Getting some kids to read can feel like a constant struggle. My kids are 10 and 13 years old, and neither one of them is what I would call a voracious reader. A reading aficionado myself, I’m sometimes envious of friends who are able to share books with their kids or enjoy a family read-a-thon on a rainy afternoon. But that just isn’t going to happen around here.
My kids are reluctant readers at best. Still they do read when prompted, and there are even some books that they haven’t complained about reading so I suppose I’ll call that a win.
Thanks to my amazing teacher friend — who has a tween and teen herself — and some recommendations from my own reluctant readers, here are a few top picks beyond the standard Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which seem to be favorites of even the most reluctant readers. These are books kids can read alone, or you could read together as a family, and many of them are a part of a series, so if your kid finds one they like, you likely have several more options after it.
1. The Treehouse Series, by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
This series is filled with goofy stories and funny picture drawings about the antics of Andy and Terry in their treehouse. These books are great for kids who are ready to move beyond picture books into chapter books, but need a few pictures to break up the reading.
2. Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gidwitz (author) and Dan Santat (illustrator)
Any kid who loves unicorns will adore this series. These illustrated beginner chapter book are perfect for kids who are ready for some more independent reading, but need visual engagement along the way.
3. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (author) and Hatem Aly (illustrator)
Written by the same author as Unicorn Rescue Society, this series is a nice companion for kids who are into monsters and witches more than unicorns.
4. Arcade and the Triple T Token Series by Rashad Jennings
Written by former NFL running back Rashad Jenhings, this series focuses on the antics of 11-year-old Arcade Livingstone and his friends. Each of these beginner chapter books can be read as a part of the series or as stand-alone books.
5. Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
We read this book together as a family, and it is an incredibly moving story about loss and what makes a family. This book is good for young teens, or to read aloud to your tweens.
6. Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott (author) and Geneva B (illustrator)
Called a “breath of fresh air” by Kirkus Reviews, this award-winning chapter book is perfect for kids who love magic. It was lauded for being “a chapter-book fantasy with an urban setting, an array of brown-skinned magic wielders, and a lovable black protagonist readers will root for and sympathize with.”
7. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This is another one we read together as a family. This award-winning book has been compared to classics like Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web for its sweet message and engaging story of a captive gorilla and his friends.
8. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales Series by Nathan Hale
These graphic novels share history lessons in an engaging, fun way. And because they are graphic novels, they will appeal to kids who love prefer this kind of reading to chapter books.
9. The Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles (author) and Dapo Adeola (illustrator)
Middle-school cousins Otto and Sheed fancy themselves to be amateur sleuths. With summer coming to an end and school just around the corner, they are looking for a last hurrah of fun and adventure when they see a mysterious man arrive into town. Their wannabe detective skills take over and, needless to say, wild antics result. A beginner chapter book, this book is great for older tweens or even young teens who are reluctant readers but love a good story.
10. Jada Jones series by Kelly Starling Jones (author) and Vanessa Brantley-Newton (illustrator)
This early chapter book centers on fourth-grader Jada Jones as she deals with school, friends, and other challenges of being a tween. The book’s color illustrations and short chapters help reluctant young tween readers transition from picture books to chapter books.
11. New Kid by Jerry Craft
This graphic novel has won a ton of awards — including Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature – and for good reason. It is a relevant, timely and authentic look at the struggles of being the new kid at school. It’s perfect for older tweens and young teens.
12. Low Riders In Space by Cathy Camper (author) and Raul the Third (Illustrator)
This award-winning graphic novel follows Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria, three friends who love working on cars. The book is a fun adventure tale of friendship, sprinkled with Spanish and science facts. The book also includes a glossary so kids can look up the Spanish and science words used throughout the book.
13. “Who Is…” Series
The options are endless with this book series. Kids learn about historical figures, sports stars, and pop culture icons in these books. They are simple and relatively short so they don’t overwhelm a reluctant reader.
14. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
This popular graphic novel series tells the adventures of Emily, who discovers a magical amulet in her great-grandpa’s house. It’s great for tweens and young teens.
15. Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
This bestseller tells the story of six-grader Ally, who has dyslexia. Ally is hard on herself and struggles to fit in and to ask for help. Ally’s struggles with school may resonate with some reluctant readers, and all kids can appreciate the book’s theme that “great minds don’t always think alike.”
We may earn fees from purchases made via links on this page and affiliated sites. All opinions are our own.