We Recommend, Boys & Chapter Books & Stamina Edition

And it's back to We Recommend, where my girls and I use our superpowers
to figure out the exact right book recommendation for whomever writes
in to ask. Just send us a description of the kid  you're talking about,
what he or she likes and does like, any other relevant (or irrelevant,
why not?) information, and we'll dip into our collective
unconsciousness and come up with the perfect book, which will
inevitably be overshadowed by the amazing and insightful
recommendations from the commenters. So go ahead, test us!

Today we have a request from a heavy-reading parent who wants to inspire her less-reading-driven son. As follows:

"I'm writing about my 8 1/2 year old son, who is an excellent reader but
has been slow to make the leap to chapter books, which I believe is
more a confidence/interest issue than a question of ability.  He:
– is not interested in Harry Potter
– loved the Narnia books (read out loud to him though)
– enjoys reading non-fiction, particularly those DK Eyewitness type
books on various topics (sharks, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, etc.)
– will read the Magic Treehouse series, but does not seem particularly engaged enough to finish them
– does like Captain Underpants series, but again, it's more of a few
pages here, few pages there sort of interest, rather than sustained

I have made a few purchases of books he might like (Nate the Great, The
Great Brain series, various youth Star Wars chapter books, The
Graveyard Book, etc.) but nothing seems to spark much lasting interest.
 I am hoping for the day when I will see him so engaged in a book that
he will make the effort to return to it until he has finished it, but I
am also wary of being pushy on the subject.

I would be grateful for suggestions of other books or series that might
appeal to him.  His teacher requires that all students carry a novel
for independent reading in their backpacks, so I'd like to take
advantage of that opportunity to introduce some new options.

As a child who needed books like I needed air to breathe (I recall
rummaging around in the basement once for something, anything new, and
magically discovering the Narnia books in a box), it's hard for me to
comprehend not having a deep level of engagement in reading.  Do you
think I am expecting that he should make a leap into lengthier chapter
books too early?

First of all, I would say that if the kids likes being read to, go
ahead and read to him. Anyone who likes hearing the Chronicles of
Narnia read aloud is a reader at heart, and as far I as I'm concerned
you should throw your worries
to the winds. That said, sometimes you want your kid to read to
himself. There is nothing more delightful than companionably hanging
out on the couch, you with your book, and your kid with his (or hers).
So what to offer this guy? It would help if we knew what interested him
in general: Sports? Cars? Magic? Nature? Pokemon? Cooking? True-crime?
If he has a strong preference towards a particular interest, forget
whatever we say here and get him a book about that. Lots of kids go for
nonfiction for a long time before they ever go for fiction, and any reading is of course fine.
But if that's not the case, then I'm going to just go ahead and recommend this:

Volume 1 Cover

hunch is that he likes to be read to because for him reading is still
hard. It's a lot of work to get through words on the page, and
sometimes seeing so many sort of defeats a kid before he starts. A
graphic novel slips the words by in un-overwhelming (sorry for
non-word) bubbles, and then there you are, You with In Other Rooms,
Other Wonders
(trust me), and him with Volume 7, a plate of cookies,
two cups of cocoa, and the best sort of afternoon in the world.
But don't trust me and my limited library. What do you guys think?

14 thoughts on “We Recommend, Boys & Chapter Books & Stamina Edition

  1. Hmmm…perhaps Edward Eager’s Knight’s Castle. If nothing else, that might be a fun read-aloud for the parent and the boy might like it well enough to try other Edward Eagers.
    Agree with the Bone. How about that old stand-by Calvin and Hobbes? What 8 1/2 year old could resist Calvin?
    Wonder if you can still find the Matthew Looney books?


  2. How about Encyclopedia Brown? The short-story format of those might work well for this kid. Alternatively, I’d say let him just keep reading whatever he’s reading and not worry too much about making a leap to chapter books. It sounds like there are some things he does enjoy reading, which is great.


  3. We just had a little breakthrough here with the Cornelia Funke book, When Santa Fell to Earth. The kidhere is younger, and on his own wants to look at (and thus try to read, despite himself) more non-fiction: nature mags, books on Egypt, basketball articles in the morning paper. Just in case you’ve got one who’d read game stats, too. (I like bball, but stats?! The box scores do seem to have jump-started his reading confidence, though.) Good luck. Sounds like you are doing great, no matter what.


  4. More non-fiction, graphic novels, and short stories (Encyclopedia Brown or otherwise) are all excellent suggestions.
    I especially like eta’s idea of nature magazines (or whatever he’s interested in) – something with lots of cool pictures, smaller blocks of text, info he can talk about, etc. What about Owl Magazine (or Chickadee if Owl is too advanced)? Bonus: he gets regular mail addressed to him, which has to be exciting when you’re a kid.


  5. I totally agree with reading him books aloud if that is what he likes. Then, don’t put the books away. My kids re-read what has been read to them over and over. They don’t have to work so hard on figuring out the story, but they are still practicing the art of reading. Win-win. That said, what about Henry Huggins?


  6. My 8 yr old son has liked:
    -Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
    -Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
    -The Great Brain series.
    -Marcia Williams writes graphic novels based on classics like Shakespeare and Dickens.
    -Guardians of Ga’Hoole series
    -Roald Dahl’s books
    We have good luck reading the first book of a series together and then he is interested in reading the rest of the series on his own.


  7. I teacher fourth grade.
    I’ve had reluctant readers get completely hooked on the BeastQuest series. They’re at a fairly easy reading level, as chapter books go, and they have all kinds of weird monsters in them.
    There’s also the Dinosaur Cove series, which are a little easier, but with time travel. And dinosaurs.
    If your guy likes time travel, Jon Scieszka writes the Time Warp Trio series, which are quite popular with the kids.
    Also popular among my more reluctant boy readers: Secrets of Droon series, Charlie Bone series.
    Failing those, I say leave him to his nonfiction!


  8. My eight year old loves the series Horrid Henry which I believe I discovered on this blog. Amazing breakthroughs with that! Also, my older son, who was always a good reader, preferred non-fiction early on and loved the biographies of famous people in their youth. I can’t remember the actual title but they would probably work as non-fiction, and there are a whole lot of them!


  9. My 8-yr-old LOVES Geronimo Stilton books. There is a lot of visual interest with different text colors and fonts on the pages as well as vivid illustrations. There is also quite a bit of parody and humor that my son really enjoys. This might be the one for your son because to really get what is happening in the stories, you have to SEE the book, not just listen to it. My son will quietly wander off and all of a sudden I will hear a great belly laugh coming from behind the sofa or whatever little nook he has found to read in and, sure enough, it will be Geronimo Stilton in his hands! He has also really enjoyed Encyclopedia Brown, especially Encyclopedia Brown Book Of Strange But True Crimes. Each crime story is a page of so with lots of illustrations so it can easily be read a little at a time. I’m not sure if that would meet his teacher’s criteria for a novel, but it’s a good jumping off place. Another suggestion, which is a much older book, but the first my son ever wanted to re-read was Homer Price by Robert McCloskey. It was written in the 40s and is comprised of short stories with lots of illustrations. My son liked the mystery-solving aspect as well as comparing life now to life back then. He loves history and non-fiction, so this appealed to him. Good Luck!


  10. How about Mrs. Piggle Wiggle? Or Homer Price? Both old-fashioned, but very entertaining and each chapter is a self-contained story so you don’t have to struggle through the whole big book.


  11. My daughter (4th grade) has bought** and read every Bone book written. She loves them. She picked them up at our friend’s house whose son is the same age (reluctant reader as well).
    **Gotta love those Borders gift cards!


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