Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: I Have Opinions

Typically, this feature is reserved for my formerly reluctant reader son, John-John, to discuss books that he’s read recently. Specifically, books that he believes will appeal to reluctant readers. Instead, I’m turning over the blog today to John-John so he can discuss some issues he’s been having with books and the opinions he’s aching to share.  So, without further ado….

Hi everyone! Today I’m not here to talk to you about a book but instead I wanted to talk about some issues I’m having with books. My mom calls me a formerly reluctant reader because I used to hate to read. Now I really like it, but I’m getting frustrated. My favorite books have always been non-fiction. I like to learn about things, especially space, history, military and more. I’m trying to read more fiction (my mom says it will open up a whole new world for me) but I’m having challenges finding fiction that interest me.  See, I like fiction that is based on “real” things. I loved the Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus books.  Now what? It seems to me that not nearly as many books are geared for boys, especially reluctant readers,  if you take a look at the books for girls. Not a lot of my friends that are guys read and maybe this is why? If people want boys to read more, write more books for us!

Another thing-I sort of get overwhelmed when I see a huge gigantic book on the shelf. Another way to attract kids who don’t like to read is by making books that are shorter, broken up either by pictures or comics. This is why I loved books like Frankie Pickle, Big Nate, and The Wimpy Kid. I didn’t feel like it was a challenge to read them because all of the writing was broken up.  Now those books are below my reading level but I return to them when I can’t find anything else to read.

Also, I love graphic novels. But you know what? Not a lot of graphic novels are available for kids my age.  The violence level is usually too high or there is too much foul language. I discovered the Star Wars Clone Wars graphic novels and love them but there should be more like those.

I was lucky enough to discover books published by Capstone Books, books that are written for kids like me. They are one of the few publishers out there that seem to “get” kids like me. They publish books in graphic novel format, books on subjects that interest me. Hello, Tony Hawk! They’ve got him! You would think that other publishers would do the same, but they don’t.

I guess the point of me writing this post was to ask publishers to write more books for boys like me. I’m not into sports and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a bit of a nerd. So, publishers and authors out there, can you please write more books for nerds like me?

Thanks!

John-John

20 thoughts on “Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: I Have Opinions

  1. Yea for you, John-John! I’m so glad you love to read now, and I bet it is frustrating trying to find books you enjoy if you’re finding a lot of books geared toward girls. Have you read any of the Madeline L’Engle books? To me, they’re for boys and girls, and there’s a lot of science in them. Also, you may have already read these, but I remember really liking Bingo Brown, Maniac Magee, and Encyclopedia Brown.

    Just a couple suggestions. Hope you find some great books and that authors take note and write some more great books!

  2. Well said! My friends (who are YA Librarians) and I talk about this all the time. They have trouble finding book to recommend to boys who are looking for new books to read. Have you tried Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli? Or the My Side of the Mountain series? I’m not quite sure what age you were – early middle school? – because you might be ready for Will Grayson, Will Grayson. The Once and Future King? Or how about the Horation Hornblower series? That one might be a bit dull still, but I don’t know – I’m not a boy. :) Most of all, what I want you to do is remember the frustration you’re feeling now and keep writing about it. And when you’re ready – now, a few years from now, or many, many years from now – YOU write the books that are missing. Write all the books you want to read and then there will be lots of books for people like you to choose from. Good luck!

  3. I think you have said exactly what the publisher’s need to hear! And you have said it better than any adult could do it. Great job!

  4. Hi John-John! My brother is just a few years older than you are (he’s almost 16) but he has the same pleas that you are making here! More books for boys! He also loved the Wimpy Kids books but he’s a little too old for them now. When I wrote a post asking for book suggestions for a reluctant reader several people mentioned James Patterson’s YA books. Another series mentioned was the Anthony Horowitz series about teenaged boy spy (Alex Rider). Though you’ll have to talk to your mom to see if this would be a good series for you to jump into (I haven’t read it so I don’t know what age it is geared towards). What about Neil Gaiman? Have you tried anything by him?

    Anyway…I don’t think you were specifically asking for suggestions, but I do want you to know that I wholeheartedly agree! More books for boys! I sure hope for your sake and my brother’s sake that the publishers (and authors) take note! Wonderful post.

  5. I remember when I was John-John’s age being very frustrated with what was available for boys my age. He’s right, publishers tended to offer thing for what they believed boys “should like” instead of what they do like. I was just transitioning out of books like The Three Investigators and Encyclopedia Brown and really couldn’t find much I really liked I read the Star Wars novelizations, so i thought I would like the other books in that universe, but they were big clunkers and never really kept my attention. The only things I found I did enjoy were some of Heinlein’s juveniles and Robert Cormier but nothing really “modern.”

