Recommended Reading List to Encourage Reading

Accelerated Reader by Renaissance Learning is a reading program that offers comprehension and vocabulary quizzes related to a large collection of book titles so we can see how much our children actually understand from what they’re reading. Comprehension has been found to be particularly important because it is the key to reaping the benefits from reading. I know we’ve heard a lot about how reading makes children smarter, but there are qualifiers:

  • A child who reads a lot but understands less that 65% of what he’s reading, will not gain much from reading.
  • If they can understand 85% of what they read, the students who read challenging books that were above their designated reading level had the most to gain.

More about the Accelerated Reader Programme

Now that G1’s school has implemented Accelerated Reader, we have been trying to expand his reading repertoire with more meaningful books to increase the challenge. Since he spend Summer binge reading books like Diary of a Minecraft Zombie, Diary of Steve the Noob, Trapped in a Video Game, Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja, and other similar titles, I felt we were long overdue on the meaningful and challenging part.

This is an update to our reading list recommendations, some more meaningful than others, but all enjoyed by him. I’ve separated the books that G2 enjoyed since he tends to be a little pickier. Suffice to say, G1 read and enjoyed all those books, too.

Recommended Reading List from G1

The following are books that G1 has enjoyed reading to varying degrees. His rating system has roughly four levels – brilliant, “good but not great”, “okay only”, or “not worthy of being read”. The books in this list fall into the first two categories. I have also added the Accelerated Reader Level, Lexile Levels and Recommended Reading Age, based on what I could find. These are only listed for the first book in the series, which isn’t necessarily the same throughout the series.

The Menagerie

  • Accelerated Reader: 4.6
  • Lexile Level: 710L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 8-12 years old

Recommended Reading List - menagerieThis series of books was a logical follow on after Wing’s of Fire since it is written by the same author – Tui T Sutherland. G1 loved Wings of Fire and read this series while waiting for the rest of the Wings of Fire series to be completed. He really enjoyed this series as well. Amazon says it’s perfect for fans of Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series and The Spiderwick Chronicles so perhaps those are another two series of books we can take a look at.

In the small town of Xanadu, Wyoming lies the Menagerie, a top secret facility filled with unicorns, dragons, phoenixes, and other fairy tale creatures. At least, it was a secret—until six griffin cubs escaped.

If Logan and Zoe don’t get the cubs back fast, the entire Menagerie will be shut down. The race is on and the resulting adventure is only the beginning of a thrilling series that will leave readers wanting a magical menagerie of their very own.

The Heartland Trilogy

  • Accelerated Reader: N/A
  • Lexile Level: N/A
  • Recommended Reading Age: 11+ years old

I stumbled across this series while looking for “appropriate books” that G1 could read. Commonsense Media gave it 5 stars for educational value, positive messages, and positive role models. That sold me since I was on the hunt for books with “great boy role models”. Even though it earned 5 stars, G1 thought it was “good but not great”. It was interesting enough for him to finish reading the whole series, but not interesting enough for him to read it again.

Fear the Corn.

Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It’s the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow—and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it.

As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables. But Cael’s tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He’s sick of the mayor’s son besting Cael’s crew in the scavenging game. And he’s worried about losing Gwennie—his first mate and the love of his life—forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry—angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn’t seem upset about any of it. When Cael and his crew discover a secret, illegal garden, he knows it’s time to make his own luck…even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.

H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education

  • Accelerated Reader: 7.5
  • Lexile Level: 1040L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 10-14 years old

Recommended Reading List - HIVEThis series follows the thirteen year old protagonist, Otto Malpense. With reminiscent tones of Harry Potter and Hogwarts, Otto Malpense is an orphan who is picked to attend a school for supervillains – H.I.V.E. According to G1, this book was excellent. He was only bummed that the series is not complete and that he will have to wait for the rest of it to be released.

Otto Malpense may only be thirteen years old, but so far he has managed to run the orphanage where he lives, and he has come up with a plan clever enough to trick the most powerful man in the country. He is the perfect candidate to become the world’s next supervillain.

That is why he ends up at H.I.V.E., handpicked to become a member of the incoming class. The students have been kidnapped and brought to a secluded island inside a seemingly active volcano, where the school has resided for decades. All the kids are elite; they are the most athletic, the most technically advanced, and the smartest in the country. Inside the cavernous marble rooms, floodlit hangars, and steel doors, the students are enrolled in Villainy Studies and Stealth and Evasion 101. But what Otto soon comes to realize is that this is a six-year program, and leaving is not an option.

