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Favorite Books for Kids with Learning and Attention Issues

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading

Discover what kinds of books are especially popular with children who struggle with reading. The recommended books are based on a Reading Rockets survey of parents and educators of children with learning and attention issues, including dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder.

We asked our Reading Rockets friends (parents, classroom teachers, special education teachers, librarians, and others) to share their own experiences in finding great books that appeal to with kids with learning and attention issues — including dyslexia and other language-based disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder.

We asked what books are most engaging and motivate kids to pick up a new book and keep reading. We learned that certain genres (humor, mysteries, fantasy and science fiction) are especially appealing, as well as certain topics (action and adventure, school days, and sports) and formats, including graphic novels and beginning chapter books — especially if they are part of a series.

We expected to see Dav Pilkey's wildly popular Captain Underpants series mentioned a lot (and it was), but were excited to learn about other series and characters that kids really love. Take a look below at what we discovered — and be sure to add some of your own favorites in the Comments section.

What you'll find here:

The appeal of book series

The great majority of book titles recommended by our survey takers were part of a series. Series books reintroduce beloved characters in new stories, with recognizable plot structures and familiar storylines such as making friends, solving mysteries, or going on amazing adventures. The author's writing style also begins to feel familiar. These features can be reassuring to readers and make them eager to dive into the next book.

"I find series work well since the kids will usually read the entire series and they feel as if they know the characters."

Browse the lists below to find lots of recommendations for series that appeal to kids. If you want to dig deeper, use Book Finder to search for more titles.

Genres: humor, fantasy, mysteries, historical fiction and more

Humor

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Humor

Many of the recommended books have humor at their core. One survey respondent said, "The humor captures their interest and they want to read more."

"All children no matter their challenges love to laugh and have a good time, so any book that can spark that within them will be a big hit and get them going on the great journey to enjoy literacy."

In the panel discussion, How to Get and Keep Boys Reading, author Jon Scieszka (and founder of the Guys Read initiative) makes a plea for more "funny books" ... "a kid gets one of those books and he's just going to give it to his friends."

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Fantasy and science fiction

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Fantasy and Science Fiction

There's a reason that the Harry Potter books are among the most widely read stories ever. And why the Chronicles of Narnia books, the Hobbit series, and A Wrinkle in Time are enduring classics. Fantasy and science fiction ignite a child's imagination — anything is possible and the genre stretches our thinking and curiosity muscles.

Fantasy and science fiction allow young readers to experiment with different ways of seeing their world. You can explore a "what if ..." scenario and make connections between a fantasy world and the real one.

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Mysteries

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Mysteries

Mysteries and detective stories have always been popular. The books are fun, and they keep kids using their critical thinking skills — guessing, inferring, predicting, and solving. Our readers recommend the Geronimo Stilton series, featuring a very funny mouse detective. Also popular: Chet Gecko, a wisecracking fourth-grade detective (think Sam Spade) who along with his mockingbird sidekick, solve schoolyard mysteries.

Kid detectives are very popular, from Encyclopedia Brown, where readers solve each mystery alongside the protagonist, to Cam Jansen, who uses her photographic memory to solve neighborhood mysteries. For kids who love sports, the Ballpark Mysteries are a perfect combination of sleuthing, trivia, and baseball. Young readers still love the classics, too: The Boxcar Children and Trixie Belden series.

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Historical fiction

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: History

Historical fiction breathes life into history, adding depth and color to a young person's understanding of the times, places, and people. Historical fiction can provide a helpful way into difficult subjects — for example, the Holocaust (Number the Stars) or the civil-rights movement (The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963). Historical fiction invites young readers to put themselves in the story by introducing relatable characters as well as revealing different points of view — essential to understanding history and how it is recorded and shared.

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Biographies

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Biographies

Reading well-crafted books about the lives of remarkable people can be more engaging than fiction! Biographies reveal to kids how real-life people overcame obstacles in their own lives and helped make their community, country, or even the whole world a better place. In that way, biographies can inspire children to see the world in a new way, and imagine their own place in it. Biographies are also a great way to build a child's background knowledge, and support their lerarning across all subject areas.

