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“What books do you suggest for a kid that doesn’t like to read?”
I hear this a lot and I always follow it up with, “well, when they do choose books, what do they pick?”
The answer is almost always the same: Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, and comic books in general. I have to be honest….there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with this! If this is what it takes to get your child to read, please let them have this! Between being forced to read “the classics” for 13 years of schooling, and not being allowed to select things that they enjoy, so many adults don’t read at all once they get out of school (see the graphic to the right).
There is also the topic of censorship. I’ve noticed in online circles that the Charlotte Mason-Classical-conservative Christian homeschool communities seem to have the tendency to heavily censor the books that their children read. Now, I probably wouldn’t have an issue with this if it was a matter of protecting children from violence or sex or language (but still, 2 of these 3 things don’t bother me). However, we’re talking about what Charlotte Mason calls “twaddle” or books with little substance.
Can I be honest? The idea of “twaddle” is crap. In fact, it’s elitist crap.
I don’t remember NOT being able to read. I grew up with Teddy Ruxpin and Disney Books on Tape, and all the books I could stand. My favorite weekends when I was a kid were when my mother and I would go and spend an hour or so in BookStar (R.I.P). We would split at the door and she’d come find me sitting in the kids section when she was done. By then I’d have picked out 2-3 books (usually the Babysitters Club) I wanted to buy, and would have read most of another off the shelf. Afterwards, we’d head across the street to Round Table Pizza and sit across from each other, quietly eating and reading.
My mother would throw me books every once in awhile….Black Beauty, The Little House Series (I only read the first one and a half), Follow My Leader, the American Girl books, etc….I may have read half of what I was given, because I liked what I liked and not much else.
When I got older I switched to V.C. Andrews (ok, probably not the greatest example…HA!), James Patterson (before he started writing for teens), and John Saul. Did gorging myself all day every day on “twaddle” stop me from taking 3 years of AP English in high school? Nope — though I really, REALLY struggled to get through Grapes of Wrath, it was just terribly boring.
What is my point, here? ALL READING IS BENEFICIAL!
So if your kid wants to read comics all day and not the classic, rich, morally upstanding novels that you love…why fight that? Encourage them.
Here’s a list to help you offer some books that they might actually read:
Teens & Young Adults
1. Kane Chronicles, Book One: The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel (series): All of Rick Riordan’s (author of the Percy Jackson series) books are great. Bonus, as a former teacher, the mythology behind his books is spot on, so there are some great learning moments and there’s a section of his website dedicated to additional study guides.
2. The City of Ember: I haven’t actually read this one, but I’ve read the original novel and enjoyed it. Now that I know this exists, it’s on my list!
3. Olympians, ZEUS: King of The Gods (series): This series covers Greek mythology in a way that’s the opposite of boring. And if it’s important to you, they’re aligned to Common Core standards. Others covered include Athena, Ares, Apollo, Aphrodite, and more.
4. BLACK Volume 1: What if the biggest secret in history was that only Black people had super powers? BLACK is a not-quite-X-Men redo that tackles social justice. (warning: language)
5. This One Summer: A coming of age story about a girl spending the summer on tiny island where she was born. (Warnings: language, sexuality)
6. Monster: The Graphic Novel: Walter Dean Myers’ classic gets quite the upgrade in this version. It’s true to the original book, which is written like a screenplay, so seeing the illustrations really brings the big moments to life.
7. Nimona: Who says you can’t love the bad guy? Nimona is a shape-shifting villain’s apprentice? Don’t skip this one!
8. A Wrinkle in Time: This is another graphic version that is pretty true to the novel itself. It hasn’t been modernized, either, so there’s no change in dialogue.
9. Anne of Green Gables: Just know this is a thing — I never read the original, and am still not interested.
10. To Kill A Mockingbird: I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to include this one or not, since I’m not really a fan of the book or the story line, or anything about it, really. But people seem to still incorporate it into their schooling, so here it is.
11. The Odyssey: I mean….it’s the Odyssey. Illustrated. Need I say more?! The author of this graphic novel also has others out, including The Iliad, Beowulf, and a handful of Shakespeare plays.
12. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Modern Retelling of Little Women: Featuring a multicultural, blended family, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are still just 4 girls struggling to figure out who they are in the world. (note: LBGTQ issues)
13. Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation: Note that this one is labeled for ages 8 and up….However, it is still very true to the original. Definitely consider some of the more controversial themes of the book.
14. The Giver: This little bit of dystopian-masked-as-utopian fiction is just as creepy with pictures as it is without, and yet…still riveting.
15. The Last Kids on Earth (series): This isn’t technically a graphic novel. But there are such large illustrations on every page that your child won’t even realize they’re reading a fully illustrated novel!
16. Kristy’s Great Idea: The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix: And all of the newly remade Babysitter’s Club books! I personally have blown through all of the available books in about 45 minutes each. #noshame
17. Camp: Girl friendship problems. We’ve all been here.
18. New Kid: All he wanted was go go to art school. Instead, Jordan’s parents ship him off to the best private school in the state, where he’s met with every microaggression on the planet in the very first day. The experience of being torn between the culture at school, and the reality of his neighborhood friends is eye-opening.
19. Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality! (Show Me History! series): History lessons as cartoons, it’s the life of MLK Jr. as a comic book. Others in the series include Amelia Earhart, Lincoln, and Hamilton.
20. Goldilocks and the Three Vampires: A Graphic Novel (Far-Out Fairy Tales series): I’m a sucker for anyone that can take a classic story and put a completely new twist on it, and this series doesn’t disappoint. Goldilocks is a little brown girl with golden highlights in her locs, that is on the hunt for ancient artifacts. What makes this series special is the comparison to the original story at the end, plus a glossary, and the explanation of some story elements.
21. Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute (series): Ever wonder what the lunch lady does outside the cafeteria? She’s a superhero, of course! These are a really fun read, bordering on Captain Underpants, without the potty-humor.
22. Moon Girl (series): Luna is a 4th grade genius hiding a HUGE secret. Set in the Marvel Universe, this series won’t disappoint.
23. Owly (series): Owly is an adorable little owl that is the perfect intro to graphic novels for young readers. With very little text and no color, Owly is a sweet little guy who’s always looking for a new friend.
24. Quarterback Rush (Sports Illustrated Kids Graphic Novels): SI has a whole series of novels about different sports. Most cover football, basketball, soccer, and baseball, but there’s also a few on hockey, skateboarding, track, etc.
25. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (Narwhal & Jelly series): A cute little series about two sea creatures that are completely different in every way, but who still learn that they can be great friends.
26. Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists: It’s all the classic nursery rhymes…as comics! Hickory, Dickory, Dock remains my favorite.
27. Jaden Toussaint: Episode 1: The Quest for Screen Time (5-book series): Another series that isn’t actually a graphic novel. However, it’s geared to younger children and the illustrations in the book are really large.
28. Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection: I don’t think I need to explain the amazing Calvin & Hobbes.
29. Phoebe and Her Unicorn (series): I thought these were really cute. Like a modern take on Calvin & Hobbes, Phoebe finds a unicorn and with her “one wish” decides they must be friends for life.
30. El Deafo: This is the super cute (and often heartbreaking) story of the author’s experience growing up Deaf in the 70s.