Reading Challenge: 7th Grade Boy Who Hates Reading But Loves Skateboarding

Middle School Reading for Boys

I finally got to see my mom friend Lori in Hawaii. Our husbands played golf together for University of Hawaii and we worked together for about a year when I convinced her to relocate to Boston nearly 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it was a harsh winter that year and she moved back to Hawaii before the year was up. I can’t say I blame her after spending two weeks in Hawaii. The culture change takes some getting used to; New Englanders are the polar opposite of Aloha-spirited Hawaiians!

Her son is nearly the same age as my oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, and we credit him with teaching her to walk. Oh, how quickly kids grow up. The last time we saw Charlie he was “Charles” and a toddler. Now he’s taller than I am with an easy and gregarious personality. But he hates to read. He freely admits it and it makes his mom shake her head.

Like most reluctant boy readers, the last series of books he actually enjoyed was The Dairy of a Wimpy Kid. He read them all but did not make the transition to other books. So let’s start there …

Dairy of a Wimpy Kid Clones

Middle School The Worst Years of My Life series by James Patterson is the closest to Dairy of a Wimpy Kid for a 7th grader.

It’s Rafe Khatchadorian’s first day at Hills Village Middle School, and it’s shaping up to be the worst year ever. He has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix, but luckily he’s got an ace plan for the best year ever–if only he can pull it off. With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school’s oppressive Code of Conduct. Chewing gum in class–5,000 points! Running in the hallway–10,000 points! Pulling the fire alarm–50,000 points!

But not everyone thinks Rafe’s plan is a good idea, especially not the teachers, parents, and bullies who keep getting in his way. Will Rafe decide that winning is the only thing that matters? Are things about to go from magic to tragic?

Though this book looks like it would be fairly fluffy, it actually houses a serious story amid all the cartoon graphics about a boy coping with a less than optimal stepfather and as well as the loss of a twin brother. I really liked it and I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised since we are HUGE James Patterson fans. A serious story version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.[chapter book, ages 10-15]

First 20 chapters FREE!

A few more books from Spawn of Diary of Wimpy Kid book list:

The Loser List by H. N. Kowitt 

When Danny gets caught trying to cross his name off the “Geek” list in the girls’ bathroom, he’s sent to detention. Bullies torment him mercilessly — until they discover that Danny can draw. He enjoys his new “bad boy” status, supplying tattoos and graffiti, until he’s unknowingly drawn into a theft. Turns out the bullies took a comic book from Danny’s favorite store. Can he steal it back before they get caught — and break off with the bullies before he gets in too deep?

Stan and the Toilet Monster by Steve Shreve

It came from the sewers. . . . It’s just another day on Calamity Avenue. Stan Hankie and his friends are playing baseball, when the ball—their last one—falls into the sewer drain. Everyone knows that there’s a monster in the sewers. Stan and his best friend, Larry, go down in search of the ball, anyway. But instead of a baseball, they find something else. Then strange things start happening around town. Is a creature from the sewers coming after them? Can Stan and Larry figure out what’s going on before the whole town is destroyed?

Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate is a clever hybrid of graphic novel — cartoon strip style — with a traditional chapter book story. [graphic novel/chapter book, ages 8-12]



Skateboarding Books for Boys

Because he is passionate about skateboarding, I thought we’d go deep and wide. He said that he’d read biographies of skateboarders he admired so I’m thinking biographies and non-fiction.

Tony Hawk, Professional Skateboarder by Sean Mortimer and Tony Hawk

In this young adult autobiography, Tony Hawk shares the stories from his life that have helped him become a skateboarding hero.

Hawk speaks of being a super-competitive ‘demon’ child who found peace while on a skateboard. Classmates teased him because of his interest in an ‘uncool’ sport. Instead of retaliating with violence, he practiced even more. With his story, he will inspire a younger generation of fans to stand up for what they believe in and follow their dreams.

The Impossible: Rodney Mullen, Ryan Sheckler, and the Fantastic History of Skateboarding by Cole Louison

The Impossible aims to get skateboarding right. Journalist Cole Louison gets inside the history, culture, and major personalities of skating.

The Trouble with Skateboarding by Chris Ashley

Counterfeit skateboards, chasing smugglers and exciting skateboarding competitions. Find out how five young people learn valuable life lessons while saving the skate park of their dreams. Continuous action leading to the toughest challenge ever.

