Updated: Jun 24, 2022
15 Books that have your kids begging for you to read just a little bit more
We know kids need to read. We know kids that read do better in school. Blah, Blah, Blah. But what we really want is for kids to fall in love with reading. And we know from experience, you don't fall in love by force or by nagging. You fall in love because of chemistry, common interests, and time spent together. So, here's a list of books with great chemistry; choose one sure to captivate your child based on her interests. Read the book aloud to your child creating the time she spends with a good book. And love will blossom.
1. Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Interests: basketball, sibling rivalry, blossoming love
Triggers: death of father
Next Read: Rebound (a prequel)
Josh Bell is an 8th-grade basketball star- so is his twin brother, JB. They are the best of friends and want to play professional basketball just like their dad did. Problems begin to arise when JB shows more interest in girls than in playing ball with Josh. To complicate matters, their father is beginning to exhibit health problems and they learn not even legends are invisible.
This book has short chapters and is written in verse that is fun to read and listen to. Kids love Chuck "Da Man" Bell's (dad) basketball rules, the nicknames like Filthy McNasty, and the raps that would pop up throughout the story. The quick game sequence poetry had kids cheering out loud and repeating the lines as they left the classroom.
by James Patterson
Interests: funny, middle school life, friends, blended family
Triggers: abuse, brother's death
Next Read: Middle School: Get Me Out of Here!
Rafe and his friend, Leonardo the Silent, are on a mission to break every rule in their middle school handbook. They have dubbed this mission Operation R.A.F.E.- Rules Aren't For Everyone. As you can imagine, this isn't going to go smoothly- but it does bring a lot of laughs.
Kids really get into the idea of breaking every rule. They can also identify with all the problems Rafe faces at school (crushes, bullying, annoying rules) and at home (mean stepdad, annoying little sister, divorced parents). This story is much more than a funny book and that's what makes it so memorable.
3. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Interests: action, survival
Triggers: violence and children killing children
Next Read: Catching Fire
Katniss Everdeen volunteers as a tribute to save her little sister from fighting in the Hunger Games. The Games were created by the Capitol to punish citizens living in the 12 surrounding districts for their rebellion against the nation, Panem. Every year, each district sends one boy and one girl to fight to the death on live TV for the Capitol's entertainment.
Kids listen to this book on the edge of their seats. They discuss if they would have what it takes to win the Hunger Games. It often becomes the first book they are obsessed with and so begins their book fandom journey.
4. Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Interests: first love, family dynamics, school life
Next Read: Out of My Mind
A sweet story of unrequited love. Julie falls head over heels in love with Bryce. He finds her annoying and weird. He avoids her at all costs which is pretty hard to do since Julie can't take a hint. But in 8th grade, Bryce begins to see Julie in a new light. The problem is Julie begins to think Bryce's light has dimmed.
Not only do the main character's feelings flip, but the chapters also flip between Julie and Bryce's points of view. The kids in my class love hearing both sides. And despite it being a love story, the boys loved it just as much as the girls.
5. BFG by Roald Dahl
Interest: funny, magic, fantasy
Triggers: giants that eat people
Next Read: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Sophie is carried off into the night by the BFG- the Big Friendly Giant. When she discovers giants are eating up sweet little chiddlers, she decides she must be the one to stop them- well her and the BFG.
This book is a fun book to read aloud with such words as snozzcumbers, bloodbottlers, frobscottle and whizzpoppers. It captures the imagination and has kids laughing out loud.
6. Schooled by Gordon Kormon
Interests: middle school life, bullies, friendship
Next Read: The Zucchini Warriors
Capricorn Anderson has spent his entire sheltered life living on a commune with Rain. Then one fateful afternoon Rain falls from a tree forcing Capricorn Anderson to live in the real world for the first time. No amount of Zen and yoga could prepare him for the battles of middle school and his new title of Class President.
Kids love the hippie naivete of Capricorn Anderson and the snobby sarcasm of Sophie (the daughter of the social worker caring for him). They thought it was so funny that every attempt Zach Powers (the bully), made to bring Capricorn down only made Cap more and more popular. Middle school justice at its best!
7. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
Interests: funny, animals, mystery
Next Read: It Came from Beneath the Bed!
A new pet has been added to the Monroe house and Harold the dog and Chester the cat suspect this little bunny just may be a vampire. All evidence points to this obvious conclusion: the bunny has fur shaped like a vampire cape, he doesn't sleep at night, and the vegetables are being sucked for their juices. Chester will do anything to protect his family including hanging garlic around the house and hitting Bunnicula with a steak (which incidentally should have been a stake). All of this weird pet behavior lands Chester in cat psychotherapy.
Harold is absolutely misguided and loveable, while Chester is the perfect blend of snobbery and crazy. Kids laugh at every disastrous attempt to save the family and can't wait to discover if indeed the Monroe's are living with a vampire.
8. Marcus Makes a Movie by Kevin Hart
Interests: funny, comics, friendship, chasing dreams
Triggers: mom's death
Next Read: Marcus Makes It Big
Marcus is always in trouble at school and he's not too happy about having to attend after-school classes- until he realizes he can take a film class and turn his superhero comic, Toothpick, into a movie. The problem is he has no idea how to do it! He's going to need the help of a lot of people including the school bully and the opinionated Sierra. But Marcus is going to do whatever it takes to make his movie-making dreams come true.
