For my first 5 years of teaching, I taught 6th and 7th grade Language Arts; however, in 2011, I switched to teaching Intensive Reading for the students in my school who had not passed the state assessment. When I moved to primarily teaching struggling readers, I knew I had to exam more deeply which books would truly grab these students’ attention and help them identify as readers. After a year in this position, I have some go-to books that I find have become great foundations for my students to grow into just plain readers, not struggling or reluctant. And now, after two years as an intensive reading teacher, I’m very lucky to become my school’s Reading Coach. I cannot wait to help all of the struggling/reluctant readers in our school find the just-right books to make them love reading.
Top 20 Books for Struggling and Reluctant Middle School Students 2012-2013
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series) by Jeff Kinney
Big Nate (series) by Lincoln Peirce
Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi
(And Kazu’s anthology Explorer is a big hit between Amulet books.)
Knights of the Lunch Table (series) by Frank Cammuso
Graphic novels Bad Island, Ghostopolis, Tommysaurus Rex, and Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
I Survived… (series) by Lauren Tarshis
Maximum Ride: The Manga (series) by James Patterson
Any nonfiction book by Seymour Simon
Dork Diaries (series) by Rachel Renee Russell
Smile and Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Dear Dumb Diary (series) by Jim Benton
Love that Dog & Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech
Surviving Southside (series) by various
Popularity Papers (series) by Amy Ignatow
Any novel in verse, specifically Lisa Schroeder and Sonya Sones
After looking at my students’ checkouts for the year, I would definitely also add these to the list:
Bird and Squirrel On the Run and Gabby and Gator by James Burks
Liam O’Donnell’s Graphic Guide Adventures
The 9/11 Report by Sid Jacobson
Olympians graphic novels by George O’Connor
Mal and Chad (series) by Stephen McCranie
Discovery Channel’s Top 10 Deadliest Sharks and Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators
The Elsewhere Chronicles (series) by Nykko
Ghetto Cowboy and Yummy by G. Neri
Adventures of Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
Charlie Joe Jackson (series) by Tommy Greenwald
Vladimir Tod (series) by Zac Brewer
The Lightning Thief (series) by Rick Riordan
Each year, I will share my students’ favorites to keep you all updated:
An updated post about the books that were checked out most frequently from my classroom library in 2014-2015
Post about the most checked out graphic novels and novels in the 2015-2016 school year
Top Checked Out Books by Kellee’s Middle School Readers 2016-2017
Kellee’s End of Year Student Survey Results, Students’ Favorite Books, and Top Checked Out Books 2017-18
Kellee’s End of Year Student Survey Results, Students’ Favorite Books, and Top Checked Out Books 2018-19
Reflection Note (2018): This post was originally written years ago, and I now struggle with the terms struggling and reluctant readers. The connotation behind these terms is so negative when really these students need all positivity in their lives. There are other options I’ve heard over the year like striving, undiscovered, or developing; however, I think in general we need to just remember that all readers are individuals, and we need to get to know each kid to see exactly what they need. I explain more in my You Tube Literacy Teachers Vlog interview: https://youtu.be/dxaa8966c0k.
What books/series do you find to be most popular with your middle school readers?
Have you found success with the books I listed above?
Have you read any of the books I’ve listed? Did you/your students enjoy them?
19 thoughts on “Top Books for Struggling/Reluctant Middle School Readers”
Oh Boy! This is a great list. I now have a bunch of books to look for to add to my library. All of the books I would have named ended up on your list except the Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I have had success hooking readers with those books every year.
Oh yes! I love that series! The other reading teacher at my school did that as a read aloud with her 6th graders and they ate it up!
Love this list! Thank you–I’m bookmarking it.
I’ll add the Babysitter’s Club graphic novels; my daughter who has trouble reading loves those. The Babymouse series is good to.
Thank you 🙂
I have been really sad to see that the BSC GNs have not been more popular in my classroom as I am a huge BSC fan. Babymouse has been successful but mostly with my 6th graders, not 7th and 8th. Same with Squish and Lunch Lady 🙂
I have found that my readers who are really struggling have a lot of trouble with graphic novels. They like them,but they don’t READ them. I’ve liked a lot of the high-low books like the Robins’ Carter High books or the M. Zachary Sherman Bloodlines books. They have a lower reading level, larger print, and are short. The students who read them seem to build more reading skills than those who try to struggle through longer books.
Really?! I’ve had the complete opposite. The picture assist them in reading the story and they ADORE them! I actually have trouble having them leave them. GNs are by far the most popular and loved books in my classroom.
My students read similar books to the ones you listed- Bluford and Southside are like that.
Great list, Kellee. Glad to see I have a lot in my classroom library. A lot of the boys in my intervention classes read only non fiction. That’s it. So I am always on the look out. Sometimes I will have girls that only read poetry. Reluctant readers stay in their comfort zone, and this past year we’ve discussed branching out and giving other genres a try. It’s been a big success for most.
Thank you Lesley!
Nonfiction is an up and down genre in my class depending on the group of kids.
Staying in their comfort zone is right! Most of mine stay in graphic novels, but we talked about ladders and working their way up. They really tried to push themselves 🙂
Thank you for stopping by 🙂
Kelle, this is indeed an excellent post to keep! Just the variety in this list is engaging for reluctant readers! Thanks for sharing on Kid Lit Blog Hop!
-Reshama @ Stackingbooks
Lots of great books on this list. I’ve read several and recommended them to young readers. Thanks for sharing on the Kid Lit Blog Hop. Cheryl, Hop Hostess
Hi, Kellee. I have just spent the past two hours, quite contentedly I must add, viewing your list and comparing it to readers on amazon.com. I have the reverse responsibility as you- I was a literacy coach for 8 years and due to funding cuts, I am now back in the classroom with 6th & 7th graders who are low performing but do not have a learning disability. While sad to lies my coaching position, I am thrilled to be in a classroom designed to develop struggling readers and writers.
Thank you for your insights and recommendations to help me build a current classroom library for my fearful and reluctant readers!
I am so happy that this list could help you!!!!!! If you need any other suggestions or help, please feel free to tweet me. Building a classroom library is so much fun!
Hope you have a great year 🙂
Thanks for this list!
I recently have found myself in a 6-7-8 Reading Advantage Classroom where I work on Reading comprehension skills to struggling readers. I wanted to give my students a list of Independent Reading Books to choose from and I thank you for the list.