Ten of the best books for reluctant readers

You may have heard of the phrase “reluctant readers”. If your child seems to fit this description, you may feel worried that they will never be confident readers. But don’t panic. There are many ways to allow children to find the inspiration that will get them loving books. Often these can come along without any plan or intention, but there are lots of ideas you can try. Find out more about how to help reluctant readers and find the best books for reluctant readers here.

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How to find the best books for reluctant readers

Ten-of-the-best-books-for-reluctant-readers-tips-&-tricks-for-parents-Get-kids-into-reading

First of all, what is a reluctant reader?

You might find the term “reluctant reader” used in different ways to describe different children’s reading habits. Reluctant readers are generally not willing to read. They do not have much interest in books and prefer other activities such as sports or computer games. If your child is not into books, keep in mind what activities they are into when looking for books. We will cover more on this below.

It’s may be useful to know the reluctant reader definition is different from that of a “struggling reader.” Struggling readers find it difficult to read. Children can find reading difficult for a number of reasons. They could be having problems with letter recognition, have a short attention span, eyesight difficulties or dyslexia.

However, although being a reluctant reader is technically different from being a struggling reader, some children will be a reluctant reader because they are a struggling reader. In this case, addressing the underlying issue that is causing difficulty with their reading could increase their willingness to read. Find out more about diagnosis and support for struggling readers here.

How to encourage reluctant readers

It’s important to avoid putting pressure on your child to get into books. Instead, let them browse and pick books themselves that follow their interests. However, if you want to choose books for them too, there are lots of types that are especially good books for reluctant readers. Look for ones which include lots of illustrations to break up the text. Other useful types of books for reluctant readers are those which provide random access.

Encyclopedias, books of facts, statistics, guidebooks or illustrated dictionaries are great for this. The child can open them at any page and find a way in. Most importantly, find books which contain subjects the child loves. It could be real-life facts on space, cars or animals. It could be imaginative and fantastical subjects like monsters, dragons or Pokémon…

A quick overview of the books covered

Before we get to the nitty-gritty of what to look for in the books for reluctant readers, here is a sneak peek at some of the books we recommend. The kind of books which are best for your child really depends on their interests though, so keep reading below to find out how to find the best reads for your child.

Great for...CoverTitleAge guidelinesMore infoCheck
kids who love dragons and vikingsThe Incomplete Book of Dragons by Cressida Cowell8+224 pages,
(hardcover)

Hodder Children's Books, 2014
price and availability here 
kids who love history and Ancient GreeceTop 10 Worst Things about Ancient Greece You Wouldn't Want to Know! by Victoria England and David Antram7+ 32 pages
(paperback)

Book House, 2012
price and availability here
kids who love facts on all topicsUsborne Big Picture Book - General Knowledge by James Maclaine and Annie Carbo6+32 pages
(hardcover)

Usborne, 2017
price and availability here 
kids who love Pokémon cards, games and TV showsPokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook8+432 pages
(paperback)

Scholastics, 2015
price and availability here 
kids who love Minecraft and other computer gamesMinecraft: the Complete Handbook Collection by Mojang8+

Approx. 80 pages per book. Collection of four books. (hardcover)

Egmont, 2014
price and availability here 
kids who love computer games, graphic novels and YouTubersTrayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal by DanTDM8+192 pages
(hardcover)

Trapeze, 2016
price and availability here 
kids who love funny storiesThe Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey7+221 pages
(paperback)

Scholastic, 2016
price and availability here 
kids who love superheroesMarvel: Absolutely Everything You Need To Know8+240 pages
(hardcover)

DK, 2016
price and availability here 
kids who love to make their own storiesThe Usborne Creative Writing Book by Louie Stowell8+96 pages,
(spiral bound)

Usborne, 2016
price and availability here
kids who love Star Wars and LegoLego Star Wars Character Encyclopedia - Updated and Expanded7+288 pages,
(hardcover)

DK, 2015
price and availability here

Features of books reluctant readers will love

Look out for books with:

