Best Children’s Books to Turn Reluctant Readers into Bibliophiles

Do you remember your first chapter book? That first book you read that was more pictures than words and was thicker than half an inch?

I actually don’t, but, oddly enough, I do remember my sister’s. While she was a straight-A student and a teacher’s pet, she just wasn’t that into reading. The first book she got excited about was Island of the Blue Dolphins. She was so proud, and while her habit for reading didn’t start as early as mine and she struggled to keep the habit going, she slowly found inspiration and entertainment in books.

While studies show that most reluctant readers are boys, girls are not immune to the affliction. Many times, it is just a matter of finding the right read for the reader.

Like my sister, it may be an award-winning novel that wins your reluctant reader over, but for lots of kids, just finding the right book to tap into their interests is all they need to get a good habit going.


From graphic novels to historic tales, these are a few books that can make learning fun.  Whether they like science, history, art or sports figures non-fiction addictive for young readers!

Elementary School

The Who Was…? series by various authors 

The What was…? series by various authors 

The Baseball Card Adventures series by Dan Gutman 

Investigating the Scientific Method with Max Axiom, Super Scientist by Donald B. Lemke 

Middle School and High School

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

A.D. New Orleans: After the Deluge Josh Neufeld

Eagle Blue: A Team, A Tribe and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska by Michael D’Orso

Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey by Julia L. Foulkes

The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography by Katherine Harmon

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer


While some of these Newbery Award winners might be hard to tackle or overwhelming by oneself, reading award-winning classics like these together can really get a reluctant reader’s habit started, and they might just bring back some fond memories for the adult reading buddy! Here are just a few:

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1959)

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1961)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (1972)

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1978)

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1994)

Holes by Louis Sachar (1999)

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering (2004)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean (2009)


Elementary School

Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osbourne 

Animorphs by Katherine Applegate 

Goosebumps by R L Stein 

Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon

Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene 

Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder 

Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney 

Matt Christopher Sports Classics series by Matt Christopher

The Great Brains series by John D. Fitzgerald

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell 

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket

Middle School and High School

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling 

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

The Princess Diary series

The Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card 

The Chronicles of The Black Company series by Glen Cook 

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 

Grendel by John Gardner 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

Back to my sister —  when she was in third grade, she had to get glasses, and it was a pretty strong prescription for a little kid. It’s important to consider all the reasons why a child doesn’t take to reading. Sometimes it is not just that they are not exposed to books — it could be he has difficulty distinguishing characters, or, like my sister, it could be her eyesight isn’t perfect and reading is uncomfortable. Creating habits early is key to creating a lifelong reader, so parents and teachers can help by reading together and working to solve the mystery of the reluctant reader. Ah…a mystery, time to revisit those Nancy Drews!

Want more tips on getting kids reading? Here is a great article from KidsHealth. Have fun reading this summer and all year long! Any great books for reluctant readers you would recommend? — Becky

Becky is Marketing Communications Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @Bexican75.

One thought on “Best Children’s Books to Turn Reluctant Readers into Bibliophiles

  1. Some of these books changed my life when I was young, especially Island of the Blue Dolphins. (Go strong female characters!!) I am so grateful to my parents for instilling a love of books in me as a child.

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