Readers’ Advisory: Reluctant readers

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Readers’ Advisory: Reluctant readers, especially young boys

This particular Readers’ Advisory takes a slightly different approach. I’ve realized that I’ve made some underlying assumptions about the patrons I’m supposedly dealing with: a) that they like to read, and in the case of my previous RA, b) that they’re girls. Boys (for purposes of this discussion, roughly ages 9-12) are often overlooked, and boys who are reluctant readers even more so.

Laura Barnett’s article at The Guardian addresses this in some way, offering suggestions that young boys might like, with a fairly broad selection of genres. Jessica Piper provides a list based on which books are popular in her classroom, and while not focused specifically on boys, has many books they would like.  Neither of those lists appears to address the issue of young readers whose reading age may be lower than their physical age, but there appears to be an intense focus on getting them interested in books, which is definitely a component of engaging reluctant readers.

While it would be impossible to recommend simply one book, thanks to the fact that everyone’s preferences will vary wildly, the lists mentioned above appear to offer many choices. I can’t really hope to expand on that, but will offer some suggestions below, as a way of ensuring that boys aren’t left out too.

You might like…


Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer: 12 year old Artemis Fowl II desperately attempts to restore honour to the family’s name, after his father loses a lot of money by trying to corner the Russian mafia. His solution? Capture a fairy and demand a ransom in gold. The fairies don’t like that. Fast-paced and suspenseful, this fantasy has just enough familiar elements to not alienate young readers, while still being compelling.

The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling: The popularity of this series is phenomenal, so it would be impossible to do the whole series justice with a short blurb. But the basis is this: scrawny 11 year old Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard, and is sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn magic. But the evil Lord Voldemort is trying to restore his power – and get rid of Harry in the process. Suspenseful and with a richly detailed world, the series is bound to capture the imagination of young readers, particularly the earlier books, which are shorter and more appropriate for a younger age.

The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan: When Percy Jackson discovers that the father he never knew is actually Poseidon, God of the Sea, he gets sent to Camp Half-Blood for others like him. There he gets caught up in a quest to prevent another war between the gods. Fast-paced and action packed, there is enough there to engage young readers.


Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz: After the death of his uncle, 14 year old Alex Rider discovers that he was actually a spy, and preparing Alex to be one too. Recruited into the British intelligence service MI6, he begins to track down villains to carry out his uncle’s mission. The first in a series, the story is action-packed and suspenseful, while featuring a variety of locales.

Sure Fire, Jack Higgins: Twins Rich and Jade aren’t happy they have to go live with their father following their mother’s death. But when their father is kidnapped, they find themselves tackling bigger problems. Like Stormbreaker, the series features a variety of exotic locales to explore and plenty of adventure.


Pop, Gordon Korman: After moving to a new town midsummer, 16 year old Marcus Jordon feels lonely. However, he befriends retired linebacker Charlie ‘Pop’ Popovitch, who trains him well, but has a prankster streak that often gets Marcus in hot water. But Charlie is hiding a secret that he doesn’t want his family to discover. An intense, emotionally-driven novel, it touches on a variety of issues besides football.

Gym Candy, Carl Deuker: Mick Johnson struggles not to make the same mistakes as his former football star father. But after making the varsity team, he struggles to keep his edge and make his father proud. This drives him to try out “gym candy” or steroids, despite the known health risks. A disturbing but powerful novel, Deuker does not gloss over steroids side effects, taking the reader through an emotional roller coaster that is paralleled by Mick’s emotions. It is an intense read, but may be appropriate for an older set.

The Million-Dollar Throw, Mike Lupica: Eighth grade Nate Brodie’s family is going through stressful times, and to top it all off, his best friend Abby is going blind. But he gets a chance at fixing that, by being able to win a million dollars if he completes a pass during the halftime at a Patriots game. Will the pressure to succeed overwhelm him? A realistic fiction that has an intense, emotional plot.

Realistic Fiction

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney: Greg records his sixth grade experiences as he and his friend Rowley struggle to get through. But when Rowley becomes more popular, Greg must do what he can to save their friendship. A funny and relatable series that young boys might like.

Middle School: Get Me Out of Here!, James Patterson: When Rafe is accepted to an art school in New York City, he naively believes that he will be able to leave boring old math and history behind forever. He’s wrong. Finding the intense academic achievement stifling, he looks for fun and adventure in other activities. Part of a series, beginning with Patterson’s Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, this is a funny, but also very emotional, series that young boys might relate to.


Barnett, Laura. (2012) 10 books to help boost young boys’ reading. The Guardian. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from

Fries-Galther, Jessica. (2009) Strategies to Engage Boys in Reading (and the Girls, Too. Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from

Piper, Jessica. (n.d.) Top 12 Young Adult Books for Reluctant Readers. TeachHUB. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from



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