Back to School: Books for Reluctant Readers

The new school year has started and although 2020-2021 will be unlike any school year we ever encountered, that does not mean we are not facing the similar learning issues. And a recurring one is getting children and teens to read.

Over the years, children and teens are reading less and less. Most blame television and/or the increase amount of technology use to cause children and teen to read less, however, there might be other factors in play. Some students may feel that the text that reading is too complicated for them and the book size may be intimidating to them. There are some books out there that are useful in helping younger readers find the right book for them and discover the true joys of reading, without any pressure:

Somebody Give This Heart a Pen by Sophia Thakur

From acclaimed performance poet Sophia Thakur comes a stirring collection of coming-of-age poems exploring issues of identity, difference, perseverance, relationships, fear, loss, and joy. From youth to school to family life to falling in love and falling back out again–the poems draw on the author’s experience as a young mixed-race woman trying to make sense of a lonely and complicated world. With a strong narrative voice and emotional empathy, this is poetry that will resonate with all young people, whatever their background and whatever their dreams. (Credit: Candlewick Press)

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labor and isolation, the sunlit world far above the mine a distant memory. Newt has lived in the mine since the age of four, and accepts everything from the harsh working conditions to the brutality of the mine’s leaders—until the mysterious Devlin arrives and dares to ask the question, “Why?” As tensions rise, Newt is soon looking at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective—challenging the system and setting in motion a change of events that could destroy their entire world. (Credit: Norton Young Readers)

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew

After school one day, Frankie, a lover of physics and astronomy, has her first sexual experience with quiet and gorgeous Benjamin—and gets her period. It’s only blood, they agree. But soon a gruesome meme goes viral, turning an intimate, affectionate afternoon into something sordid, mortifying, and damaging. In the time it takes to swipe a screen, Frankie’s universe implodes. Who can she trust? Not Harriet, her suddenly cruel best friend, and certainly not Benjamin, the only one who knows about the incident. As the online shaming takes on a horrifying life of its own, Frankie begins to wonder: is her real life over? (Credit: Walker Books US)

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

A KIND OF SPARK tells the story of 11-year-old Addie as she campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown. Addie knows there’s more to the story of these ‘witches’, just like there is more to hers. Can Addie challenge how the people in her town see her, and her autism, and make her voice heard? A story about friendship, courage and self-belief, perfect for fans of The Goldfish Boy. (Credit: Knights Of Media)

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour. (Credit: Hodder Children’s Books)

Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Alison has run away from home, and with nowhere to live, finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn’t empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there – and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past called Toffee.

Allison is used to hiding who she really is, and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so, Toffee is who she becomes. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be.

But as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself – where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really? (Credit: Bloomsbury)

Run Rebel by Manjeet Mann

When Amber runs, it’s the only time she feels completely free – far away from her claustrophobic home life. Her father wants her to be a dutiful daughter, waiting for an arranged marriage like her sister Ruby.

Running is a quiet rebellion. But Amber wants so much more – and she’s ready to fight for it.

It’s time for a revolution. (Credit: Penguin)

Deleted by Sylvia Hehir

How much worse can Dee’s life get? Having already suffered a traumatic break up with her boyfriend, her best friend is now warning her off the handsome new boy in the village. And that’s without all the problems she’s having with her mobile phone.
A young adult romance with a hint of mystery.
(Credit: Garmoran Publishing)

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it? (Credit: Balzer + Bray)


Other Books & Resources

Barrington Stoke

Barrington Stoker is UK publisher that publishes super-readable books that helps every child unlock their love of reading. With brilliant and engaging stories from award-winning writers, their books provide a list of specialist features designed to help dyslexic and reluctant readers. Their website has useful tips and resources for parents and teachers, a list of samples that you can match which reading level with which child.

Lorimer Books

Lorimer is a Canadian publisher that publishes books for children and teens that deal with contemporary social issues in a engaging way for kids and teens who “may not yet have discovered the joys of reading”. This is a great publisher to look through their catalog since they have Hi-Lo (High Interest/Low Level) books perfect for your kids and teens to try out.

Orca Book Publishers

Not only do Orca Book Publishers publishes diverse books, particularly of Indigenous culture and literature, but they also have great selection of Hi-Lo books that will helpful for any teachers and parent.

West 44 Books

West 44 Books is a new imprint of Enslow Publishing that offers new, authentic voices and gripping stories of hi-lo middle grade and young adult fiction. The stories here range from middle grade fiction to novels in verse, subject matter that is diverse and relatable to readers from all background.

Graphic Novels & Mangas

Graphic Novels and mangas get a bad rep for not being educational enough but studies have proved that comics are great ways to motivate kids and teens to read and help readers who have trouble reading through traditional texts.

Lorimer Children & Teens: Teacher & Librarian Resources

Hi-Lo Books for Struggling or Reluctant Readers

Orca Book Publishers: Series for Reluctant Readers

A Guide to Using Graphic Novels With Children and Teens

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