pages.
What does the book look like?
People say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but, the fact is, children often do. An appealing cover will attract your child's attention and hint at the adventures or humour contained within the pages, hopefully to such an extent that your child thinks it is worth reading.
Visual appeal underneath the cover is also important when choosing books for reluctant readers. Eye-catching illustrations help your child to understand what they are reading and also break up the text. Large type and generous line spacing is easier on the eye and, along with illustrations, helps to pad out the text so that the book appears longer but can still be read relatively quickly. Comics and graphic novels take this visual appeal to the extreme and are consequently very popular books for reluctant readers.
The best books for reluctant readers have simple sentences with straightforward vocabulary. Short paragraphs look less daunting than long passages of text. Concise chapters should ideally contain one clear event leading sequentially to the next event in the following chapter.
What is the story about?
Choose books for reluctant readers with a fast-paced, compelling plot where the story captivates from page one and keeps your child turning the pages from beginning to end. The problem which the main character is trying to solve should become apparent early in the story. Non-fiction books should pose interesting questions or reveal astonishing information.
Children identify strongly with the characters they read about in books so choose books for reluctant readers with well-defined and realistic characters with strengths and weaknesses to make them believable so that your child cares enough about them to want to follow their adventures in the book. They should be the same age as your child or older.
Pick genres and subjects that appeal to your reluctant reader. If your child can get excited about the subject, they might start to become excited about reading about it. Try both fiction and non-fiction books to see if your child has a preference for one or the other.
In what style is the book written?
Good books for reluctant readers are written in a lively writing style with readable and convincing text. Books containing humour are very popular with children and can be just what your reluctant reader needs to induce them to start reading. If your child is laughing along with a book, they are enjoying reading and so they are likely to want to read more.
The type of humour children enjoy changes as they get older. Younger children enjoy laughing at silly or illogical situations. Older children appreciate scenes with a setup and then a humourous outcome.
Humour also works well in non-fiction, together with fascinating facts, anecdotes and first-person accounts.
Great Books for Reluctant Readers
Below are some examples of popular fiction books for reluctant readers, grouped into adventure books, funny books, comic books (graphic novels) and books for girls. Amongst these you are sure to find something to captivate your child.
A good adventure book tends to be fast moving and action-packed so that your child just can't bear to put it down. Here are some popular adventure books to persuade your reluctant reader to keep on reading.
by Adam Blade is a popular series of books for reluctant readers. An evil wizard has enchanted the magical beasts of Avantia so they have started to destroy the land they used to protect. It is Tom's quest to free the beasts from the enchantment and save Avantia. The first book of the series is "Ferno the Fire Dragon".
by Rex Stone is a series in which two boys discover a forgotten cave on a beach with fossilised dinosaur footprints which takes them back into the world of dinosaurs. In the first book of the series, "Attack of the Lizard King", they meet the almighty Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Dinosaurs before Dark
by Mary Pope Osborne is the first book in the Magic Tree House series of books, a popular time-travel series in which Jack and his sister Annie discover a treehouse which magically transports them to different time periods which they see depicted in books. As well as absorbing story lines, each book also introduces interesting facts about particular places, events or phenomenon.
by Humphrey Carpenter is about a Class 3 (2nd Grade) teacher who is also a magician, arriving to school on a magic carpet and turning naughty students into frogs.
by Steve Cole is a series which combines two topics many children, and particularly boys, love - dinosaurs and space. Captain Teggs Stegosaur and his crew of the amazing spaceship DSS Sauropod fight evil across the galaxy in a series of funny, fast-moving stories. The first book in the series is "Riddle of the Raptors".
The Worst Witch
series by Jill Murphy describes life at a magical boarding school, Miss Cackle's Academy of Witches, and in particular the antics of Mildred Hubble, the worst student at the school who keeps making a mess of her spells. The first book was published in 1974 and the series has become a classic.
Star Wars: Beware the Dark Side
by Simon Beecroft is a DK Reader Level 4 book which is ideal for getting Star Wars loving reluctant readers interested in reading. A factual account of the dark side and the Sith who wield power over it. Also available as level 4 readers in this series are books on Transformers, Spider Man and Iron Man.
Humour can be the perfect ingredient in books for reluctant readers. If your child is laughing along with a book they will associate reading with having fun and will want to do it more.
The Adventures of Captain Underpants
by Dav Pilkey is the first in a series of funny, action-packed Captain Underpants books with cartoon-like drawings on every page. Two mischievous fourth grade boys (9 to 10 years old) hypnotise their school principal and turn him into their comic book creation, Captain Underpants.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
by Jeff Kinney is the first in another very popular series about Greg, a middle school boy (around 12 years old), whose mother forces him to keep a diary in which he recounts each day's events, supported on each page by funny cartoons.