  • Lots of illustrations which break up the text. These help keep the reader engaged in the text.
  • Random access. Try motivating the reluctant readers by offering them books which can be picked up and opened at any page. They can find facts or statistics about a topic in any part of the book, providing an easy way-in to hook their interests.
  • Maps, charts, infographics and other interesting ways of presenting facts. These are great ways for children to compare characteristics of types of things they are interested in.
  • Potential to open up interest to a wider narrative. For example, books which can be read alongside a narrative chapter book or series of books. Many books or series of books will have companion books exploring the world of the books.
  • Fun topics which relate to your child’s favourite interests – whether that is ponies, football, heroes, dinosaurs or wizards!

Questions to consider when looking for suitable books

So, now you know which kind of books to look out for, how do you make sure you are finding the books which are just right for your particular child?

Here are some questions to consider:

What age range are you looking for?

Even if your child is a reluctant reader, it’s important to look for books which match their development stage and age range. Avoid books that are too low level. As long as the text is broken up in the ways described above and your child has the reading ability to manage the text they will be fine. There are lots of great choices of books for reluctant readers which are pitched at the age range and ability of older children, so there is no need to level the child down to books aimed at younger age ranges.

Likewise, don’t push your child towards overly complex books which are way above their capability. That runs the risk of putting them off and overwhelming them. However, be aware that all age range guidelines are flexible and the best guide is to let your child be the judge of what level of book suits them.

Is your child more interested in factual information or fictional worlds?

Children who are interested in finding facts: If they are excited by statistics about space, fascinated by historic dates, into Romans, Vikings or volcanoes, look out for non-fiction books which break down the information into chunks of texts and display data in an interesting way.

Children who are interested in fictional worlds: Does your child love playing the latest Pokémon games, watching Star Wars, Harry Potter or hero movies? If so choose books which complement or expand on the fictional universe they are the biggest fans of.

If your child is interested in both facts and fiction, take your pick!

What topics or subjects does your child really, really love?

After considering if your child is a fan of facts or fiction, focus on what is their absolute favourite thing that really grabs their attention? Is it fashion? Is it space? Is it tennis? Is it gerbils? Is it Greek mythology? Is it Iron Man? Is it Wonder Woman?

Find the book which ticks this box and which also has the features we looked at above and you can be sure you are heading in the right direction!

One of our favourite reluctant reader books

At a time when my son was not a very confident reader, a friend gave him a particularly amazing book. This book inspired his imagination and interest. It was about dragons. The book contained all kinds of fantastic and incredible facts about them. Dragons were already of interest to him, but after reading this he wanted to read even more about them.

The-Incomplete-Book-of-Dragons-by-Cressida-Cowell

The particular book was The Incomplete Book of Dragons. Written and illustrated by Cressida Cowell, it is a handbook to the world of dragons from the perspective of Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon. He introduces himself and explains why he is writing a book about every species and type of dragon.

As the reader turns the pages they can become immersed in the world of Hiccup and his life in the Barbaric Archipelago. He explains the habits of different dragon types. He tells us where they live and how friendly, useful or dangerous each is to vikings like himself. Hiccup tells the reader which dragons they must avoid or are not possible to train. He provides tips to work with dragons that can be trained to help Vikings to hunt, travel or fight. The methods which Hiccup uses to train dragons are radically different from the time honoured traditional way of the Vikings. Which is by yelling at them!

In The Incomplete Book of Dragons you will find hunting-dragons, riding-dragons and battle-dragons. You’ve got the tiniest – yet not to be underestimated – Nano Dragons; and the enormous Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus. You’ve got placid and gentle Zebramounts and then terrifying and dangerous dragons like Darkbreathers and Woden’s Nightmares.

Why a book like this can help build the confidence of reluctant readers

There are several reasons why this book was great for my son as a reluctant reader at that time and is one of the best books for reluctant readers.

