Essential Books for the Reluctant Reader

Help your child read more this Summer... Reading should be a source of pleasure, accessible to everyone. Nonetheless, countless children struggle to read. If only they could find the right book... By Agnes Holly.
Essential Books for the Reluctant Reader
By David Westley
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If children do not take pleasure in the written word, they read significantly less than their peers. This means that a valuable source of information and general knowledge is not available to them.  If by the age of 11, children are still reading Tom Gates, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Monster and Chips or The 13-Storey Treehouse, you can be certain that they are not getting enough knowledge and general understanding of the world from their reading.

The books mentioned above are fantastic and hugely entertaining; they have their niche in children’s reading, but that niche is narrow. If it goes beyond Year 5, because a child struggles with words, struggles with reading, and struggles to find pleasure in the process; it is mentally exhausting for them and if you want to help them, you must intervene.

The books mentioned above, can be read with relative ease. Many children “stay” on them for the same reason, often well beyond the age the books are intended for. This “reading every book in the series” may be effectively barring their way to reading books with more age-appropriate and thought-provoking content.

So far alarmingly few publishers appear to have understood this need. While there are specific books published for the reluctant reader – by Barrington Stoke amongst others - children tend to stay away from these because they look different. They tend to have between 64 and 72 pages, making them significantly slimmer volumes. No child wants to show off their relative struggle with reading. If you are a parent to a child who does not like reading much and may fall into this reader section, here are a few things to bear in mind.

Below is a short list of books published with larger font and better spaced-out lines. Several of these volumes are thick – earning children “street cred” because they are “fat volumes,” yet they are less of a struggle to read and very enjoyable. The titles below have a wide range of content, providing awareness of the world, and a wealth of thought, topics and ideas. They have been selected with care to provide a suitable selection to interest readers between the ages of 8-13.

When choosing books for your child in future, beyond looking at the blurb and content, please open the book. If the page is densely printed – lines close with many words in each; the font smaller, your child may well not read the book. Shop around – sometimes the same book is available in a better edition.

As an alternative to reading print-based books, you may download books to a Kindle. This has the added benefit of enabling you to change the font size, style and amount of words per page, thus giving your child the best possible reading experience.

If all else fails, audio books are a wonderful way of giving children the experience of stories, without the struggle of reading them.  Listening to books is not in any way inferior to reading them! In fact the shared experience of listening to a well-delivered tale, gives everyone the chance of experiencing a range of stories, absorbing themes and events, savouring rich and varied vocabulary. Listening to stories still forces children to use their creativity in imagining the worlds depicted in the words spoken. It is a wonderful and constructive alternative to actually reading a book, with most of the benefit still to be gleaned.

Of course, if you do indulge in audio books, the choice is immense – you should select anything you may want to hear.  Enjoy the experience!

Book List for the More Reluctant Reader

Andy Stanton: The Story of Matthew Buzzington (108 pages, small format book)
Andy Stanton: Sterling and the Canary (108 pages, small format book)
Patricia MacLachlan: White Fur Flying (112 pages)
David Baddiel: The Boy Who Could Do What He Liked (128 pages)
Michael Morpurgo: The Fox and the Ghost King (144 pages, hardback)
Michael Morpurgo: Cool (144 pages)
Dick King-Smith: The Golden Goose (144 pages)
Dick King-Smith: Harriet’s Hare (160 pages)
Michael Morpurgo: Little Manfred (160 pages)
Tom Palmer: Football Academy (192 pages)
Michael Morpurgo: Medal for Leroy (224 pages)
Malorie Blackman: Operation Gadgetman (240 pages)
Michael Morpurgo: Eagle in the Snow (272 pages)
Morpurgo: Shadow (288 pages)
David Walliams: Billionaire Boy (288 pages)
Megan Rix: Bomber Dog (304 pages)
Terry Pratchett: The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner: And Other Stories (336 pages, hardback)
Terry Pratchett: Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Stories (352 pages)
David Baddiel: AniMalcolm (368 pages)
Andy Griffiths: The 78-Storey Tree House (384 pages)
David Baddiel: The Parent Agency (384 pages)
David Baddiel: The Person Controller (384 pages)
David Walliams: Awful Auntie (416 pages)
David Walliams: Grandpa’s Great Escape (464 pages)
David Walliams: The Midnight Gang (480 pages)

Hopefully, with every book your child reads, their confidence and ability to read is strengthened, making this vital life skill accessible to them.

Happy reading!

Agnes Holly, BA English and German; MA Comparative Literature; Hornsby Dipl Special Educational Needs. Agnes has more than 25 years' teaching experience in various roles ranging from university to nursery teaching, in addition to on-going work bringing up 5 children.

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