Books for Reluctant Readers – Middle Grades (Ages 8-12/13)

A few weeks ago, a mother who reads my blog sent me a message through my contact me page and asked if I could do a blog post about good books for an 11-year-old reluctant reader (male). I decided to take the idea and “run” with it. I decided to make a series of posts of books and series that appeal to different age groups, particularly ones that are favored by reluctant readers.  This particular one covers that middle grade area (approximately ages 8-12/13). I will later create a post for younger readers (ages 4-8) and teen readers (ages 13-19). These lists will be for all genders, that way you can spot good reads whether they’re traditionally aimed at boys or girls.

I cannot take all the credit for this list. I found some of my recommendations on various lists on Goodreads, I had a huge amount of help from the members of the Facebook Group: ALA Think Tank, and I also conferred with one of our youth librarians here at Ann Arbor District Library. I’m very thankful for Laura’s and the Think Tank group members’ suggestions! I’m not as familiar with middle grade fiction as I am books for the younger grades (something I’m trying to remedy!). Without all of those who chipped in with their ideas, this post would have never come about!

Individual Suggested Titles for Middle Grade Reluctant Readers

The above titles all have one thing in common – they all contain short bits of information that can be read a little bit at a time. There are other “fact” books that middle graders and tweens like such as the Guinness Book of World Records and the World Almanac.  There are other books similar to Two-Minute Mysteries as well such as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or even the Encyclopedia Brown & Choose Your Own Adventure series, though those maybe be too “easy” to read.


These three titles are all considered great books for reluctant readers who are middle grade girls. I personally have read the first two. Ella Enchanted was okay. I liked it well enough, but The Secret Garden is my number one favorite book ever. Other titles similar to these include The Little PrincessThe Railway Children, Everything on a Waffle, and Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin.

These three titles are considered great for all reluctant middle grade readers. The only one I’ve read personally is The Giver and I highly recommend that one. Wonder is on my “to-read” list, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it.  Other titles that are similar to these are Island of the Blue Dolphins, Number the Stars, and The Bridge to Terabithia.

These three titles are all considered great for reluctant readers who are middle grade boys, though I would recommend them for all. They’re funny and fantastical and just fun! Other titles that could be included are FrindleHoles, and Hoot.

line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
© Graphic Garden

Series Recommended for Middle Grade Reluctant Readers

The three series above were the most recommended series for reluctant middle grader readers outside of Harry Potter.  One of my colleagues actually went so far as to state that she has never found an 11-year-old boy who did not like the Ranger’s Apprentice series. Being neither an 11-year-old boy or someone who deals with them on a regular basis, I have no idea if this holds true outside of her library system, but it’s worth a shot, certainly!

These three series all deal with fantasy and science fiction. The two on the ends are fantasy while the middle one is science fiction. They’ve all come highly recommended. Other similar series are The Sisters Grimm, The Heroes of Olympus, Chronicles of Narnia, and the Wrinkle in Time novels.

These three series traditionally appeal more towards girls, but if you’ve got a boy who’s interested in horses, Saddle Club might be a good fit. Other series like these include: The Frog Princess series, the Abby Hayes series, the American Girl series, and the Alice series.

These three series are supposed to be absolutely hilarious. I’ve never read any of them so I can’t say one way or the other, but that’s what I’ve been told.


The “Guys Read” series by Jon Sciezka is aimed specifically at boys. They’re short stories designed to grab and keep the attention of boys in the middle grades. You can also visit the website at


line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
© Graphic Garden

Authors that Often Appeal to Middle Grade Reluctant Readers

These three authors are big draws for reluctant readers who are into sports. They all have different sports series and some even cover the more “unusual” sports for kids like extreme sports, go-kart racing, etc. You can also check out Jake Maddox who has a sports series as well.

These three authors are great for those who are into fairy tales. I’ve personally read some of Gail Carson Levine’s work and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have not tried the other two authors, but I may in the future as I like fairy tale retellings.

These three are other authors that came up in the course of my gathering information for middle grade reluctant readers. You can also check out Kate DiCamillo and Louis Sachar.

line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
© Graphic Garden


Graphic Novels for Middle Grade Reluctant Readers

I do not want to leave out graphic novels and books that have a similar style. They’re wonderful reading tools for children who do not seem to like books without pictures as much. I’ve chosen a few series, a few stand-alone and a few that a children’s librarian at my library called “Graphic Novel-esque”. These are books that still have lots of pictures in them but they also have more text than a traditional graphic novel.

These three series were repeatedly named as good graphic novel series. I’m not a huge fan of graphic novels (I have nothing against the genre, they’re just not really my cup of tea), but even I loved the Amulet series. It’s one of the only graphic novel series that have ever gotten my attention and held it throughout the whole book. Big Nate also has a novel series that has been written as well.  Other series to check out include HildafolkExplorer (written by the same author as the Amulet series), JellabyBabymouse, and Lunch Lady.

These three series are what you would call “Graphic Novel-esque” series. They have lots of graphics for those who are totally into graphic novels but they also have a bit more text. Similar series include Dork DiariesAmelia’s Notebooks, and The Origami Yoda series.

These three are “stand alone” graphic novels. El Deafo is Cece Bell’s memoir about growing up with a hearing loss. Raina Telgemeier is a favorite among pre-teen girls. The title from Jim Ottaviani is an example of a non-fiction graphic novel.

line of books - some stacked, some standing, some leaning - books are blue, brown, red, green, and yellow
© Graphic Garden

These are a few of the many, many options out there for reluctant readers in the middle grades. Over the next month or so, I’ll be posting a similar list for younger readers and one for teens. Check them out and hopefully they’ll get your reluctant reader into reading!

2 thoughts on “Books for Reluctant Readers – Middle Grades (Ages 8-12/13)

  1. What a wonderful post! I’ve read quite a few of these. Some of them were when I was a kid, like Where the Red Fern Grows (probably still in my top 5 favs of all time). And some I read as an adult, like Wonder. Amazing book. I read it aloud to my daughter.


  2. I grew up on Judy Blume and introduced them to my kids along with Nancy Drew series. My grandchildren are hooked on Wimpy Kid series. Only one of my children was not a reader but our school reading teacher asked what his interests was and when I told her sports, she suggested Sports Illustrated for Kids and that got him reading – now he is into detective story books…I carry a book around wherever I go.


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