Whether your kiddo struggles to learn to read or just can’t be bothered to pick up a chapter book, there are ways to make them cave! Try one of these engaging series books for reluctant readers, and you might just be surprised at how quickly you have a bookworm on your hands.
1. The Princess in Black
Ever since my now-kindergartener heard his first Princess in Black book, he’s been hooked! The series will appeal to children of all ages and aspirations (although aspiring superheroes might enjoy it most of all).
Each book in the series follows Princess Magnolia (AKA the Princess in Black) as she battles monsters (with endearing “fight scenes” where she lays the “twinkle twinkle little… smash!” move on the often hairy beasts) and protects her secret identity.
The best part, though, is that each book involves a new undercover superhero appearing in the goat pasture, emerging from underneath blankets, and rising out of the ruins of a science fair.
Each monster is unique and “humanized” too, which helps teach kiddos about feelings and being kind to others (the “vanquished” monsters aren’t ever hurt).
I also love the range of vocabulary in every book. Co-authors Shannon and Dean Hale don’t talk down to their young audience, and it’s appreciated.
There are six books in the series, with more to come, and I hope they never end (and so does my kindergartener!).
Tip: Each book in the series is about $3 to $5 on Amazon, so buy them separately (in softcover) for the best deal!
Also, the 7th book (The Princess in Black and the Bathtime Battle) comes out in November, so mark your calendars!
Kids who love superheroes and princesses will enjoy these stories. Fans of action and mystery will like them, too, though they are a bit “young” for your more mature kids (but my 9-year-old still gets a laugh).
Kindergarten to third grade (ages 5-8)
Find it here:
- The Princess in Black
- The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party
- The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde
- The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation
- The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate
- The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare
2. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (Of Course!)
Captain Underpants is a comic-book style series by Dav Pilkey, a kid who got in trouble in school for making his own comics. The premise of the series is two friends (George and Harold) creating a superhero (who’s also their mean school principal).
There’s plenty of potty humor, tons of great vocabulary, and page after page of illustrations to keep kids’ attention. I have to admit these aren’t my favorite books, especially because potty humor is not my thing, but my 9-year-old loves them.
Since Dav had dyslexia as a child, he knows the struggles of kids who feel intimidated by walls of text on a page and super long chapters. I feel like he poured his childhood experiences into the series. They’re so wacky and out-there, it’s no surprise Dav’s works always make the list of series books for reluctant readers.
Tip: Although the books are in order, you can start anywhere (a brief synopsis of the origin story starts each book)!
Creative kiddos who like comic books and potty humor; likely kids a bit older who can grasp the more complex vocabulary (and accompanying jokes).
Grade 2 and up
Find it here:
3. The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne
The Magic Tree House series (and the higher-level Merlin Missions books) gives kids a round-the-world adventure they won’t want to put down.
Jack and Annie find a magic treehouse in the woods near their home, and it takes them on heart-stopping adventures all over the world (and throughout time).
There are so many single books and multi-book packs that you can find one on nearly any subject. Mary Pope Osborne and other authors also write “Fact Tracker” books as companions to the books in the series, which are amazing for furthering your kiddos’ adventures.
What’s really cool is you can supplement your history, science, and social studies with these chapter books without your kids catching on. I like to remind them that although Jack and Annie weren’t really there when historical events happened, the author is pretty spot-on with the timelines and events.
Tip: The audiobooks (they usually come in sets of four titles) are amazing for your more reluctant readers, and Mary Pope Osborne reads the books herself!
Any kiddo who is interested in history, animals, time travel, and adventure!
The Magic Tree House books suggest a reading level of first through the fourth grade.
Merlin Missions books aim to engage grades 2 through 5.
Find it here:
4. Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka
Frank Einstein is a clever series by renowned children’s author Jon Scieszka, whose resume also includes fun picture books and stories dating from the 1990s.
The first Frank Einstein book my boys and I “read” was an audiobook and we all loved the story. After we finished listening, my then-8-year-old started reading the first book in the series on his own.
Since then, we’ve picked up a few more of the books, and the story of Frank Einstein (he has a partner called Watson and a nemesis named T. Edison) and his robots Clink and Klank never gets old.
Frank Einstein is another series with an impressive range of vocabulary, and each book explains science concepts without getting too textbook-y. Every book involves T. Edison trying to steal ideas or ruin the successes of Frank Einstein, but somehow it always bites him in the behind in the end!
There is a bit of suspense and some machine-on-machine violence involved, however, which might bug some parents.
Kids with an interest in science, or just kids who like robots!
Grades 3 to 7 (per Amazon), but I’d say 3rd grade is a bit low unless your kiddo is a fairly advanced reader.
Find it here:
- Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor
- Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger
- Frank Einstein and the BrainTurbo
- Frank Einstein and the Evo-Blaster Belt
- Frank Einstein and the Bio-Action Gizmo
- Frank Einstein and the Space-Time Zipper
5. Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
My kids first read Bad Kitty at the public library, which had a Halloween-themed Bad Kitty picture book. The chapter books are a bit more involved, but they keep the same sense of humor and fun storytelling of the books aimed at younger kids.
Each picture book uses the alphabet to describe the story, but the chapter books switch up the format a bit.
The stories are still fun and silly, although Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet is somewhat macabre (Bad Kitty has surgery and dreams she’s going to die and so must repent for the bad things she’s done to her housemate, Puppy, to avoid a sort of cat purgatory…)
Apart from that, the humor and fast-paced storylines appeal to many reluctant readers.
Kids who love cats (or dogs)
Amazon’s description says 2nd to 5th grade, but I’d say some kids will probably lose interest by 3rd grade or so.
Find it here:
- Bad Kitty (the original picture book)
- Bad Kitty’s Complete Purrfect Boxed Set (comes with a journal)
- Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty
6. Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Nate the Great is a detective, and his adventures include plenty of pictures (black and white drawings) and fun mysteries to solve. The series is a bit dated (the first of 26 books has a 1977 publish date), but it’s still relevant to kids today.
If you have a budding detective at home, these might be the perfect story to encourage some old-fashioned problem-solving. Newer versions of the books also include activities and further discussion at the back of the book.
For most kids, these are a quick and enjoyable read, and there’s a glossary for “detective words” kiddos might not know.
Kids who enjoy mysteries and detectives and figuring things out on their own.
1st through 4th (my 3rd grader particularly enjoyed them)
Find it here:
7. Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
Before Mercy Watson, we hadn’t read any books by Kate DiCamillo, so I’m glad we found her this way! Mercy Watson is a spoiled pig who enjoys toast with a great deal of butter on it, and just in living her daily life, she has tons of adventures!
Six books make up Mercy’s story, but I just found out there’s another book called A Piglet Named Mercy with the porcine wonder’s origin story, which we totally need to read now!
And once you finish the six main books, there are also Tales from Deckawoo Drive, which expand on each of the neighbors Mercy knows and loves. Leroy Ninker Saddles Up was a favorite with my kids; Leroy is a reformed robber who falls in love with a horse and becomes a real cowboy.
Also, the illustrator (Chris Van Dusen) is superb, and we love his book If I Built A Car, too.
Kids who like animals!
Amazon says 1st through 4th grades, and I’d suggest the higher end of that range since the books are long and wordy.
Find it here:
To me, reading has always been pure joy. But I totally understand that not every person (or homeschooler) sees it that way. With the help of these super-engaging series books, hopefully, you can inspire your kiddo to at least try to enjoy a good book every now and then!
Do you have any favorite engaging series books for reluctant readers? Tell us about them in the comments!