Tips for Hooking Reluctant Readers

Getting Kids Who Hate Reading to Love It

This wonderful list of books is from author Maria Scheel. You can find her blog by clicking here.  Her full post can be found here.


“I believe that all it takes to create a reader is the right book. Finding that tale is the trick.

So how do you pick books that will hook reluctant readers? Each child is different, with very particular tastes. Nevertheless, here are some key elements that engage child readers, along with some suggested titles:


Whether you hate or love Captain Underpants, you can’t deny that his humor captures readers – especially boys. Kids love to laugh, and if you can put funny books in their hands, they’ll keep gobbling ‘em up. (This is an especially good strategy for getting reluctant boys to read.)

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Time Warp Trio seriesby Jon Scieszka

Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery series by Deborah and James Howe

The Chet Gecko Mysteries by Bruce Hale

Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money by Christopher Paul Curtis


Whatever genre the story falls into, it must have a main character that the reader claims as a friend. And just as important, the tale must be told in concise, vigorous writing. Reluctant readers don’t have the patience to slog through lengthy or convoluted prose.

Amber Brown series by Paula Danziger

Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

The Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Superfudge by Judy Blume


Kids love books that take a compelling “what if” (what if a treehouse was a time machine? what if a boy went to wizard school?) and spin out a story. Alternate worlds, magical happenings, extraterrestrials – all of these can capture the unmotivated reader’s imagination.

Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The Bartimeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

My Teacher Is an Alien by Bruce Coville

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine


With so much competition from movies, TV and videogames, books must move if they want to entice. Slow-paced stories are fine for more experienced readers, but reluctant readers need books that hit the ground running.

Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

The Redwall books by Brian Jacques

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen


This is why we all read, to see what happens next in the story. A book that builds suspense early on and maintains it will keep kids reading.

Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate

Holes by Louis Sachar

Matt Christopher Sports Series by Matt Christopher

Goosebumps by R.L. Stine


Series are training-wheel books. They provide familiar characters in a familiar world that’s easier to lose yourself in with each new title. Chapter book series build literacy skills and create new readers.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald

Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordan

The Magic Schoolbus series by Joanna Cole


Graphic novels, manga, and comic books, with their strong visual content, will hook plenty of reluctant readers – especially boys and ESL readers. These books can serve as a stepping-stone to longer fiction.

Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai

Bone by Jeff Smith

Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragones

Babymouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm


Some reluctant readers don’t want fantasy; they want the real world. If we take the time to give them books with multicultural characters they can identify with, those readers will respond.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis

Who Am I Without Him? Sharon Flake (YA)”


To get a sense for age recommendations, please click on image of book to view at Amazon.  Age recommendations are usually below the book reviews.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Hi! I couldn’t help but be interested in this post! I am a co-founder of StorySnoops.com, a website offering children’s book reviews from a parent’s perspective. The site is designed to guide parents and their readers to fiction that resonates with their specific interests and experiences, while encouraging informed discussions. Our “Find-a-Book” feature has “Suggested Reading” lists for reluctant boy and girl readers in both the tween and teen age groups — a total of almost three hundred books for reluctant readers!

    A couple of us are also parents of reluctant readers, and co-founder Jen wrote about her experiences on the StorySnoops.com blog on July 27, 2010 (http://www.storysnoops.com/blog/?cat=10). She’s written a second entry on the topic that is scheduled to be posted shortly (see below).

    If you have a chance to check out the site, we’d love to hear your feedback. We are always looking for friends who have ideas for reluctant readers 🙂


    Eden Manseau
    Co-Founder, StorySnoops.com

    Reluctant Reader Denial
    Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
    When you really love to read and your kid doesn’t, it’s a bit of a shocker. Could he have been swapped at birth? No. I was there when he first made his appearance and this is the same guy. A more likely explanation – he is who he is.

    I’ve tried everything, and some things I’m not proud of. Shopping sprees at the bookstore, summer reading programs, candy, and even cold hard cash. He reads. He just doesn’t love it.

    Unable to accept this, I searched and searched for THE book. The one that would act like a key and unlock this reluctant reader, hooking him once and for all. And then one day, he found it himself.

    It was an unlikely choice for a fifth grade boy – a Judy Blume book. InTales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, he found a character he could relate to in Peter Hatcher. But more importantly, he finally found the confidence to call himself a reader. And with that confidence came the feeling that there’s no book he can’t tackle. Now there is a stack of previously intimidating books on his night table. It warms my heart. Next up, Al Capone Does My Shirts.

    What book unlocked your reluctant reader?

    -Jen, StorySnoop

    Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Younger Readers, Jen – StorySnoop | 2 Comments »

    Reluctant Reader Redux

    It’s me again. The one with the reluctant reader who thought she had it all figured out. On the road to a lifetime of reading bliss? Not so much. In my house, that road is a bumpy one because having a reluctant reader is an on-going challenge. It’s not like they fall in love with a book and then, presto, they love all books. It’s just not that easy. At least not when it comes to my eleven-year-old son. Maybe it’s because it’s summer. Or maybe it’s because it’s him. But my reluctant reader needs a kick start again.

    Step One — The Incentive Plan (or, How to be a Bad Mommy)

    My son LOVES video games. He loves them even more than he loves money, which says a lot. Typically, he is not allowed to play video games during the week. But desperate times call for desperate measures. The plan is to “earn” gaming time with reading time. One minute with a book equals one minute of gaming. And so it goes. This is NOT one of my finest parenting moments, but it does seem to be working.

    Step Two — The Right Books.

    It seems fairly simple. To keep my son engaged, I have to keep feeding him winners so that he wants to keep reading. But this doesn’t always work in the traditional way. When your mom says, “Here’s a book I think you’d like,” it can be the kiss of death. So I just had to get sneaky.

    A few weeks ago we went on a bit of a road trip to visit an old friend. If you’re a Snoop, that’s an easy way to kill two birds with one stone — yeah for books on CD! I popped in Scorpia and enjoyed the ride while my two kids were wired to their ipods in the back seat. But by the second hour, they had both abandoned their electronics and were listening to the story.

    A week later, my son came home from the library carrying a copy of the very same book. It seems that the few bits he heard had hooked him enough to overlook the book’s length — 388 pages. This is a guy who has been known to make selections based on the number of pages and size of the font! For now, he’s absorbed in the story and reading happily. What more could I ask for?

    Step Three — Repeat

    I should know by now that this particular bit of history repeats itself. When it does, I’ll be ready. I may need to revisit the incentive plan, but I do know where to find just the right book. :–)

    • Thank you! It’s so nice to meet you. I love meeting parents and fellow bloggers who are passionate about getting their kids reading. I have added your fabulous blog to my blog roll!

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