With the help of his new friends: an athletic martial-arts expert; a world-famous, beautiful diamond thief; and a spunky computer genius — the only other people who seem to want to leave — can Otto achieve what has never been done before and break out of H.I.V.E.?

The Sisters Grimm

  • Accelerated Reader: 5.2
  • Lexile Level: 840L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 9+ years old

Recommended Reading List - Sisters grimmG1 has a fondness for the modern takes on fairy tales. From The Land of Stories to A Tale Dark and Grimm, The Sisters Grimm is just the latest addition to the series of books about fairy tales that he has enjoyed. According to G1, it is enjoyable enough to be read, but does not rate quite as highly as the former two series.

Sisters Sabrina and Daphne are sent to live with their mysterious grandmother, Relda Grimm. The sisters learn they are descendants of the Brothers Grimm, whose famous book of fairy tales is actually a collection of case files. The girls are the latest in a long line of fairy-tale detectives, and their new hometown is filled with Everafters (as magical folks like to be called) – some good and some very, very bad. When a mysterious Everafter sets a giant loose on the town, itÆs up to the Sisters Grimm to save the day.

I Funny

  • Accelerated Reader: 4.1
  • Lexile Level: 610L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 10+ years old

This series was recommended to G2 by a cousin with similar reading tastes. Before G2 could get into them, G1 usurped the books and devoured the whole series. G1 thoroughly enjoyed it but G2 hasn’t been particularly keen to read it. I always thought anything that was funny was fair game for G2. Looks like this brand of humour has failed on him.

I Funny is written by James Patterson, an author G1 became familiar with after he started reading the Middle School Series.

Jamie Grimm is a middle schooler on a mission: he wants to become the world’s greatest standup comedian–even if he doesn’t have a lot to laugh about these days. He’s new in town and stuck living with his aunt, uncle, and their evil son Stevie, a bully who doesn’t let Jamie’s wheelchair stop him from messing with Jamie as much as possible. But Jamie doesn’t let his situation get him down. When his Uncle Frankie mentions a contest called The Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic, Jamie knows he has to enter. But are the judges only rewarding him out of pity because of his wheelchair, like Stevie suggests? Will Jamie ever share the secret of his troubled past instead of hiding behind his comedy act?

Frank Einstein

  • Accelerated Reader: 4.7
  • Lexile Level: 730L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 8+ years old

I stumbled on this series at a book sale and bought it on a whim after reading its wonderful synopsis. What mother could say “no” to a book that promises to have the kids learning about science and then clamouring for more? Evidently, G1 concurs. He says it is an awesome series.

Clever science experiments, funny jokes, and robot hijinks await readers in the first of six books in the New York Times bestselling Frank Einstein chapter book series from the mad scientist team of Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs. The perfect combination to engage and entertain readers, the series features real science facts with adventure and humor, making these books ideal for STEM education.

Integrating real science facts with wacky humor, a silly cast of characters, and science fiction, this uniquely engaging series is an irresistible chemical reaction for middle-grade readers. With easy-to-read language and graphic illustrations on almost every page, this chapter book series is a must for reluctant readers. The Frank Einstein series encourages middle-grade readers to question the way things work and to discover how they, too, can experiment with science. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews raves, “This buoyant, tongue-in-cheek celebration of the impulse to ‘keep asking questions and finding your own answers’ fires on all cylinders,” while Publishers Weekly says that the series “proves that science can be as fun as it is important and useful.”

If you like this idea of teaching kids science through stories, you might also want to look up George’s Secret Keys to the Universe. G1 thought that was pretty good, too.

Alex Rider

  • Accelerated Reader: 5.1
  • Lexile Level: 670L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 11+ years old

This series was recommended to G1 by his class teacher. He enjoyed it so much, he finished the first book in a day. The rest of the series followed pretty quickly after. What is it about? Think James Bond, but for kids.

They said his uncle Ian died in a car accident. But Alex Rider knows that’s a lie, and the bullet holes in the windshield prove it. Yet he never suspected the truth: his uncle was really a spy for Britain’s top secret intelligence agency. And now Alex has been recruited to find his uncle’s killers . . .

I must confess that I saw this series some time back and decided not to introduce it to G1 after reading the reviews on Commonsense Media. I felt that the book did not add value, having nothing relevant to contribute in terms of educational value, positive messages or role models. There is a mixed bag of reactions about the violence in the book, so you might want to take that into consideration as well. If you aren’t bothered by any of that, then this would be a good series to introduce to a reluctant reader.