Biographies can seem like a tough sell with some children — the key is to match a child's interests with the right book topic. For example, if you know a child who loves animals, you might introduce him to The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps by Jeannette Winter. Or if you know a child who loves to invent and build things, introduce her to Neo Leo: The Agerless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci by Gene Baretta. Many of our survey respondents like the biography series listed below.

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Topics: adventure, school, sports, fascinating facts and more

The best way to encourage kids to read more is to provide books that tap into their natural interests! You may already know a child who loves adventure stories, another who devours books filled with fascinating facts about our world, and another who is sports crazy. Other children enjoy books about family life and school because they can connect to the characters and really see themselves in those stories. Luckily, there are many wonderful titles in all of these areas for children to explore.

Learning about American or world history doesn't need to be dry and just-the-facts. The books listed below offer an exciting look at different historical periods through the lives of real people and the events that swirled around them. The graphic novel format of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales is rich in detail and thrilling to read. The "scrapbook histories" give young readers an intimate glimpse into the lives of famous people in history.

The Eyewitness Books are also very popular — you can find one on just about any topic — and they are filled with lively illustrations, photographs, timelines, diagrams and other graphical elements.

Action and adventure

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Action and Adventure

Survey recommendations:

Families and growing up

"They love books with humor. They love stories about kids who make mistakes and get in trouble and learn from their mistakes."

 

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Families, Growing Up and Getting into Trouble!

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

School days

"The heroes in these books are kids who are struggling, kids who end up in the principal's office, kids who are real kids."

 

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: School Days

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Sports

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Sports

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Animal facts

"The science books are interesting and engaging — spiders, snakes, tornadoes, hurricanes. My kids love to learn about animals, weather, outer space so they love to choose books on those topics."

 

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Animals

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

History

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: History

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Fascinating facts

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Fact Books

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Eyewitness books

"Evolving readers will read several grade levels over their normal level if they are interested in the topic, so nonfiction is a super option for any struggling reader."

 

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Eyewitness Books

Popular formats: graphic novels, beginning chapter books, audio books and more

Graphic novels are very popular, and especially appealing to readers who may not pick up a more traditional book on their own. Readers are drawn to the lively, easy-to-follow storylines, the action found in many graphic novels, and the accessible text. The pictures in graphic novels are expressive, simple, and rich all at the same time. The images provide big clues about character and plot and encourage readers to look closely.

Easy readers and beginning chapter books are a great bridge from picture books to longer, more text-heavy chapter books. Many of the most popular are part of a series, so kids who love Elephant and Piggie or Here’s Hank, for example, will want to jump into the next book. Quick, fun reads build confidence!

Audio books allow kids who struggle with decoding to enjoy stories above their reading level, and to connect directly with the story and the storyteller. And listening to stories exposes kids to complex, rich vocabulary and language. Audio books also model fluent, expressive reading and strengthen critical listening skills.

Graphic novels

"Graphic novels provide great visual cues. Speech bubbles help with expression. The creative imagination of the authors and illustrators is captivating."

 

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Graphic Novels

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Classic literature as graphic novels

"Some classics have been rewritten in graphic novel form. When I find them, I try to buy them. Even for my good readers, a graphic novel can be less intimidating at times. My hope is that once they have read the graphic novel, there might be some interest in reading the original version."

 

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Classic Literature as Graphic Novels

Recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Picture books: old favorites

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Picture Books: Old Favorites

Survey recommendations:

Easy readers

"The Elephant and Piggie books launch many of my beginning readers into reading success. The strugglers are successful because the words mirror the pictures. The books are funny, and the children want to read them over and over again. The children who struggle with reading are surprised that they have read the entire book, then they want to do more reading."

 

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Easy Readers

Survey recommendations:

Recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Beginning chapter books

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Beginning Chapter Books

Survey recommendations:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Audio books

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Audio Books

Survey recommendations:

Books featuring kids with learning and attention issues

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Books About Kids with Learning Differences or Special Needs

Recommended books:

More recommended books from Reading Rockets:

Favorite book characters

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Favorite Characters

Who took the survey?

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Who Took the Survey

Favorite Books for Kids Who Struggle with Reading: Learning and Attention Issues

Reading Rockets (2018)

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