    The only suggestions I can think of our Carl Hiaasen’s books for young readers. I really liked Hoot and Flush. Haven’t read Chomp yet, but I think they are all books I would have liked at that age although they are a little on the longer side.

  6. Hi John, I feel your pain! I think that’s why I turned to historical fiction when I was your age. The problem is, a lot of that is for girls. Have you read books by Sneed B. Collard III? Yeah, a funny name but he writes novels that are based on true things and are definitely geared to boys. I’ve reviewed a couple of his books on my blog. I don’t know if they will appeal to you because the text isn’t broken up with visuals, but you might want to at least take a look.

  7. Since you know capstone already, you might have read their You Choose Interactive History books… they are like choose your own adventure books, but occurring during the Civil War, or the Battle of Bull Run, for example. They are great.

    I also super love Scholastic’s I Survived… series. There’s an I survived Pearl Harbor, Titanic, etc.

    For shorter, realistic fiction adventure books, Gordan Korman’s series are great, like Dive or Everest.

    One book that is a little higher level than Wimpy Kid, but does get broken up with some illustrations is The True Meaning of Smekday. It’s sure not realistic, but it’s hilarious.

    And since you liked Percy Jackson, I’ll recommend the Fire Thief. (It is a retelling of the Prometheus Myth), and finally, the Skulduggery Pleasant books… those don’t have mythology in them, but have some of the same adventure and humor.

    Good luck finding some more great books!
    Katherine

  8. I was right there with you when I was your age. I was enough of a reader that I kept reading anyway and went with the books aimed at girls. But that’s me.

    If you haven’t read them yet, I highly recommend Elizabeth George Speare, especially The Bronze Bow and The Sign of the Beaver.

    And, since I just finished the newest book by Stuart Gibbs, I’ll highly recommend him as well. All three of his books have been great.

    I know you weren’t looking for recommendations, but books for boys are out there. They are just very hard to find.

  9. Hello John-John. I wrote a blog post about books that might appeal to reluctant readers: http://ali-fantasticreads.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/books-to-encourage-reluctant-readers.html I’m from the UK, so the books I write about may not be available in the US. However, I’d recommend Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries and Western Mysteries. They are very well researched and you may enjoy learning about the historical setting. If you enjoy Percy Jackson, then you could try Sarwat Chadda’s Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress. It’s about a British Indian boy going to visit his aunt and uncle in India, and getting involved in a struggle against the Hindu demon king Ravanna. You’d learn a lot about India and about Hindu mythology. Also, please don’t think about books being for girls or for boys: I think good books are for everyone, and it is a case of finding what is to your taste!

  10. Great post, and I bet there are lots of boys in your situation. Good luck!

    My daughter’s 12 and she’s just starting The Hobbit, with an eye to reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy after that. We’ve also been reading some of the Sherlock Holmes short stories. I know neither of those are based on real events, but I guess my thought was don’t forget that there are some excellent classics out there.

  11. Thank you, everyone, for your encouraging comments for John! He has quite the reading list now!

    Also, just to clarify, John doesn’t have and issue with reading books not specifically geared toward boys. He isn’t put off by books with female main characters, but is simply asking for more books to be written for boys like him :)

  12. Love this post! I may have to add some books to my to-read list. I will add a couple more suggestions for authors:

    Patrick Carmen. I have read a couple of his books and they are really great! He has this one series where first you listen to an audio clip, then you read a story, and the ending is in a video (of course get your mom or dad’s permission before going to any websites!)!

    Another great one is Wendy Mass. I have read several of her books, but you seem like a thinker, so I think you would enjoy Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.

    Another idea is to ask your mom to look to see if any of your favorite authors have a blog. Authors really enjoy sharing great books with their readers and they will have so many more ideas!

    I think it is great that you like to read so much and keep on sharing your opinions!

  13. John – Great post. You have become such an insightful reader and consumer of books, I’m really impressed. My son is STILL a reluctant reader (at 19), but I’m holding out hope. I’m glad you’re taking the time to speak out about what you look for a like in books.

    Keep reading! (and writing!)

  14. Thanks John for the shout out! We love that you love Capstone books. If you have any suggestions for future book ideas or topics, let us know. We’d love to get your insight as a formerly reluctant reader!

