Throughout several decades, the world has seen a decline in the number of children reading for fun. As a matter of fact, the amount of kids reading for pleasure has fallen to their lowest since the 1980’s. In a survey conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, children ages 9 to 13 were asked about their reading habits, particularly if they enjoyed reading for fun. 42 percent of 9 year-olds said they read for fun almost daily, but this is down from 53 percent in 2012. For 13 year-olds, only 17 percent reported they read for fun daily, a sharp decline from the 27 percent in 2012. While the study for 17 year-olds was unable to be conducted due to the pandemic, it isn’t hard to imagine that many kids’ reading habits have declined over the years.
The pandemic has made everyone’s concentration and mental health decline, the decline we are seeing in children is particularly worrisome. Besides the “learning-gap” caused by the abnormal years, kids are missing out on developing essential skills. Reading fiction alone has been proven to enhance a person’s social cognition abilities, or the part of the brain responsible for interpreting feelings.
Finding books for your kids to read can be tough, but not impossible. It normally comes down to having your kids pick their own books and finding suggestions of popular book series many kids easily relate to. The books in my list are a great starting place, as many of these series were books that interest my own students or even some of my closest friends growing up.
Diary of A Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney
Despite being so close to adulthood, so many of my reluctant high school readers will fight over who gets which Wimpy Kid book next. The series, with over 250 million books sold to kids of all ages, follows Greg Heffley and his hilarious misadventures as an every day kid. The series is targeted at ages 8 through 12, but anyone can relate to the struggles relating to family, friends, and changes happening during those dreaded middle school years.
The books also include illustrations to demonstrate Greg’s various predicaments. Never underestimate the power of a few black-and-white illustrations to get students interested in the material.
If your child or students have already gone through all of the Wimpy Kid books, Kinney has also written a spin-off series with Rowley Jefferson, one of Greg’s friends. The Awesome Friendly Kid series is still humorous, but with Rowley’s more wholesome, if not naïve, perspective.
The first three books have been turned into movies, so make it an incentive to watch the movie after reading the books to see all of the differences.
Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce
If your kids or students have already gone through every Wimpy Kid book, Big Nate has another middle school protagonist just trying to survive his “tweenage” years. These books are mostly made up of comic strips of Nate’s adventures at school, so it is more of a comics collection than a traditional book. Even so, these books helped inspire the Wimpy Kid books, so you know they’re doing something right.
There are now books with words and pictures in the style of the Wimpy Kid books for even more adventures with Nate and more content for kids to enjoy.
PErcy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
I have proof of this series turning non-readers into devoted bibliophiles. My best friend of 15 years first got into reading when our history teacher read us The Lightning Thief as we learned about Ancient Greece. Without that opportunity, her love of reading may have blossomed much later, maybe never at all. Thanks to the series, I’ve maintained an interest in Greek mythology and use it to write poetry, create fun lesson plans, and to simply read even more interpretations of various ancient stories.
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan uses modern interpretations of the Greek gods, exciting lore, and relatable kid characters allows for readers’ imaginations to flourish. They are also action-packed, leaving no room for boredom. The six books won’t seem like enough to the first-time reader.
Riordan has since expanded the series into an empire of books: The Trials of Apollo, The Kane Chronicles, The Heroes of Olympus, Magnus Chase, and Daughters of the Deep. Riordan has also invited other authors to write on their own history’s folklore and mythology with his imprint Rick Riordan Presents. From Aru Shah to Tristan Strong, kids can meet even more characters from other cultures while still getting the exceptional action of the Percy Jackson series.
I SURVIVED Series by Lauren Tarshis
My classroom library doesn’t have I SURVIVED books for that long. That’s because students are always clamoring to get them. This series tells short, gripping tales of kids who survive historical events. Some of the books are also available as graphic novels and translated editions to reach even more kids. A few of the historical events included in the series include:
- The Eruption of Mount Saint Helens
- The Galveston Hurricane
- The American Revolution
- The Nazi Invasion
- The Joplin Tornado
Pair these books in a history unit or suggest them to readers who enjoy short and fast reads.
Ranger in Time by Kate Messner
While Ranger in Time is marketed for kids ages 6 to 10, kids of any age can appreciate a time-traveling golden retriever. Like the I SURVIVED series, Ranger in Time centers on a unique time period to educate readers about what it was like living during those events…with a dog. Ranger is a relatable character to kids who are struggling because he is constantly getting distracted during his training. But his distractions normally turn into action-packed accidents. When chatting with Messner at NCTE 2019, she mentioned how even high schoolers gravitate towards the books, making these a good pick for picky readers. Besides, who can say no to a cute dog?
Looking for More Ideas?
If none of these books are a match, fret not. Finding the right book can take time. I’ve posted this list on other blog posts, but they’re still just as helpful and relevant here.
ELEMENTARY AGE BOOK BLOGS
MIDDLE GRADE BOOK BLOGS
YOUNG ADULT BOOK BLOGS
INCLUSIVE KIDS BOOKS BLOGS
Disability in Kit Lit (no longer posting new blogs, but still a great resource!)