You're a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!
by Andy Stanton is the first in a series of books about Mr Gum, a truly nasty old man, and Polly, a 9-year-old girl who puts a stop to Mr Gum's evil plots.
by Francesca Simon is the first in a series of books about Henry, who is around 10 years old and who really isn't very nice. Each book contains four stories about the various trouble he gets into, with amusing illustrations by Tony Russ.
The Giggler Treatment
by Roddy Doyle is about the Gigglers - little creatures whole play pranks on adults who are mean to kids - and some dog poo.
My Dad's Got an Alligator!
by Jeremy Strong is the first of a series of books about Nicholas and his family. In this book his eccentric father surpasses himself when he brings home an alligator to be the family pet. Jeremy Strong has written other great series of books for reluctant readers such as "The Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Dog" and "Cartoon Kid".
Lots of images, not too many words and plenty of action - it is no wonder that comic books, or graphic novels, are such popular books for reluctant readers. Here are some of the best.
by the Belgian cartoonist, Hergé, about the adventures of a young Belgian reporter-turned-detective, Tintin, and his faithful dog Snowy, is one of the most popular European cartoon series ever written. Over 20 comic albums were published between 1929 and 1976 taking Tintin all over the world in pursuit of villains and treasure.
is another timeless series of comics written by René Goscinny which follow the exploits of a village of indomitable Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. The hero of the village, Asterix, aided by his friend with superhuman strength, Obelix, have various adventures around their village and in foreign countries.
Stormbreaker: The Graphic Novel
by Anthony Horowitz is a graphic adaption of Horowitz's very popular novel of the same name, about fourteen-year-old Alex Rider's first mission after being forcibly recruited into MI6. There are three other Alex Rider graphic novels also available.
The Shark King
by R. Kikuo Johnson is one of a series of Toon Books, which are levelled comics designed for early readers and reluctant readers. This story is loosely based upon a Hawaiian myth of a boy named Nanaue whose insatiable appetite for fish gets him into trouble with the local fishermen.
Amulet: The StoneKeeper
by Kazu Kibuishi is the first of a series of comic books about a sister and brother who move to a strange new house where they discover an underground world of demons, robots and talking animals on the other side of the basement door.
by Hidenori Kusaka is a series of comic books which are sure to hook your Pokémon-mad reluctant reader (it worked for mine!). The first book of the first series sees a young trainer named Red attempt to become the best trainer in the world. These books have the added novelty of being read back-to-front (as the Japanese intended).
Books for Girls
Many of the books already mentioned are targeted more towards boys than girls. However, there are also some great offerings for reluctant girl readers. Here are a few ideas.
My Secret Unicorn
series of books by Linda Chapman is about a nine-year-old girl, Lauren, who recites a secret spell to her pony, Twilight, at night which transforms it into a beautiful unicorn with magical powers. Together Lauren and Twilight learn how to use their magic to help their friends. The first book in the series is called "The Magic Spell".
series by Darcey Bussell is about Enchantia, a far-away world of magic, music and dancing. The first series of six books is about Delphie, who finds out that her new pair of red ballet shoes are more than they seem when they whisk her off to Enchantia on exciting ballet adventures. The first book in the series is "The Magic Ballet Shoes".
books are ghostwritten by a number of authors under the pseudonym of Daisy Meadows. Over 100 books have been published, with each book focused on a particularly fairy. Books are grouped in series, with seven books in each series focused on a central theme. "The Rainbow Fairies" was the first series to be published, with "Ruby the Red Fairy" being the first book in this series.
Beezus and Ramona
by Beverly Clearly is the first in the series of Ramona books in which Beezus tries very hard to put up with her four-year-old sister, Ramona's, annoying habits.
Junie B. Jones
features in a series of funny books by Barbara Park about the adventures of a kindergartener. The first book of the series is "Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus" in which Junie is so scared of the school bus that, at the end of her first day in kindergarten, she decides not to go home.
The Story of Tracy Beaker
by Jacqueline Wilson is one of many wonderful books by this author. Tracy Beaker is a feisty ten year old girl who lives in a children's home but longs to find a 'real' home.
Other Book Lists
The following books contain further excellent suggestions of books which would be perfect for reluctant readers.
Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read
by Laura Backes contains descriptions of 125 fiction and non-fiction books grouped by complexity and targeted towards 7 to 14 year olds which are sure to ignite a love of reading in your child.
Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys
recognises the fact that many reluctant readers are boys and offers some practical tips for engaging resistant readers as well as providing an excellent list of books suitable for boys grouped by genre and reading level.
For even more ideas of great books for reluctant readers, I can also recommend looking at the following lists:
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