I’m throwing in a skateboarding action adventure novel!

Mastering Skateboarding by Per Welinder

Ever watched pro skaters and wished you knew how they were able to pull off the tricks that you see? If so, then Mastering Skateboarding is the resource for you!

Two-time world champion skateboarder Per Welinder teams up with longtime skateboard advocate Peter Whitley to bring you the techniques and tricks used by the pros. But the information doesn’t stop there. Welinder and Whitley also provide in-depth coverage of skateboarding equipment, including how to select the components that work best for you and how to build and tune a board that fits your individual riding style. Packed with 88 tricks, this full-color guide is the only resource you’ll need to pull off all the moves you’ve dreamed of doing.

Whether you ride street or vert, competitive or recreational, Mastering Skateboarding has you covered. Add this one-of-a-kind resource to your collection and you’ll soon be ready to put your new skills on display!

I suspect my young friend is beyond skateboarding basics. If he can learn new tricks from books, he may find them of more value and interest. Plus, I think Per is a draw.

The Skateboard: The Good, the Rad, and the Gnarly: An Illustrated History by Ben Marcus

The story of the simple skateboard is part thriller, part underground, underdog success tale. It’s chock-full of innovations, far-out graphic artistry, and ever-more-incredible hot-dogging feats. And the story’s told in this book with contributions from the stars themselves—Tony Hawk, Stacey Peralta, Jeff Ho, the Dogtown Z-Boys, and more. Beautifully illustrated with historical posters, ads, and memorabilia along with new action photography, studio skateboard shots, and unique portraits of the stars, this is a fitting tribute to an American classic.

Cool Skateboarding Facts (Pebble Plus: Cool Sports Facts) by Sandra Donovan

Tony Hawk has created more than 100 tricks. Want to know other cool skateboarding facts? Check out this book. It will have you flipping for more!

The Answer Is Never: A Skateboarder’s History of the World by Jocko Weyland

From the hard-ridden half-pipe of a suburban driveway to teens doing boardslides down stairway handrails in Rio de Janeiro, from the bright-light glare of ESPN’s X-Games to the groundbreaking street-skating videos of Spike Jonze, skateboarding has taken the world by storm — and if you can’t deal with that, get out of the way. In The Answer Is Never, skating journalist Jocko Weyland tells the rambunctious story of a rebellious sport that began as a wintertime surfing substitute on the streets of Southern California beach towns more than forty years ago and has evolved over the decades to become a fixture of urban youth culture around the world. Merging the historical development of the sport with passages about his own skating adventures in such wide-ranging places as Hawaii, Germany, and Cameroon, Weyland gives a fully realized portrait of a subculture whose love of free-flowing creativity and a distinctive antiauthoritarian worldview has inspired major trends in fashion, music, art, and film. Along the way, Weyland interweaves the stories of skating pioneers like Gregg Weaver and the Dogtown Z-Boys and living legends like Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk. He also charts the course of innovations in deck, truck, and wheel design to show how the changing boards changed the sport itself, enabling new tricks as skaters moved from the freestyle techniques that dominated the early days to the extreme street-skating style of today. Vivid and vibrant, The Answer Is Never is a fascinating book as radical and unique as the sport it chronicles.

I like that he’s reading a pretty interesting narrative that has a little Hawaiian history thrown in.

Street Kings by Brad V. Cowan

I found this book through Ms. YingLing Reads. She’s a middle school librarian with a special interest in finding books for reluctant boy readers. She says, “This was a great skateboarding book with lots of descriptions of skateboarding tricks and action, as well as a pleasant plot that did not involve building a skate park.”

I’ll keep you posted on how I did with this list. His mom will let me know if these are his Drop Everything and Read Books. I hope so!

To view any book more closely at Amazon, click on image or go here to Barnes and Noble.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Maria

    A shot in the dark, especially without knowing the child or his reading level, but has he read Dan Gutman? One of my favorite authors for hooking boys. He appears often in the GUYS READ series. He writes the My Weird School series, as well as a ton of sports-themed stuff. Also, Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka is good. Good luck to all!
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    • Hi Maria
      Dan Gutman is a good choice, but no, I asked him. He doesn’t really like any sports books, even Dan Gutman. I’ll check back to see if the skateboarding books interest him. He told me that he’d like to check those out, especially the biographies and I suspect the non-fiction too. I’m hoping that this will hook him into a skateboarding novel or two! I’ll ask his mom in a few weeks.