Mrs Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH

  • Accelerated Reader: 5.1
  • Lexile Level: 790L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 9+ years old

This was one of my favourite books as a child, so I wanted G1 to read it, too. It didn’t hurt that it has also won a  Newbery Medal Award. I’ve always believe it is good for G1 to read the occasional award-winning book so that he can take note of what good writing looks like. G1 thought it was enjoyable but not amazing.

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service.

The Neverending Story

  • Accelerated Reader: 5.9
  • Lexile Level: 930L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 10-14 years old

DH recommended this one to G1. I thought G1 would identify with Bastian, being an avid book reader himself. We like books with movie adaptations so that G1 can ponder the differences between the movie and the book. Usually, he will want to read the book first so that he can “see” the story in his mind before his imagination is corrupted by the movie. Like Mrs Frisbee, he thought it was a good book, but not great.

When Bastian happens upon an old book called The Neverending Story, he’s swept into the magical world of Fantastica – so much that he finds he has actually become a character in the story! And when he realizes that this mysteriously enchanted world is in great danger, he also discovers that he is the one chosen to save it. Can Bastian overcome the barrier between reality and his imagination in order to save Fantastica?

Mrs Peregrine’s Peculiar Children

  • Accelerated Reader: 5.7
  • Lexile Level: 890L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 14-17 years old

You might want to read the reviews of this book over at Commonsense Media and decide for yourself before passing it to your younger child. The recommended reading age is 13+ but some parents felt it was more appropriate for an older age group because of the inappropriate language. As for G1, he thoroughly enjoyed this and highly recommends it.

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A Monster Calls

  • Accelerated Reader: 4.8
  • Lexile Level: 730L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 11-13 years old

An interesting book that explores the subject of death and the coming to terms with it from a child’s perspective. I’ve always felt that fictional stories are sometimes a great way to approach the topics that we often find challenging to talk about. When you can explore an idea that is somewhat removed from yourself, it is easier to talk about.

G1 read the book and then watched the movie. He was intrigued by the way the movie portrayed certain scenes from the book because he had imagined something very different. This was another book that received an intermediate rating from G1 – enjoyable but not fantastic.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

The Inheritance Cycle

  • Accelerated Reader: 5.6
  • Lexile Level: 1010L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 11-13 years old

I tried to read this book after the movie came out but struggled to finish it. To me, I thought it was a bit drawn-out and draggy. At that time, the series was incomplete, so I felt no rush to finish reading it. I only recommended it to G1 after hearing that other kids had enjoyed the series enormously. Perhaps there was something I missed? It seems, there was, because G1 thought it was brilliant, too.

Interestingly, we both watched the movie together some time back, but it made so little impact on G1 that he could hardly remember it when I recommended the book. I’m glad to say that he found the book far more interesting.

The idea that the author was a teenager when he first wrote this story was also pretty appealing. For G1, who has frequently said that he aspires to be a writer, I thought Christopher Paolini might be an inspiration for him.

Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.

The Golden Compass

  • Accelerated Reader: 7.9
  • Lexile Level: 930L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 10-17 years old

I got this book ages ago, intending to read it myself after watching the movie. I confess that I never got around to it. G1 saw it on our reader, so I suggested that he try reading it. The rest was history. According to G1, it was “good”, but not great.

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help on of them will be to betray the other…

The Looking Glass Wars

  • Accelerated Reader: 6.7
  • Lexile Level: 1010L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 11-13 years old

This was another book I had on my reader with the intention of reading it myself. I suggested it to G1 when he was bored and looking for new books to read. It is an alternate take on the Alice in Wonderland story which G1 happened to agree was very good. In fact, he puts this series in the “awesome” category.

The Myth: Alice was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook.

The Truth: Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss’ parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

Because of Mr Terupt

  • Accelerated Reader: 3.7
  • Lexile Level: 560L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 8-11 years old

A heartwarming story about a teacher and his relationship with his students. It was recommended to G1 by his own class teacher. G1 enjoyed this book so much that he had me scrambling to get the next two books in the series.

It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.

Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone.