You know anything by Kevin Hart is going to be funny. However, this story has a lot of elements kids are interested in as well: comics/superheroes, bullies, school struggles, and first loves. All the twists and turns and the growing relationship between Marcus and Sierra entertain kids from beginning to end. Caution: It's hard to read this book without imitating Kevin Hart's voice.
9. A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
Interests: orphans, hardship, heartwarming, books
Triggers: child neglect and animal cruelty
Next Read: Matilda
Three orphans siblings, Anna, Edmund, and William, are looking for their forever home. They have been evacuated to an English village to keep them safe from the war. They are instructed by their solicitor to use this opportunity to find a family to adopt them. As the kids are bounced from home to home they experience neglect and bullying, but they always stick together and find comfort in books. Eventually, they find refuge with the too-good-to-be-true librarian, Mrs. Muller.
This is a heartwarming read that makes you fall in love with books and librarians. The writing is beautiful. The characters are loveable. And the ending is happy.
10. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Interests: underdogs, fitting in, independence, justice
Triggers: murder, death, violence
Next Read: Counting by Sevens
The Socs are supposed to be the good guys- but they're not. The Greasers are the outcasts- but they're loyal. And when the two meet, it's going to be a fight. One night the fight goes too far, leaving one soc dead and two greasers, Ponyboy and Johnny, on the run.
This book is filled with high-stakes drama and infuriating unfairness that reel kids into the story and gives them a lot to talk about. Don't be surprised if your girls are swooning over the characters and your boys start calling each other socs.
11. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Interests: funny, sibling rivalry
Next Read: Superfudge
Nothing annoys Peter more than his little brother, Farley- aka Fudge. The kid ruins school projects, causes scenes at restaurants, and insists on eating food like a dog. But none of that even compares to Fudge's worst offense- eating Peter's pet turtle, Dribble. And do Peter's parents care that he has lost his beloved pet? No, of course not. They're too worried about their precious baby.
The story is from Peter's point of view, but there's no doubt about it- Fudge is the star of the show. This has been a kid favorite for years, and for good reason- it's stinking funny!
12. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
Interests: coming-of-age, animals, historical, farm life
Triggers: death, animal cruelty
Next Read: Where the Red Fern Grows
Robert Peck earns a baby pig after helping one of his neighbor's cows birth a calf. Robert loves his pig fiercely. The two do everything together. Robert is so proud of his pig, that he takes him to the Rutland fair where Pinky is honored with a ribbon for best-behaved pig. All of the love comes crashing down when Robert is told that Pinky is barren, and now he must do the unthinkable. It was the Quaker way.
This story is unforgettable. The Quaker way of life is so foreign to today's world- the simplicity, the harshness, the goodness. Your heart simply breaks for Robert as he gives Pinky one last hug before his father knocks her dead. And it breaks again when Robert loses his father and realizes he is no longer a boy.
13. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Interests: fantasy, animals, funny, orphan
Triggers: child abuse
Next Read: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Poor James has been sent to live with his horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. He is forced to wait on them hand and foot. Life looks pretty bleak for young James, until one day he meets a mysterious old man who gives him magical green objects to eat. James accidentally spills them on a peach tree and a peach begins to grow and grow and grow. Inside this peach, James discovers insects that have not only grown to human size- but they can talk as well. Soon these friends will be off on a trip of a lifetime, flying and floating around the world in a giant peach.
No other book will spark your child's imagination like James and the Giant Peach. It is fantasy, whimsy, magic, and humor perfection.
14. The Watson's Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Interests: funny, historical, family, heartwarming, justice
Triggers: the murder of children, racism
Next Read: Bud, Not Buddy
The Weird Watsons, (Mom, Dad, Byron, Kenny, and Joetta) are on their way south in order to straighten out their juvenile delinquent, Byron. He thinks he is the king of Clark elementary, but Dad makes it clear that there isn't room for two kings in Flint, Michigan. After setting fires, killing a bird, and beating up another student, Byron thinks he's living large. When he decides to straighten his hair without permission, Dad has finally had enough. He shaves Byron bald and announces he's being shipped off to Grandma Sands for the summer. In Alabama, the Watsons' kids will be awakened to the cruel reality of racism.
Kenny Watson, the smart but introverted middle child, is the narrator. Byron is the juvenile delinquent you grow to love. Joetta is cuteness overload. The parents are everything you want parents to be- in love with each other and devoted to their children. I promise you- your family is going to love the Watson family.
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Interests: historical, heartwarming
Next Read: Little Women
This book is inspired by Laura's life growing up in a log cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. It is filled with heartwarming tales of pioneer family life in America. After reading the book, I highly recommend a cozy, family movie night- snuggling up on the couch together in jammies, eating buttery popcorn, and binge-watching episodes of Little House on the Prairie.
In fact, most of these books can be found in video format as well. So, extend your family time by watching your favorite stories on the big screen and then debating "which is better- the book or the movie?" And always, always wrap up your night with a good night story. Happy reading friends!