I was a reluctant reader until 7th grade. In fact, I hated reading. I had my reasons, but what matters here is not why I hated reading, but how my life changed once I finally started to come to peace with it. So what shifted? Yup! You guessed it! Harry Potter. I come from the Harry Potter generation that literally grew up with Harry as the books were released. And with each book, my love for reading deepened. It was a struggle at first. My mom literally had to play the book on tape to force my 12-year-old self to listen (it was a start to reading, anyway). I was pretty well hooked after that, but I will also mention that what really made the difference from that point on was that my mom took the time to sit and read with me. That became sacred time to me and created a foundation for both my love of reading and my friendship with my mom. And now… try to catch me without a book. I read for fun every day and have an absolute passion for the transformative powers I know reading can have in a person’s life. Not only does reading open up worlds of adventure and imagination, but numerous studies prove that with increased reading, comes an increase in intellect in all subjects. Want your kids to improve in Math? Or Science? Help them become better readers! Read for fun, but read for comprehension and meaning. Just read and I promise that lives will change! As I now work in a classroom with students and see what books have the most powerful impact on the children, here are 10 suggestions for kids who think they hate reading.
1. Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms
Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms is the first of three by Lissa Evans about Stuart Horten (S.Horten, or, “Shorten”) Stuart is quite small for his age and his brilliant parents have just moved the family to a new home where the already awkward Stuart is now friendless and bored. Stuart comes to find out about the mysterious disappearance of his great uncle, a skilled stage magician, and Stuart winds up going on an adventure to uncover the truth. All three Horten books are great for boys and girls alike who struggle with insecurities, making friends, or who enjoy classic magic tricks. The books are a good mix of fiction and non-fiction. I recommend letting Horton’s magic do its trick for 3rd graders and up.
2. Mercy Watson
2nd graders and up will truly squeal with laughter with Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series! Mercy is a silly pig who gets into all sorts of mischief as she tries to solve problems, save the day, or just get her favorite treat of buttered toast. These are quick reads and are fantastic for helping children build confidence and fluency. After you introduce your kids to Mercy Watson, they’ll be “bacon” for more. (I couldn’t resist!)
3. Clarice Bean
Clarice Bean is the equally spunky, but modern version of Ramona Quimby. Author Lauren Child first brought her endearing writing to life with the TV series Charlie & Lola (also highly recommended!) and has gone on to pen a handful of fabulously fun books since. Clarice is just an average middle- to upper-elementary aged girl who brings humor to all the regular worries and problems of growing up. I especially love Clarice for her spirit and honest innocence.
4. David Walliams Series
David Walliams is a British TV comedian who turned his talents to writing exceptionally witty children’s novels. These books deliver humor, sarcasm, silliness, and, best of all, wonderful lessons for dealing with the hardships of life. Think Roald Dahl meets the 21st Century. By means of a heads up, for as much as I enjoy reading these books with children, there are British specific expressions that require some explanation. They are probably best suited for 4th graders and older.
5. Who Was…
Particularly for children who enjoy non fiction, the Who Is/Was series is great for learning about and from famous historical figures. These mini biographies share the stories of heroes from America’s Founding Fathers to Ancient Egyptians to modern figures such as Walt Disney and George Lucas. With over 120 titles, I’m yet to meet a child who hasn’t found a Who Was title that interested him/her. The books are appropriate for anyone 3rd grade and up.
6. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
The first of three folklores written by author Grace Lin, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon tells the story of Minli, a Chinese girl determined to find the secret to life and happiness. Little did Minli expect to encounter a troop of greedy monkeys, a poisonous green tiger, and a magical dragon along the way. I especially love the themes and messages woven into this story with all the enchanting aspects of Chinese mythology. Readers as young as 7 will enjoy this book with an adult’s help.
7. Greenglass House
A not-too-scary ghost story about a boy named Milo who gets caught up in a mystery about the Greenglass House over his holiday break. Readers become engrossed in piecing together clues to help Milo and his friend Meddy uncover the truth. This book is for upper grade readers who enjoy a good puzzle.
8. The Apothecary Series
During the 1950’s Cold War Era, The Apothecary series is about an American girl whose family is forced to move to England after being accused of spying for the Russians. Once there, teenaged Janie meets the interesting son of the local apothecary and the two soon wind up on an magical adventure involving a book called the Pharmacopoeia.
Upper elementary students will become enthralled with the magic and mystery in these books.
9. Jedi Academy Series
The Jedi Academy series is easily one of the most popular books I’ve had come into the classroom in years. Based on the Star Wars galaxy, Jedi Academy tells the everyday stories of young padawan students enrolled in Jedi school. The books are told in comic strip style and are very easy to read, making even the most hesitant readers feel successful. Author Jeffrey Brown does a great job making science fiction accessible to readers of all levels by bringing in elements of familiarity from our galaxy in a time not so long ago.
10. The Books of Beginning
Easily the most exciting books I’ve read since Harry Potter! Upper elementary students (and you!!) will have a hard time putting these books down. The Books of Beginning are three magical books that, together, grant the owner(s) powerful abilities such as traveling through time. Siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma must show extraordinary bravery to combat evil sorcerers, discover their talents, and conquer death (or not). The trilogy brings a familiarity of Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling while not becoming a tacky copy cat of any of the three. Kids will quickly forget that they “hate” reading once they start into the Books of Beginning.