The Hunger Games

  • Accelerated Reader: 5.3
  • Lexile Level: 810L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 12-18 years old

I love this series. I have ever since I saw the first movie and read the entire series. It has received criticism, but personally, I thought it was a great book with lots of scope for meaty discussions. I have been waiting for G1 to be old enough for me to recommend this series to him so we could enjoy it together. It turns out, he likes it just as much as I do.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

The Summoner

  • Accelerated Reader: 6.5
  • Lexile Level: 890L
  • Recommended Reading Age: 12-18 years old

This was a series of books I stumbled upon at the bookstore while looking for something new for G1 to read. It checked out pretty well on Commonsense Media so I figured it would be okay to recommend to G1. I guess he liked it well enough because he asked for book 2 and 3. When I asked him about it, he says it was a great series. Now he’s just waiting for the prequel to be released.

Fletcher is working as a blacksmith’s apprentice when he discovers he has the rare ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must travel with his demon, Ignatius, to an academy for adepts, where the gifted are taught the art of summoning.

Along with nobles and commoners, Fletcher endures grueling lessons that will prepare him to serve as a Battlemage in the Empire’s war against the savage Orcs. But sinister forces infect new friendships and rivalries grow. With no one but Ignatius by his side, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of the Empire is in his hands.

Recommended Reading List from G2

G2 isn’t on the Accelerated Reader, but we’ve always been trying to get him to read more because he’s my “reluctant reader”. He likes to read books with a certain brand of humour and it is not always easy to pick out what he will enjoy. At one stage, he loved reading the Beast Quest books, but only certain titles. I could never figure out why, until recently. Apparently, he doesn’t like books that have cliff hangers. Okay, noted.

So here’s a list of books that have caught his fancy:

Stick Dog

Apparently, if your kid enjoyed Diary of a Wimpy Kid, he will also like this series. Turns out, they were right. G2 loves this series.

He’ll make you laugh… he’ll make you cry… but above all, he’ll make you hungry!

Follow Stick Dog as he goes on an epic quest for the perfect burger. With hilarious text and stick-figure drawings, reluctant readers will eat this one up!

Stick Cat

Just a variation on a theme – the cat book version of Stick Dog. The only reason not to like this series is if your child has a thing against cats. Mine doesn’t.

It’s a big day in the big city for Stick Cat and his best friend, Edith. There are treasures to hunt, songs to sing, pigeons to catch, and naps to take. But way up on the twenty-third floor, danger lurks just around the corner. Terrible noises and violent crashes trap a desperate man in the building across the alley. Stick Cat will need to navigate his way across the alley—and around Edith’s peculiar ways—to attempt a rescue.

A Tale Dark and Grimm

G1 chose this book from our Tales2Go app. It’s a trilogy on the classic Grimm fairy tales that have been turned on their side. Told with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, I thought this series is rather enjoyable for the whole family. The humour had G1 and G2 in stitches, and I still hear random lines quoted from the book from time to time. Some of the gore was a little bit borderline for G2, but I guess it helps that they all lived happily ever after in the end.

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

The Treehouse Books

I forget how we stumbled across this series. I can’t remember if it was recommended to us, or if I saw it on some list somewhere. Nevertheless, this is a series of books that has truly caught G2’s attention. To say that he loves it would be an understatement.

Andy and Terry live in a treehouse. But it’s not just any old treehouse, it’s the most amazing treehouse in the world!

This treehouse has thirteen stories, a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a secret underground laboratory, and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots marshmallows into your mouth whenever you are hungry.

Life would be perfect for Andy and Terry if it wasn’t for the fact that they have to write their next book, which is almost impossible because there are just so many distractions, including thirteen flying cats, giant bananas, mermaids, a sea monsters pretending to be mermaids, enormous gorillas, and dangerous burp gas-bubblegum bubbles!

Middleschool Series

G2 likes this series as well. I would rank his interest in it at the same level as Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Also written by James Patterson, I can’t say I understand why he likes Middleschool but not I Funny. Maybe I’ll have to ask G1 to take a guess.

Rafe Khatchadorian has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix. Luckily, he’s got an ace plan for the best year ever, if only he can pull it off: With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school’s oppressive Code of Conduct. Chewing gum in class-5,000 points! Running in the hallway-10,000 points! Pulling the fire alarm-50,000 points! But when Rafe’s game starts to catch up with him, he’ll have to decide if winning is all that matters, or if he’s finally ready to face the rules, bullies, and truths he’s been avoiding.

Anything By Dav Pilkey

As in, any book ever written by Dav Pilkey. He would have to be G2’s all-time favourite author. From Captain Underpants to Dogman, Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot to Ook and Gluk, he seems to want to read them all.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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