Research shows that access to books improves reading performances (Lindsay, 2010). But access is much more than just having books available on a shelf, especially when it comes to books for reluctant readers. Access means having the right books available and easy to find for every student in your class. Some students have a more difficult time than others when it comes to finding a book they love. For those students, try offering books where they can 1. See themselves. 2. Get grossed out. 3. Seem like they aren’t really reading (until it’s too late and they’ve fallen for it). 4. Actually read and not be ashamed of reading and 5. Follow a predictable storyline. Here are some of my favorite titles that meet these criteria. 

Books for Reluctant Readers: Titles Featuring Diversity

Diversity is so much more than color. The books below illustrate diversity through ethnicity, age, ability and challenges.

Books for reluctant readers: Fish in a TreeLast Stop on Market Street is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Diversity is shown not just through race, but also age, socio-economic status, talents and disabilities, hair color and religion.

Fish in a Tree speaks to anyone who has ever thought something was wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.

Wonder shares the story of August Pullman, who was born with a facial difference that had prevented him from going to a mainstream school. But now, he’s starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep.

Yard Sale takes a difficult topic, losing your home and moving to a new apartment, by introducing us to Callie’s experience of having to downsize and sell some of her favorite things.

Thank You, Mr. Falker is a story about the author’s experience and challenge growing up with dyslexia.

Rules expresses the challenges Catherine faces as she tries to manage her autistic brother’s embarrassing behavior.


Books for Reluctant Readers: Titles with The Eww Factor

Students love to get grossed out. These books will not disappoint!

Books or reluctant readers: Stink

Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky SneakersBooks for reluctant readers: Why Fish Fart features Stink Moody, the shortest kid in second grade, who is inspired to create a variety of terrible smells.

Exploding Ants: Amazing Facts describes examples of animal behavior that may strike us as disgusting.

Why Fish Fart has somewhat of a misleading title. This book has the answer to many gross questions, not just about fish gas.

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers discusses gross and unpleasant facts about the human body.


Books for Reluctant Readers: Graphic Novels

Graphic novels are reader-friendly, with few words, yet offer so many opportunities for higher-level thinking.

El DeafoBooks for reluctant readers: The Lightening ThiefBooks for reluctant readers: El Deafo is the graphic novel that changed my perspective on graphic novels! Brilliant.

Monster, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lightning Thief and City of Ember are all examples of graphic novels created from our favorite stories.

Thomas Edison and the Lightbulb, World without Fish and Maus present informational texts in an engaging and gripping format.



Books for Reluctant Readers: Titles with High Maturity Content and Low Lexile Levels

Older students don’t want to read books about bears and imaginary adventures. For readers to become stronger, they must read. Students who find reading laborious will dive into these books with sophisticated content.

books for reluctant readers: Paper Daughter

Black and White confronts the issue of justice and inequity through the story of two basketball players, one black and one white. This mature story has a Lexile level of 710.

See You at Harry’s addresses mature themes such as coming of age, homosexuality and tragedy. With a guided reading level Y, this book has a lower Lexile level of 600.

Paper Daughter tells the story of Maggie. Her father was killed, and with suspicions of illegal activity, she tries to clear his name. While covering topics such as secrets, lies and a connection to the Chinese Exclusion Era, it has a Lexile level of 800.


Books for Reluctant Readers: Informational Texts

Sometimes developing readers need an opportunity to read without focusing on plot and character development. Informational texts, often with captivating photographs, will do the trick.

Books for reluctant readers: Seymour Simon
, one of the many National Geographic Society books, contains beautiful photographs and interesting facts about a tiger’s habitats, talents and feeding habits.

Children of the Dust Bowl describes the plight of the migrant workers who traveled from the Dust Bowl to California during the Depression. The photographs are incredible.

The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 is an account of the January 1919 molasses tank explosion in Boston. The primary sources and photographs are riveting.

Seymour Simon. Need we say more?


Books for Reluctant Readers: Series

Series books offer readers opportunities with familiar characters and plot, giving them a less intimidating reading experience.

Books for reluctant readers: Percy JacksonDiary of a Wimpy KidBooks for reluctant readers: Mercy Watson is the one that started it all!

I Survived is a fictional series of different historical events. Students can’t put them down.

Mercy Watson books are early chapter books that have a fun plot, silly characters and creative illustrations.

Percy Jackson books have a Lexile range in the 700s, but appear to a wide range of ages. With magic and mythology, this series draws in the readers.

What books do your reluctant readers love? Share in the comments!


Lindsay, J. (2010). Children’s access to print material and education-related outcomes: Findings from a meta-analytic review. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates.