When upper elementary kids struggle with reading, as teachers, we want to do everything possible to help these reluctant readers improve their reading skills and to see reading as an enjoyable activity.
One of the ways to help struggling readers is to have lots of high interest- low readability books available to them.
Of course, every student is different, and what appeals to one may not appeal to another. The idea though is to have a big enough variety of books that you’re able to provide choices to the child. These choices ideally will be books that don’t seem babyish and are engaging but at an easier reading level.
Best of all, we can hope that the books are so interesting that the upper grader actually wants to spend time reading that book, and then the next…and the next…!
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High Interest – Low Readability Book Suggestions
1. Book Series
Getting kids hooked on an author or series of books is a great way to get kids to read several books or more!
Book Series Suggestions:
- Rotten School by R.L. Stine
- Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler (Yes, the Fonz!) and Lin Oliver
- Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
- Dragon Masters by Tracey West
- The Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka
- Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
- Ready Freddy by Abby Klein
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly
- Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler
- Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
- Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
2. Graphic Novels
Lots of kids like graphic novels (and some don’t!). They’re a great genre though, for reluctant readers who do enjoy them. Some of the graphic novels are single-read books, while others are also a book series.
Graphic Novel Suggestions:
- Battle Bugs by Jack Patton
- Dogman by Dav Pikey
- Captain Awesome by Stan Kirby
- Lunchlady by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
- Sports Illustrated (like Quarterback Rush)
- Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
- Mighty Robot by Ricky Ricotta
- Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
- Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
- Stick Dog by Tom Watson
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
- Bad Island by Doug TenNapel
- Wings of Fire by Tui Sutherland
- Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden (Yes, some classic books have been changed into graphic novels for kids who aren’t quite ready for the whole chapter book format.)
3. Selected Chapter Books
There are lots of really good chapter books that are of high interest but at an easier reading level for struggling readers.
Chapter Book Suggestions:
- The Barn by Avi
- The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
- Superfudge by Judy Blume
- Socks by Beverly Cleary
- The Pinballs by Betsy Byars
- Crash by Jerry Spinelli
- Stuart Little by E.B. White
- Mouse on the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
- The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
4. Nonfiction Books
Most kids like nonfiction and there are quite a few that are considered hi-lo (high interest – low readability) books.
Nonfiction Book Suggestions:
- Nonfiction Companion Books for the Magic Tree House Series:
- Who Would Win?
- These books are compare and contrast books. They compare two animals, like lions and tigers, and describe their attributes. Lots of good scientific information is included.
- Who Was or Who Is Books
5. Historical Fiction Books
I am a huge history fan and so these are books I get excited about. Some of your students may start to enjoy true-life stories too after reading some of these.
Historical Fiction Book Suggestions:
- I Survived Series
- What Was Books:
- These are published by Penguin, which also publishes the Who Was books. This series tells stories about famous and not so famous places and events, like Ellis Island, The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, The Great Depression, and more!
- You Wouldn’t Want to Be…
- This series actually appeals to lots of kids, even those who don’t really gravitate towards history. The graphics are great and the books even look like fun! There are titles like: You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pyramid Builder, You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Viking Explorer, You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Civil War Solider, and You Wouldn’t Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party.
Yep, I said it, poetry! Of course, I’m not recommending Emily Dickinson, but I am thinking more along the lines of Shel Silverstein! There are lots of fun poetry books that reluctant readers really enjoy.
One great thing about them is that they come in bite-sized reading pieces. Since many of the poems are simply a one page read, it’s less intimidating than a complete chapter book.
Here are a few poetry book suggestions:
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- Once I Laughed My Socks Off
- Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph
- Take Me Out to the Ball Game
- It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles
- My Life as a Goldfish
- Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat
The upper elementary grades are a crucial time to get our struggling readers back on track (no pressure, though).
When kids come to us as reluctant readers, who may do everything they can to avoid reading, our goal is to not only provide meaningful comprehension lessons but to help them find books that make them want to read independently.
If you’d like more ideas about motivating struggling readers, you might like to read another post I wrote. Click here to read Motivating Reluctant Readers in Upper Elementary.
If you need some reading resources that are no-fluff but are differentiated (three levels for each passage and games and task cards for grades 3rd – 5th-grade reading levels) you might like to take a look at these:
Thanks so much for stopping by!