  • The book contains lots of fantastic and imaginative illustrations. These are lovely to look at, plus they break up the text while keeping the reader interested in the text.
  • While you can read this book in order from page to page, you can also pick it up and open it at any page. The reader can find facts and statistics about a particular dragon at any point. This provides children with random access to the book – an easy way in.
  • It contains maps, charts, dragon statistics and facts. Many children love to access information through short lists of facts and statistics. These allow them to compare the characteristics of types of things in the same way they can with Top Trump type card games. This makes reading fun and game like.
The-Incomplete-Book-of-Dragons-by-Cressida-Cowell-Firestarters-Photo-by-ReadingInspiration

Books full of stats and facts can help encourage reluctant readers.

  • It creates interest in, and opens the way to a wider narrative. In this case there is a series of books. The young reader, once captivated with the characters and the world of dragons, may wish to read further. The Incomplete Book of Dragons acts as a bridge to the full series of books. Once reading a series, children will often keep reading further and develop a greater love of reading and story-telling as their confidence in reading grows.
  • The captivating and funny characters and worlds described draw readers into the narrative. Dragons! Vikings! A small and annoying yet cute dragon called Toothless who loves to hear jokes and is occasional useful and heroic! What’s not to love?!

The Incomplete Book of Dragons by Cressida Cowell Toothless reluctant reader strategies choose books with lots of illustrations Photo-by-ReadingInspiration

A bridge to further reading for reluctant readers

If a child has already read and enjoyed the How to Train Your Dragon series of books, this book can complement what they have read. For my son, it definitely acted as a bridge to further reading, developing confidence and a love of books. Once he got started on reading these books he was excited by the story and wanted to keep reading more and more. From that point, he became a total book addict. So The Incomplete Book of Dragons definitely comes highly recommended by our household.

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

RELUCTANT READER BOOK LIST – MORE GREAT BOOKS TO TRY

Top 10 Worst Things about Ancient Greece You Wouldn’t Want to Know! by Victoria England and David Antram

This 32-page paperback gives a child easy access to find out facts about life in Ancient Greece, and how horrible it could be. From the violence of the Olympic games and the grim lives of slaves, life in Ancient Greece could be very harsh. Each page spread breaks down a topic such as Food and Drink into chunks of informative text alongside fun illustrations.

Great for young history buffs, especially those interested in Ancient Greece. A Glossary at the back provides explanations of specific vocabulary. This is part of a great series of books filled with horrible facts about the past, including The Top 10 Worst Things About Ancient Egypt and The Top 10 Worst Wicked Rulers.

Approx. age range 7+

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

Big Picture Book of General Knowledge by James Maclaine and Annie Carbo

This 32-page picture book is full of fascinating facts – from which insect has the widest wingspan to how many moons Saturn has. It’s perfect for children who love finding out facts and details about all kind of things.

Each page spread covers a topic such as Buildings or Who’s Who. The book is great for dipping in and out of at any place and has lots of colourful and engaging illustrations.

Approx. age range 6+

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

Pokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook

My son’s copy of this guidebook is well-worn, he loves checking out the stats and details of every single Pokémon. This guidebook contains information on over 700 Pokémon. Alongside cute illustrations, the reader can find out the type, moves and other essential information on every Pokémon from the popular TV show, cards and computer games.

This is perfect for fans of fantastical worlds, particularly the many kids out there who are obsessed with Pokémon. I know some parents don’t want to encourage further interest in these made up creatures!

But wait, before you dismiss a Pokémon book consider the advantages. If this is a subject your child is interested in, why not let them have a book on the topic and let their Pokémon love become book love! With the Pokémon listed in alphabetical order, the book also encourages children to use their A-Z to help look up particular Pokémon.

Approx. age range 8+

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

Minecraft: the Complete Handbook Collection by Mojang

If your child loves playing Minecraft, these handy guidebooks provide information on getting started in the game. They have lots of handy tips for both new and advanced Minecraft players. The Beginners Handbook, The Redstone Handbook, The Combat Handbook and The Construction Handbook cover different aspects of the game.

