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The Best Boy Books for Reluctant Readers

Need some book suggestions for your reluctant boy reader? You’ve come to the right place!

I get it! I have two very busy (mine both carry an ADHD diagnosis), very active boys who now LOVE reading.

How’d that happen, you ask? How can you get a reluctant reader to not only pick up a book, but end up loving reading?

I credit lots of things, but these books for reluctant boy readers attracted my boys and held their interest more than any others. 

 Admittedly, not all of them are MY favorites.

But, I’ve talked about this before. Get kids books THEY enjoy. 

The most important piece in raising a reader is to have kids see reading as an enjoyable activity.

I was extremely diligent in finding books that my kids enjoyed – sometimes to my chagrin.

These books peaked their interests and I indulged them.  Our house became full of books! We’d scour thrift stores for books, I gave my kids an allowance for books, and we’d travel to multiple libraries to fill our arms with books they loved.

After 15 years of mothering and 25 years of teaching, I have seen these books work wonders on boys ages 3 to 12-ish. *Wait!!  I’ve added more for older readers, too!!!*

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The Best Boy Books for Reluctant Readers

Steven Caney’s Ultimate Building Book

It has been my experience raising two boys with ADHD, that if you can get them interested in something, their symptoms seems to melt away.

Both of my boys, and I would argue boys, in general, LOVE to build things.   Steven Caney’s Ultimate Building Book appeals to kids 4 to 94! The book is packed with any and all information you’d ever need to create and build just about anything. 

Caney has us exploring household and natural materials we all have at our disposal in new and inventive ways. You, no doubt, will have a Jr. architect on your hands. These activities kept my kids busy for hours and hours on end.  A must have for any boy’s library.

Rekindle or start your kid’s passion for building with Steven Caney’s Ultimate Building Book.   This is truly a book for the whole family – I’ve learned a lot about architecture and created a few things, myself. 

Stephen Biesty’s Cross Sections Books

Stephen Biesty makes some of the best high interest books for reluctant readers. Biesty’s books appeal to curious kids who love to know how things work.

Warning: Your kids may sit and look at these books for hours!!

The illustrations in Biesty’s cross section books are packed full of tiny details about the interiors of ships, buildings, and vehicles. There are lots of fun facts to be discovered, and curious details are highlighted and explained.

These books can be enjoyed by emerging and struggling readers because there is just so much to look at. My kids have loved The Castle and Man O’War books since they were about 3 and have been the inspiration for years of drawings. All of Biesty’s books that we own have been pretty much constantly off our bookshelves for years. 

David Macaulay’s Castle, Cathedral, and Mill

David Macaulay’s books are similar to Stephen Biesty’s books because they show the detailed inner workings of large structures.  Macaulay’s style is a bit simpler and his illustrations look like pencil sketches.

His books, like Castle and Cathedral,  chronicle the building process of huge structures from planning to completion.  Macaulay’s books are historical in nature, as he shows the building processes of 100 years ago or more. 

We loved his Pyramid, and Mill books also. These books have definitely fueled my kids’ passion for building and architecture. 

DK Eyewitness Books

DK Eyewitness Books are classics and so visually rich, your kids will love to just page thru the pictures! My kids loved these book even before they were readers. They’d flip to a random page and ask me to read it to them. Our first favorites were Airplanes, Knight, and Castle

We’ve been collecting these for years – from thrift stores and as gifts for special occasions. My kids’ favorites change from year to year as they get into new things. 

Now that my kids are a bit older, they love any of the Star Wars books, World War 2, and A Street Thru Time that chronicles the changes on a street thru 1,000 years. 

Both of my boys really love history and are quite knowledgable – these books laid the foundation of their love of people and places. 

Related: Reading Strategies for ADHD Kids

The Julius Zebra Series by Gary Northfield

Gary Northfield is hysterical and in my opinion, his books are better than Wimpy Kid! My boys read his first book, Julius Zebra, Rumble With the Romans over and over again and now there are more books (that we just ordered!).

The format is easy to read – the pages are a nice mix of text and illustrations.

The slight hint of historical fiction adds to the educational factor of these books as well. These books make great gifts, too – we have introduced many a kiddo to the Julius Zebra books. 

13 Story Treehouse Series

These were some of the first “chapter” books my kids read. They are hilarious (for the 7 to 12 set) and full of imaginative, good fun. 

Like the Julius Zebra books, these are heavily illustrated and do not seem overwhelming to kids who may struggle to read. The short pages and hilarious, outlandish story line keep them interested and engaged.

Grab the whole set – they’re up to the 130 Story Treehouse now!

Sherman’s Lagoon Comic Strip Collections

These are great for reluctant readers in middle school. Both of my kids love comics and graphic novels.  I think they are great for busy boys and reluctant readers because they are super engaging and not overly intimidating.

Plus the extra visual cues of the cartoon make it easy on the reader. 

Sherman’s Lagoon is good clean fun, yet, not babyish. Kids can get a quick win by reading even just one cartoon. These make great bathroom readers!

2 garfield comic books

Garfield Comic Series

My kids have been collecting Garfield books for about 5 years. Like Sherman’s Lagoon, Garfield comics are a non-intimidating way to get kids reading – and they are so funny!!

We have a ton of Garfield books we found at the thrift store – it’s something my kids still like to hunt for. Be careful – you might get hooked!!

