9 Books Kids Actually Want to Read

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to find great books for children. But if you’re the parent or teacher of a child who struggles to read, a book might not seem like much of a gift.

For reluctant readers, cracking open new books is like running the gauntlet. Will they be able to read it? Will it make sense? Will they feel embarrassed if they can’t finish the book?

If you’d like to give a child a book, and you need something enticing, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

After years of teaching struggling readers, I’ve discovered a handful of books that any child can enjoy. There’s not just one way to read these books. Children can open the book anywhere and just enjoy the photographs. They can jump around to easier sections.

Best of all, these books are so compelling that the child will want to read a sentence or two. But there’s no pressure. There’s no expectation that they’ll start at page one and finish the entire book.

I’ve collected my favorite books that kids pick up by themselves. These books don’t need an introduction. Just leave them in a room, and children will want to investigate.

The most discriminating of readers – children with dyslexia – have field-tested these books for me. Trust me, if one of my students can’t put down a book, it’s gotta be good!

Without further ado, the 2014 round-up of books:

The Guinness World Records Book 2015

by Guinness World Records

There’s a reason why 3 million copies of this book are sold annually. This 250+ page book is pretty much irresistible. Filled with gross and bizarre records, your kids will be enthralled. The newest edition features thousands of new records and hundreds of eye-catching photographs. Warning: Don’t be surprised if your children decide they want to set their own records!


The Lego Book

by Daniel Lipkowitz

With its crisp, vivid photography, this Dorling Kindersley tome is a sure-hit for any LEGO fan. The newest edition includes a visual history of LEGO toys. With most of the book dedicated to different play themes, it can come across as a glorified catalogue, but Lego aficionados love to pore over pictures of LEGO Ninjago, Friends, and Super Heroes. My copy is only three years old, but it’s already so tattered that I’ll need to purchase a new copy soon. Another great thing about The Lego Book? If you step on this book, it won’t hurt nearly as much as stepping on a Lego block.


Where’s Waldo?: The Deluxe Edition

by Martin Handford

First published in the late 1980s, the “Where’s Waldo?” books have a timeless appeal for young readers. Readers hunt through detailed illustrations to find the real Waldo, dressed in his hallmark red-and-white striped shirt and hat. You can see why these books have inspired Halloween costumes for decades and been translated into 24 languages. Some occupational therapists encourage children to read Waldo books to improve visual processing skills; I just recommend them because they’re fun.


Ultimate Weird but True: 1,000 Wild & Wacky Facts and Photos

by National Geographic Kids

With National Geographic’s trademark photography, these books are packed with fascinating facts. Kids love to pore over the pictures and share their new trivia knowledge. Be prepared for fascinating facts like: “A sneeze travels 100 miles an hour!” I love that this book, loaded with quirky facts, sparks curiosity and questions. Each trivia fact is usually written in one short sentence with simple language, so it’s accessible for newer readers.


I Spy Treasure Hunt: A Book of Picture Riddles

by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

Can you spy, “A pinecone, a phone, a pair of gloves / And the name of the boy whom Kristen loves.” Even the most reluctant reader will have a blast solving these visual puzzles. Each two-page layout includes a riddle and detailed photographic illustration. Talk about reading for an authentic purpose!


Just Joking: 300 Hilarious Jokes, Tricky Tongue Twisters, and Ridiculous Riddles

by National Geographic Kids

Quick, “What goes zzub zzub?” Answer: “A bee flying backwards.” Kids of all ages love these jokes, tongue twisters, and riddles. Listen to your kids break out in giggles. Unlike other joke books, lively photographs enhance the humor and help the reader understand the joke. Each page features large text, limited words, and short jokes. Fun footnote: jokes require sophisticated semantic knowledge of words, so reading humor can be a great way to fire up students.


Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty

by Joy Masoff and Terry Sirrell

My friend and colleague Diana Kennedy recommends this knockout title loaded with 200-plus pages of lip curling, eye-popping, gross stuff. This encyclopedia of truly disgusting facts covers the ABCs of gross, from Acne to Burping to Cockroaches. Children in elementary and middle school can enjoy this book.


Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals

by Ed Emberley

Does your child think she can’t draw? This book might help her reconsider. These simple drawing books show kids of all ages how to draw animals using simple shapes. Each page includes five different animals to draw. Since there are very few words on a page, and each animal name is accompanied by its illustration, it’s almost effortless to read. Complete the gift by including a drawing pad and colored pencils. Children can even use these books as reference guides as they illustrate their own stories.


Minecraft: Essential Handbook

by Scholastic

Do you have any Minecraft fans in your family? Cash in on the Minecraft craze with this series of handbooks. Kids of all ages seem to enjoy poring over this reference guide for tips on how to play the game. The book covers topics like making shelters, protecting yourself from monsters, and crafting tools, armor, and weapons.


Books make the perfect gift.

They don’t require batteries, they’re a breeze to wrap, and they can’t be broken.

More than that, giving children books shows them how deeply we value reading. With our actions, we show that books can be tokens of affection, a portal to another world, and a lifelong source of pleasure.

By giving the gift of a book, you’re welcoming a child into a world immeasurably enriched by literature.


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