Books for reluctant readers - great book series kids can't put down

Many kids love books from the moment they are taught to read, but other kids are very reluctant readers indeed. Sure, they get the hang of their ABCs and can plow through an early reader with the best of them. But reluctant readers just never seem to make the switch from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading because I love it’.

My own daughters (who are nine and 12 years old) are reluctant readers, preferring to spend their ‘down time’ doing art and craft and writing – but they are slowly coming to the party. I entice them with books I know are even more fun than art and craft.

My son, Max, 13, is just like me: he’ll read anything and everything, but it wasn’t always the case. For a while there I thought I had somehow managed to birth three non-readers – gasp! But it turned out that I just wasn’t offering him the right books and he quickly caught on once he’d found the Tom Gates series (read on!).

17 awesome book series for reluctant readers

Trust me, there is a series out there that will open the rad world of reading for your child too. To help you get your own reluctant readers across the line, I’m giving you a list of all the books that finally got my kids interested in reading.

Awesome books for reluctant readers

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1. The Mapmaker Chronicles by AL Tait

Book series for reluctant readers - The Mapmaker Chronicles copy

Books in the series: 3

Disclaimer: A L Tait just happens to be my sister, so it’s understandable if you find me biased. BUT don’t let that stop you from getting your hands on this wonderful series. I’ve yet to meet a kid who has read The Mapmaker Chronicles and not loved it to bits (and believe me, I’ve been giving these books out to every kid I know!). Set back in ‘olden times’ during a race to map the world, it’s the race-along plot and rich characterisation that sets these books apart. I fell in love with the characters and my kids did too. The series also features pirates, mystical creatures, curious cultures and incredible friendships that kids will want to have as their own.


2. Alice-Miranda by Jacqueline Harvey

Book series for reluctant readers - Alice Miranda

Books in the series: 17

Alice-Miranda, aged 7 and 3/4, is a feisty, clever kid who is starting boarding school at the Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies. The series follows Alice-Miranda as she navigates school, solves intriguing mysteries and travels the world. The series is fabulous, educational fun for kids aged 7+.


3. The Chronicles of Jack McCool by RE Devine

Book series for reluctant readers - Jack McCool

Books in the series: 6 (books 1-4 our now, books 5-6 out soon)

Jack’s having problems at school (parent note: he has ADHD), but that’s nothing compared to the problems facing him when he discovers an amulet missing six gems. Suddenly Jack finds that he’s an ancient Celtic hero, The Prince of Tara, tasked with defeating the evil High King.

The series is packed with adventure from time travel to ancient legends to an evil king to strange characters and happenings. There’s enough mysteries here to engross readers 9-13 years.


4. Tom Gates by L Pichon

Book series for reluctant readers - Tom Gates

Books in the series: 10 and counting

Probably my favourite ‘modern’ kids’ series, Tom Gates is packed full of original humour and fun ideas. It’s genuinely LOL funny, even for us grown ups. All three of my kids love this series about a Year 5 boy who loves doodling and carrying out fun experiments, proving that just because a book stars a boy, doesn’t mean that girls won’t go for it too. Which is a welcome idea, given that there are so many cooler ‘boy’ series out there than ‘girl’ series.


5. Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J Sobol

Book series for reluctant readers - Encyclopedia Brown

Books in the series: 29

I was obsessed with the Encyclopedia Brown books when I was a kid and so was my husband. We have yet to introduce our kids to the series, but you can bet it’s on the list. The clever plots and interesting characterisation sets these books way ahead of the pack. Your child will definitely add ‘detective’ to her list of future occupations after reading this and I’m quite certain it sparked my enduring interest in psychology!


6. Ivy + Bean by Annie Barrows

Book series for reluctant readers - Ivy + Bean

Books in the series: 10 and counting

The reader begins a love-at-first-word affair with these darling best friends the moment we meet them. Ivy + Bean are just so delightful!

Ivy is the quiet one and Bean the noisy one, but together they manage to get up to all sorts of mischief that will give your kids a giggle. Formulaic story lines, with all the usual messages about ‘true friendship’, but the writing is good and the plots are generally on point, so what’s not to like? All three of my kids will happily pick up an Ivy + Bean book and they are always, always all out on loan at the library.


7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Book series for reluctant readers - Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Books in the series: 10 and counting

Your child has no doubt heard of Greg Heffley and his friendship battles – if not via the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series, then certainly via the movies. These books are packed with funny cartoons and LOL jokes, making them accessible and endlessly readable. The books started as an online series and took off from there. All three of my kids have been into them at one stage or another.