The books are colourful and contain small blocks of texts broken up with illustrations. They provide easy access as children can open at any page and start picking up tips. Again these are not liteary classics, (although they do have very classy covers!) But the books could be a great way to make use of your child’s interest in a computer game to get them to turn to books.

Approx. age range 8+

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal by DanTDM

Graphic novels are great choices for reluctant readers. If you are looking for graphic novels for reluctant readers this adventure story by popular YouTuber Dan Middleton uses images and text bubbles in an easy reading comic book style. The story and illustrations are fun and engaging. I gave this book as a present to a child who had moments earlier told me firmly, “I don’t like books.” Minutes later he was engrossed in the book.

This book is great for fans of graphic novels, adventure, computer games and DanTDM!

Approx. age range 8+

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

If you are looking for stories for reluctant readers, books like The Adventures of Captain Underpants and its sequels by Dav Pilkey are a great option. These books are fun. Kids find the zany heroes stories hilarious, so they will keep turning the pages.

While these are chapter books, every page is broken up with funny and exciting illustrations and is not too text heavy. If a child has become engaged with books that compile facts and allow random access like those listed above, chapter books like this could be the next step.

Approx. age range 7+

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

Marvel: Absolutely Everything You Need To Know 

This is a great reference book for kids who love superheroes, especially Marvel hereos from films, animations and toys. Its a large handcover volume, but it is easy access in structure. Each spread covers a particular hero or group of characters, with small blocks of texts. The style resembles graphic novels and comic books, using text bubbles.

Approx. age range 8+

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

The Usborne Creative Writing Book by Louie Stowell

This is a book which is full of inspiration. Children can become storytellers themselves as they explore its ideas, activities and spaces to write and doodle in. Reluctant readers can dip in and out where they like and read facts and prompts. Illustrations and colourful pages also help to keep the book fun and accessible.

Approx. age range 8+

Waterstones Amazon

 

Lego Star Wars Character Encyclopedia – Updated and Expanded

This book is a great choice for fans of both Lego Minifigures and Star Wars films and characters! Each page provides an image of a Minifigure and short text descriptions of the character it depicts. Text bubbles provide additional information about the Minifigure design.

Waterstones Abe Books Amazon

 

Over to you

If you have any reluctant readers at home I hope this guide helps to provide a place to start in finding the right books to help them gain more interest in books and reading. Have a look for other books full of stats and facts on your child’s favourite subject and you could find their reading interest and confidence growing quickly!

How about you? Have you found particular books that helped to provide a bridge helping reluctant readers to build their confidence and delve into more challenging reading? Do you have any tips for reluctant readers? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here for more great reading ideas for children of all ages and abilities. And if you are worried about your child’s reading check out our series on building your child’s reading confidence here.

 

– Find lots more exciting book adventures here at readinginspiration.com –

 

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Angela

Angela is a mum who has had plenty of experience of worrying about reading! When she is in the mood for serious reading she loves dystopian and speculative fiction including the works of David Mitchell and Margaret Atwood. But secretly Angela enjoys borrowing all her son's books and shares his love for middle grade fiction, especially fantasy. She has a background in education & publishing and believes all children - no matter what holds them back or where their interests lie - can enjoy wonderful story-telling. Angela has created this blog to provide a resource for families to find great books for the whole family - parents included!

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Anna

How to train your dragon books were picked off the shelf by my older child who has a diagnosed reading difficulty … but her friend introduced us to the ‘Tom Gates’ books by L Pichon. The ‘handwriting ‘ is much tidier on the page and easier for children who have significant reading difficulties. My son who also has problems loves these books. They are the story of a boy who has a band and loves doodling and they make my boy laugh out loud

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Angela

Thank you for the tip Anna. We will have to have a look at the Tom Gates books, they sound great!

I know the scrawly writing in the How To Train Your Dragon books can be a little difficult to read. The text is sometimes repeated in normal type and hopefully that can be helpful. Still, it won’t work for all children, and I suppose it’s all about finding what works for each individual child. I’m glad your kids have found a series they have really enjoyed! x

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