    -Jennifer Glidden
    Capstone PR Manager

  15. Hi!

    As an editor at Capstone, I’m thrilled to hear that you’ve enjoyed reading our books. You’re right, we really try to make books that boys will enjoy reading. We try to pick subjects that boys like yourself will find interesting, and we do what we can to make them easier and more fun to read.

    I have worked on lots of books that might interest you, from books on haunted houses and ghosts, to UFOs, to the Titanic, to military weapons and gear, to dragons, to dinosaurs, monsters, and many other really cool and interesting subjects. I can’t list them all here, but I recommend looking for books in our Edge Books or Velocity brands, as well as our Graphic Library books that cover lots of topics like science, history, archaeology, biographies, and many others.

    It was awesome to see your post and get your opinions about what kinds of features you like to see in books. Young readers like yourself are the reason we make our books, and it’s great to hear what our readers want and need to see in the books we publish.

    Thanks a ton, and I hope you continue to enjoy reading!

    From a fellow nerd. ; )

  16. Dear John-John,

    Don’t worry anymore. I can help you find books that will make your heart sing. My name is Chris Wilson and I am an elementary teacher. I run the Hall of Heroes, the comic book club at my school. I have hundreds of appropriate comics and graphic novels for elementary aged students. When I say “comic” that can mean “comic book” or “graphic novel”. Don’t let that confuse you, okay?

    Comics in education is my area of expertise. I am the Editor-in-Geek of The Graphic Classroom. We read and review comics for schools. I also keep a list of the best comics categorized by age. So you can find comics that really interest you.

    http://www.graphicclassroom.org/p/best-comics-for-your-classroom-list-for.html

    Capstone is great, aren’t they? I love their stuff. Have you seen all of their nonfiction comics? Science. Biography. History. They have tons.

    If you like mythology, then you should check out Lerner Publishing’s Graphic Myths and Legends series. They are big favorites with many of my boys. I recommend starting with “Perseus: The Hunt for Medusa’s Head” (https://www.lernerbooks.com/products/t/8454/9780822575283/perseus) and “Odysseus: Escapting Poseidon’s Curse” (https://www.lernerbooks.com/products/t/5251/9780822562085/odysseus). The entire series can be found here: https://www.lernerbooks.com/products/k/k342/9780822584025/graphic-myths-and-legends

    There are two comics that are wildly popular in my school: “Bone” and “Amulet”. They are both a fantasy stories. I know you like more realistic fiction or nonfiction. These are very popular. They are published by Scholastic.

    If you like realistic fiction (things that can really happen) then I suggest you try Amelia Rules. The main character is a girl. But it is not a girl story. It’s a great story.

    Amelia Rules
    http://www.graphicclassroom.org/2007/05/amelia-rules.html
    http://www.graphicclassroom.org/2008/01/amelia-rules-volumes-2-3.html

    Also, try these two from Zenoscope:
    Discovery Channel’s Dinosaurs and Prehistory Predators
    http://www.graphicclassroom.org/2011/09/discovery-channels-dinosaurs-and.html

    Discovery Channel’s Top 10 Deadliest Sharks
    http://www.graphicclassroom.org/2011/04/discovery-channels-top-10-deadliest.html

    There are tons of comics out there, John-John, that will make you happy. The more I know about your age and interests the better I can customize recommendations for you. Keep reading. Read what you love. Love what you read. Every single title I mentioned today has been reviewed at The Graphic Classroom. You can buy all kinds of comics on Amazon.

    Feel free to contact me, but remember to stay safe on the Internet. Never call or email a grown-up (even a teacher) unless your parents are standing right beside you and helping you.

    Geek Pride!

    Sincerely,
    Chris Wilson
    https://www.facebook.com/chriswilsonComicTeacher

  17. Have you read any of the Artemis Fowl books? There are a few in the series now. They are semi-fantasy but in a similar way as the Riordan ones. Do you like mysteries? The Agatha Christie novels are not long and very historical and I loved them when i was around your age. Good Luck!

  18. Great post John-John!! I totally agree. I’m much older than you, but I share your taste in books. Listening, publishers??

    Bravo on the (Formerly) Reluctant Reader blogs!

  19. Hey John-John,

    I’m glad you’ve gotten such a good response to your post, and I hope some of the ideas above will give you a good reading list to go on for a while.

    I’ve tweeted your news with a hash-tag calling out to writers, editors and publishers. I hope your message gets out there because I am sure you are not alone in your desire for more good books for boys (and not just about sports!)

    Bravo for doing such a great job of expressing what boys who like to read need!

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