  2. vanita

    Big Nate books are awesome. absolutely love them! great list girl!
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    • Thanks Vanita!
      I’m really benefiting from your SEO course though today I am two days behind on it. Long weekend with kids home so nothing got done. Today, I am noticing a small surge in traffic from Google searches. Whatever you had me do definitely works! And glad you like the list. I hope it gets my young friend reading!

  3. I’ve written a YA novel about a 15 year old boy whose skateboard mad. He’s dealing with some serious issues happening in his family but he gets by with much help from his friends. See ‘Get Over It’ by F. Linday available as an adventure from Publishers Onwards & Upwards.

  4. Artchoo!

    Ya know, I’m thinking the biography and non-fiction idea is great. It isn’t like forcing them to read real books. They’re just checking out (in book form) what they already know they love. And learning more about it. BOOM. Reading.
    Artchoo! recently posted…Yarn BombingMy Profile

  5. Charlie's Frustrated Mom

    Great posts! Thanks! We’re Pragmatic Mom’s fan club in Hawaii – we miss you all and it was so good to see you and the grown up clan. I’ll let you know how this goes with my skateboarder – I’m thinking he’ll be interested in, at least, one of these recommendations.

    Thanks all!

    And ALOHA from Hawaii!

    • Hi Charlie’s Frustrated Mom,
      Mahalo for the kind words! We were so happy to see you all again too! Such fun! Please keep me posted on any books that Charlie picks, especially if he likes them! Do you think he will read this post?

  6. kim

    Thanks for these suggestions. I am going to order two of those books from our library. I have twin 4th grade boys. One who loves to read and one who does not. The one who does not only likes to read the sports page and can remember every score of every game played for the past few years. I try to find sports books but it’s a challenge. We are into the 39 clues series by Rick Riordan. We listened to the first one Maze of Bones on a Book CD. My husband and I loved it. I think it’s alittle to young for 7th grade? What about a mystery series for older kids?
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  7. Ann

    I love that you create reluctant reader lists! I am pretty sure you could turn anyone into someone who loves reading with the right books!
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  8. These are the books Charlie liked … Update from his mom:

    Charlie was interested in two of the skateboard books: The History of the Skateboard and The Trouble with Skateboarding – so I’ve ordered them and should get them shortly.

    I’ll let you know if he actually reads them.
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  9. This was a great comment on another blog post that I wanted to share here since it pertains to Skateboard books for middle school and high school reluctant readers. Some great book suggestions:

    There are three books with a skateboarding theme in the Orca books. The high school series – Orca Soundings – has one called “Grind” by Eric Walters (a favourite author); the Orca Currents series that is aimed more at grades 6 – 8 has “Skate Freak” by Lesley Choyce; in the Orca Sports series is “Powerslide” by Jeff Ross. The Orca Sports books are longer in length but still at a lower reading level. The Orca Sports series is proving popular in my school library with grade 9 boys who are weaker readers or lack reading confidence.
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Gift Guide: Best Toys for Arty KidsMy Profile

  10. Hi Mia,
    Wish I could’ve known about this blog when I was teaching.The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series was popular with my reluctant readers–there were many in my classes. I found they responded well to hearing me read out loud. I’ve retired now and am writing my own children’s books which I hope will somehow reach them.
    CULLOO , a short adventure story for teens and preteens is about two children searching for their missing father in an isolated forest. They discover that poachers are responsible for his disappearance and their search becomes a life or death adventure.
    Thank you for this great blog!

  11. marina v.

    “Cyst” – Damien Burden, or any of Burden’s work honestly…

  12. Alison Eckles

    nice guide…can you tell me which skateboard wheel size is recommended for beginner riders?
    Many Thanks

  13. Nice guide. Can you please recommend any skateboard for first time skateboard?

  14. Oh my. That is brilliant. I would never come with the idea to encourage young by to read book about such great skaters and skateboarding itself. Good Job Pragmatic Mom!!!
    Kajetan recently posted…9 best budget electric skateboard for you or your childMy Profile

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