I can’t remember a time I didn’t love books. My parents and grandparents read to me from the time I was a baby, instilling in me a deep love of reading. So it’s hard for me to imagine someone not loving to read. Books are amazing-they engage your imagination and let you travel anywhere or any time without leaving the comfort of home. I remember long summer days spent reading my favorite books. There were a few that I read over and over. Anne of Green Gables is probably one of my all-time favorites; I’ve read all 8 books in the series at least a dozen times. When I was in school, I would check out The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle at least once a school year and finish it in less than a week.
I am not a parent, so this post isn’t meant to be parental advice. But I did work as a librarian at an elementary school grades K-5 for 5 1/2 years. We had around 300 students. I learned what kind of books my students enjoyed, as well as who liked to read and who didn’t. It was always a challenge helping each child find just the right book. The hardest thing for me was to help a child that didn’t enjoy reading to find books they would love. I learned a few things in the process. If your child falls into the reluctant reader category, hopefully the ideas in this post will help you and your child find books to love!
The opinions in this post are my own and I have not been compensated for them.
How Can I Find Books for My Reluctant Reader?
In my experience, a child will dislike reading when the books are too difficult. While a child should be challenged to keep learning and improving their reading skills, it’s important to find books at their reading level. Otherwise they can become frustrated and give up. On the flip side of this, your child may be an advanced reader who has suddenly become bored with reading. If this is the case, you will need to find more advanced books they can still enjoy.
Find out what kind of stories your child enjoys. This may seem obvious, but a child who likes stories about animals may not enjoy science fiction. I discovered dystopian young adult novels when I was a teenager. It’s still one of my favorite genres. It’s okay to choose silly books, too-sometimes these have the most appeal to children. Captain Underpants, for example, is written like a comic book and contains humor that boys especially will enjoy. Joke books are also appealing to kids who like silly.
Books written in a series are a great way to hook reluctant readers. Gordon Korman has written several action-packed series that are around a 4th grade reading level. Each book in a series is around 120 pages long, so they’re quick reads. The action keeps readers engaged and eager to finish the story. By the time a series is finished, it feels like you’ve read a lot without it being a marathon.
Ideas to Get Your Child Excited About Reading
If you can involve more than just reading in a kid’s reading time, they will get more excited. For example, make a recipe with your child that’s mentioned in the book they’re reading. Look up pictures or information about places and things in the book to really help them visualize the story. Choose a book that’s been made a into a movie and compare the two. Show them episodes of Reading Rainbow.
Create an environment they will love. Make a designated area just for reading, build a blanket fort, or set aside a special “reading chair.” Provide snacks or hot chocolate. Kids love electronics, so ebooks might get them more interested in reading. Let them stay up a half hour past bedtime if they spend they time reading. Breaking the rules will make reading exciting.
Create a book club with their friends. Making reading a social activity will help them look forward to reading time. Often public libraries have story time for children-another great way to make reading social.
Reward them for finishing books. Try a few extra minutes on the iPad or take them to the park. Get them excited to shop for books. Yard sales and second hand stores are great resources for books that are still in great shape but don’t cost a fortune. Public libraries sometimes have sales, too. And bonus-you support the library!
This list is organized by approximate age level. Hopefully you will find ideas in this list that your child will love! You can also find these books on my Amazon list “Books.”
- Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss (although any Dr. Seuss story is pretty much a guaranteed favorite)
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
- The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
- Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
- Love You Forever, Robert Munsch
- If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, Sheila Numeroff (if your child enjoys this one, there are several more in the series)
- Curious George, H.A. and Margret Ray
- Two Bad Ants, Chris van Allsburg
- June 29, 1999, David Wiesner (He is another of my favorite authors. He also illustrates his books himself and his talent is amazing. I absolutely love the book Flotsam, but it’s pictures only, no print.)
- Alexander and Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst
- Dear Mr. Henshaw, Beverly Cleary (another author with a long list of favorites)
- Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli
- Hatchet, Gary Paulsen (the first in a series but can be read as a stand alone)
- Holes, Louis Sachar
- Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder
- On the Run, Gordon Korman (This is a series of 6 books and is followed up by the Kidnapped trilogy. As noted above, all of Korman’s books are engaging.)
- The Magic School Bus series, Joanna Cole (also great to use with the show)
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Jeff Kinney
- The Adventures of Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
Middle School and Up
- The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton (The author wrote this book when she was 16, and in my opinion it’s her best work.)
- Freak the Mighty, Rodman Philbrick
- The Maze Runner series, James Dashner
- The Divergent Series, Veronica Roth
- Delirium series, Lauren Oliver
- The Uglies series, Scott Westerfeld (Did I mention that I love dystopian fiction?)
- The Giver, Lois Lowry
- The Selection series, Kiera Cass
- The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
- The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Christopher Paul Curtis
- The Dear America series, multiple authors. (This series is written as the fictional diaries of young girls who lived during historic events. These books got me excited about history. Even though the diaries are fictional, they present the events in such a way that history becomes interesting. There are also a few offshoot series: My Name is America, My America, and The Royal Diaires.)
What books do your kids enjoy? Let me know in the comments!