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales is another series my kids just consume!!  My boys are history buffs(due in part to these books!) and graphic novel lovers – so these fit the bill. 

Hale’s books chronicle important people, places and events in history – WW1 and WW2 battles, The Underground Railroad, Grand Canyon National Park – in a very kid friendly and creative way. 

Roald Dahl is a Must For Your Kid’s Bookshelf!

Over the years of teaching and mothering, there is not an author out there who captivates children in the same way that Roald Dahl does. If you know him already, you are saying, “Of Course!”

If you don’t know him, get thee to a bookseller immediately!

These stories are awesome for read aloud if your kids resist pages of text! They will be mesmerized under your spell!  

The great thing about Roald Dahl, is that the kids win out in all of his books and they are infinitely funny and outrageous. 

Beginning readers will enjoy George’s Marvelous Medicine and Esio Trot, while older readers will love James and the Giant Peach or his autobiography, Boy

Or do your family a favor and buy the whole set! Or start with a smaller set, like this one.

I keep updating this post as my boys get older and still read a lot! So here’s some more books for  boy readers – because now they love to read – but, still have focus and attention issues.

The Hank the Cowdog Series started as a read aloud for our family. Before my boys were reading chapter books, my husband would read these hilarious books aloud to us at bedtime. 

As my boys started to get more comfortable with lots of words on the page, they naturally picked them up. We found many of our copies at thrift and second hand book stores

Hank’s adventures on the ranch with a funny cast of characters are super funny and addictive!

Pin for later, there’s so many great books your reluctant reader will love!

Try these books for reluctant boy readers and see what happens! Kids have to see reading as a fun activity in order for them to pick up a book. Like anything with parenting, you just have to try these books and see what sticks!

I love the concept of  strewing books – placing them around your house to see if they spark an interest.

We have really gotten tons of mileage out of these. Most of these books have been read by my kids for about 10 years! These also make really great gifts. 

Do let me know which ones turn out to be your kids new favorites!

Come on over to Instagram and continue the conversation.

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20 Comments

  1. What are the ages for these books?

    1. HI Eunice! They vary, but some of them we’ve had for 12 years and were books that I read aloud to my kids or they just looked thru before they could read. Even at 12 and 14, some of these books still come out and are read on a regular basis. If there is a specific book I can answer to, let me know. Thanks!!

  2. Heather Gottfried Lloyd says:

    I would also add the “you wouldn’t want to be” series. Non-fiction covering a wide range of historical jobs or events you wouldn’t want to be involved with: sail with the Spanish Armada, work on the Railroad, sail on an Irish famine ship, be a civil war soldier to list a few. Highly pictorial with short books of text they are very interesting, engaging and humorous. My 8 and 10 yr old love them. Finding books for my 8 yr old boy with ADHD and reading disorder (not specified) has been a challenge.
    I would add that he has also like Inspector Flytrap, Bad Guys and Julius Zebra. Thank you for the other suggestions. I already ordered some of the cross section books and the Ultimate Building book!

    1. I will check out that series! I have not heard of it – thanks for the suggestion! My boys are 12 and 14 now and still read some of those books listed – they are so beloved!! I teach 1st thru 3rd grade at a Montessori school and am always looking for new titles for my class library. Thanks for the suggestions, Heather!

  3. Dragon masters is another wonderful series for boys. My 7 year old loves it! There are 17 books in the series so it was a nice one to get him into.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, we’ll check them out! I love to get a good series going.

    2. I second this series! My non-reader who was in a reading program last year at school because of his struggle completely consumed all 19 books in the last 3 months, even reading during recess on occasion. We have our 20th book pre-ordered already and my son asks me just about every day when it will arrive. I can’t wait to check out a few of the series on this list in the meantime!

  4. My 5th grade reluctant reader with ADHD absolutely fell in love with anything by Stuart Gibbs because his books are jam packed with adventure, suspense, and even some humor.

  5. My 10 year old son has an ADHD and autism diagnosis and for years he would only read non-fiction (usually math and science) and we couldn’t get him to read any fiction till we discovered the Hardy Boys books. Now he goes through a book ever 2 days and we found lots at thrift stores and the library. But I’m always looking for more books for him to try, especially as he gets older and needs something more challenging.

    1. My husband reads Hardy Boys! I should get my sons to give those a try! I love how old fashioned they are and all the responsibility the kids have, like driving their own boat around at 14! : P Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. Check out TDPatrick’s books: The Terra Prime Adventures. They are clean sci-fi space books for early readers.

  7. The 39 Clues series is what turned our 4 the grade boys’ test scores around.

  8. I have a few suggestions! My 9yo is loving Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. Also they really like Ramona books and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. They love to read about kids who are a little naughty and have consequences. And I read them Shel Silverstein poems at bedtime except they wanted to stay up all night begging for more!

    1. Nathan Hale’s books are still a favorite with my teens! Shel Silverstein is awesome! Have you seen his houseboat? Google it!
      Thanks for the suggestions and happy summer reading!!

  9. For those of you that have boys enjoying the Hardy Boy books, you should see if they like The Three Investigator Series. Those are so much fun! They are about 3 boys that have their headquarters in the junk yard of one boy’s uncle. They have quite the fun adventures!

    1. I will have to check those out….probably perfect for my classroom! Thanks for the suggestions.