I am frequently asked for book recommendations. I think it’s part of the job description, even though I’m not working as a librarian any longer. People know that I know about books, and come to me for advice. I love connecting people with a book that will be a good fit, and I especially love connecting a child with a book that will be a good fit.
Not surprisingly, I am often asked for recommendations for kids who don’t like to read. These guys can be tough customers. Too often their parents throw up their hands and say, “She just doesn’t like to read.” Or “He’s a boy, boys don’t like to read.” If you give up easily and say things like that, then you’re right, your child will probably not like to read. But what if you don’t? What if you try to encourage him with a book he might really think is awesome? What if she finds a book she really, truly enjoys and it is the beginning of a new love of reading?
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What should they read?
Books that are highly engaging and either exciting or funny are often the way to go. We call these books “high-interest” books. Also, reading graphic novels or books that are on a slightly lower reading level will often make reading seem easier, and therefore, more fun.
Jim Trelease, author of the book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, has explained how it only takes one “home-run book” to make a reader. One book! One amazing book that connects with one child can create a reader! I have seen it happen. Don’t give up. Work to connect your child with that one home-run book!
Here are some suggestions for some types of books that will sometimes work with kids that say they don’t like to read (with general grade level suggestions):
Have you ever read a book that was laugh-out-loud funny? I love giggling when I read a book, whether children’s or adult, and just don’t want to put it down. Here are some books that will tickle your child’s funny bone:
I’m a Frog! and others by Mo Willems
Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parrish
Mercy Watson to the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo
Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor, by Jon Scieszka
Knights of the Kitchen Table, by Jon Scieszka
Ivy and Bean, by Annie Barrows
Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar
Ungifted, by Gordon Korman
Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life by James Patterson
The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm
Some say graphic novels don’t “count” as reading. I say, if I child is having a positive experience with a book, let that happen! They can always move on to traditional style books later. Here are some graphic novels that are worth reading:
Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot, by Dav Pilkey
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
Squish: Super Amoeba, by Jennifer L. Holm
Dogman, by Dav Pilkey
Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson
The Bad Guys, by Aaron Blabey
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney
Big Nate In a Class By Himself, by Lincoln Peirce
Smile, by Raina Telgemeier
Warning: Cliff-hangers ahead! These books will keep your child turning the page and wanting to find out what happens next:
Treasure Hunters, by James Patterson
The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones, by Rick Riordan
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein
Belly-Up, by Stuart Gibbs
Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Shipwreck (Island: Book One), by Gordon Korman
Some very active kids who are completely into sports have a hard time settling down to read a book. A book about sports, specifically “their” sport might be something to try:
Dino-Baseball, by Lisa Wheeler
Ballpark Mysteries: The Fenway Foul-Up, by David A. Kelly
Comeback Kids: Long Shot, by Mike Lupica
Soccer Show-Off, by Jake Maddox
Force Out, by Tim Green
The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen
Specific Interest Books
Another type of book that might help a child to begin to like reading is a book written about a specific interest he or she has. I’ve seen boys who were fascinated with WWII, or ghosts, or monster trucks devour book after book on the topic. Girls who are really excited about a certain sport, or a specific movie or TV show may love reading books about those topics.
Boys Who Don’t Like to Read
Stereotypically, boys don’t enjoy reading as much as girls. Of course, this is not always the case, but if you have a boy who doesn’t like to read, here are some ideas specifically for you:
In Reading Magic, Mem Fox talks about the issue of boys not enjoying reading. She says,
“The secret to boys and reading is to get ‘em young!” (p. 174)
Fox also suggests reading aloud to boys at bedtime when they are tired and aren’t as active as maybe they are at other times during the day. Reading aloud in an engaging way makes reading more fun for everyone. She encourages modeling reading for pleasure, especially if it is another guy (like dad) showing that he enjoys reading to himself. That positive modeling will make a huge impact on a boys’ perception of reading.
Jon Scieszka and several other authors have joined together in recent years to encourage boys to read. Scieszka created an organization called “Guys Read” that aims to support boys in becoming lifelong readers. Check out the website at www.guysread.com for more information. He, along with several other authors, has even published a series of books with short stories that are entitled “Guys Read.”
If you have a child in your life who says he doesn’t like to read, please don’t give up on him. Encourage him! Find some funny, exciting, or otherwise engaging books, read them together if you can, and make some positive reading memories!
Fox, Mem. Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2008. Print.
Trelease, Jim. The Read-Aloud Handbook. New York: Penguin. 2013. Print.