Books for Reluctant Readers

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Children commonly perceive books as dull, and the practice of reading as drudgery—consider the times when your fourth-grade child has swat away your reading propositions, or somehow else displayed indifference or even hostility towards books. Persuading children to read can feel unwieldy, no easy feat, despite good intentions to bolster the virtues of reading. As we have fielded requests from parents on accessible novel recommendations, to revise children’s misguided perceptions; we have curated 15 books or series that promise to capture young reluctant readers' imaginations.

Dog Man / Captain Underpants Series (ages 7-9)

Dog Man follows the adventures of its titular character, as he navigates seedy streets and confronts crooks and criminals. True to form as the creator of Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey’s comic series boasts a lot of childish humor. While it might agitate the pearl-clutching audience, this graphic novel is designed for fourth-graders who enjoy the lilting rhythm and irreverent tone. Full of absurd high jinks, novice readers will find Dog Man as an irresistible page-turner.  

WeirDo Series (ages 7-9)

With an episodic narrative style, readers are introduced to Weir Do and his eccentric family, and brought along his venture into a new school environment. The dynamic and sporadic text, supplemented with clean line drawings, make this a digestible read for children.

The Storey-Treehouse Series (ages 7-9)

The story follows Andy and Terry, who are hunkering down in  a 13-story treehouse to meet the deadline for their book. Laden with distractions, from “vegetable vaporizer,” to  “tank full of man-eating sharks,” the two protagonists entertain us with farcical adventures. Young readers will most definitely relate to the childlike voice employed, which dovetails neatly with the callow humour.

Tom Gates Series (ages 7-9)

The story unfolds in Tom Gates’ diary, where he diligently scrawls his experience in school and home. Hence, readers are conferred with a voyeuristic lens, through which we become Tom Gates’ unwitting audience. The book is invested with Tom’s idiosyncratic personality, festooned with bluster, anecdotes and cartoons. The acres of comical antics promise to keep readers engaged for hours on end.

Wonder (ages 9 and up)

Wonder is a story about a ten-year-old boy who lives in Manhattan and suffers from a rare physical deformity. Told from the perspective of multiple characters, the book offers nuanced entry points into the process of reconciling differences, and guides us along the path to compassion. The endearing protagonist and heartwarming storyline will lure in even the most impatient reader; along with the book’s movie adaptation, the earnest family drama is bound to touch your heartstrings.

New Kid - Jerry Craft (ages 9-12)

Jordan Banks is a seventh grader who is sent by his parents to a prestigious school. A graphic novel centered around a kid of color, New Kid is about occupying, and leaping past the middle, liminal space: thrusted into an unfamiliar world, Jordan straddles between his affluent peers and his family, struggling to adapt to a new environment without straying too far from his roots. 

Dork Diaries (ages 9-12)

When her father enrolls her in an esteemed private school, Nikki finds herself thrown in at the deep end. While the sketches, largely modelled on the style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, hit a note of self-deprecating humour; Russell’s narrative casts female vulnerability under a soft and tonic light—it renders a rounded picture of self-discovery, appealing to preadolescent readers grappling with the prospect of teenhood.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (ages 9-12)

The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo, chronicles the exploits of the 10-year-old "natural-born cynic" Flora, and Ulysses, a squirrel with supernatural powers. Characters starred are sculpted as larger-than-life figures; the droll humor and charming illustrations are vehicles that propel their escapades—these elements add up to quickening of the blood that is part and parcel to bedtime stories.

Heartstopper Series (ages 13 and up)

A boy meets boy story anchored in the LGBTQ world, the Heartstopper series is composed of slice-of-life moments that, when zoomed out, speak to universal needs— through painting intimate portrait of queer relationship, the story sheds light on love, friendship, and mental illness.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series (ages 13 and up)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, whose epistolary impulse is triggered whenever Cupid’s arrow strikes her. Readers are entertained with a love triangle, and a chain of family drama, ensued from the unveiling of these letters. Employing an artless voice, Han elucidates on themes of courage, honesty and independence, and chisels out a world that is incredibly easy to immerse in.  

Artemis Fowl Series (ages 13 and up)

Artemis Fowl creates an enthralling universe, starring a teenage criminal mastermind, along with a cast of fantastical creatures. Readers will enjoy this intelligent and brilliant antihero. Aside from its fun pretext, the series manages to retain cultural valence from using Fowl’s unscrupulous schemes as a meditation on moral complexities.

Gone Series (ages 13 and up)

Imagine, in a blink of an eye, your world collapses into a microcosm peopled by the young—san adults, san phones, internet, and television. Gone, a saga about warring teen factions and human’s capacity for evil, begins in such premise, and unfurls in breakneck pace. 

The Maze Runner Series (ages 13 and up)

A dystopian science fiction novel that later became a blockbuster phenomenon, The Maze Runner is set in a world ruined by detrimental solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Readers are carried along a twisted and action-packed plot, following a group of lone survivors trying to escape a menacing maze.  

Displacement (ages 13 and up)

Displacement is a graphic novel of a time-travel tale that braids history with science fiction. The story follows Kiku, a biracial (Japanese and White) sixteen-year-old girl, who is “displaced” to World War II, when her late grandmother was in Japanese-American internment camp. The novel recontextualizes this gruesome part of American history, and lays bare the sense of cultural dislocation and generational trauma that haunts the lives of second-generation Asian Americans.