8. Sophie the Hero by Lara Bergen

Book series for reluctant readers - Sophie the Hero

Books in the series: 7 and counting

This sweet series is about liking yourself. The books follow Sophie Miller who knows she is special, but she’s just not sure exactly how. The books are a fun way for kids to explore what being ‘best’ means and they are an easy read for early readers.


Check this out too: Books both boys and girls like

9. Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan

Book series for reluctant readers - Ranger's Apprentice

Books in the series: 12

My mate Penny’s dad writes these incredibly good fantasy books, so naturally I introduced the kids to them as soon as I thought they were ready. Which was after they had tackled a couple of ‘funny’ book series – Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid. I think the funny books are an easier introduction to reading, but once they are hooked then an intricate series like Ranger’s Apprentice will keep them engrossed for hours.


10. Big Nate by Lincoln PeirceBook series for reluctant readers - Big Nate

Books in the series: 8 and counting

Big Nate books were a big hit with my son when he was around 8 years old. The books are actually based on a comic strip and they are great fun – the perfect format to get ‘non-readers’ reading! Nate Wright is in Year 6 and he’s not exactly a model student. The series focuses on Nate’s family, his school and friends and the conflict between Nate and his social studies teacher, Mr Godfrey. It deals with important themes about friendship, motivation and being yourself.


11. Geronimo Stilton

Book series for reluctant readers - Geronimo Stilton

Books in the series: 63 and counting

This fun series started in Italy in 2000 and was the brainchild of Elisabetta Dami, the co-owner of the publishing house. Presumably the books are now written by any number of authors, all writing under the pseudonym Geronimo Stilton, but however that works is kept very hush-hush by the publishing house. As far as they are concerned, these books really are written by a talking mouse.

Mild-mannered Geronimo lives in New Mouse City on Mouse Island and works as a journalist for The Rodent Gazette. He gets into all sorts of pickles as he chases down breaking stories. The series is lots of fun and the narrative pulses along, quickly snagging the reader and keeping them hooked.


12. Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda

Book series for reluctant readers - Deltorra Quest

Books in the series: 15 and counting

This amazing fantasy series is more literary than many of the choices here, but the plot is so good that most children will be happy to tackle the higher-level writing. As with most fantasy series, the plot is complex and intricate, but in a nutshell it involves main characters Lief, Barda and Jasmine on a quest to create a magical belt. To finish the belt they must visit new worlds in Deltora and embark on a series of heart-stopping challenges in order to claim a new gem for the belt. Readers will be hooked by the quests, the gems and the wonderful characters.


13. Weirdo by Ahn Do

Book series for reluctant readers - Weirdo

Books in the series: 9 and counting

Ahn Do – comedian, artist, TV show host, author – is a national treasure. He’s just such a super-clever, super-nice man and that comes out in every word of his award-winning and hilarious Weirdo series. Like all the best comedy, Weirdo is funny because of it’s underlying serious themes – acceptance, compassion, fitting in and being different.


14. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell

Book series for reluctant readers - Dork Diaries

Books in the series: 9 and counting

All of my kids love reading this series, and they are 7 (girl), 10 (girl) and 11 (boy). It’s a fairly innocuous series, to be honest, but as the title suggests, they do butt-style humour very well indeed. The main character, Nikki Maxwell, is 14 years old, but the humour is definitely primary school level (as is Nikki’s maturity level). Think Wimpy Kid but not quite as clever. The kids find these books amusing and I’m always happy to see their nose in a book (any book), so it’s a win-win really.


15. The Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Book series for reluctant readers - Treehouse series

Books in the series: 5 and counting

I was going to leave this one off because you know it, right? But I just couldn’t. After all, Andy Griffiths (author) and Terry Denton (illustrations) are the dynamic duo of Australian kids’ books. The Treehouse series is the craziest, funniest, silliest series you’re ever likely to read. I honestly couldn’t understand a single one of the books, but I’m not eight years old so we’ll leave it at that.


16. The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

Book series for reluctant readers - Famous Five

Books in the series: 21

I’ve popped an Enid Blyton series in this list and it was hard to choose just one. But I couldn’t leave The Famous Five out because I think it is the best series of the lot. The suspense keeps kids reading and the themes give them a lot to think about while they do. There are always lots and lots of questions after the kids have read a Famous Five book and I think that’s just as it should be.

A small warning: the books might be quite scary for today’s protected kids. Blyton’s kids go wandering in the dead of night, getting into all kinds of ‘scrapes’. My kids were quite shocked when we read the first book aloud together, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to read more.


Other notable mentions

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Stella Montgomery series by Judith Rossell

Ateban Cipher series by AL Tait

Friday Barnes series by RA Spratt

Ruby Redfort series by Lauren Child

Kensy and Max series by Jacqueline Harvey


Did I miss your faves? Please tell us in the comments.

Bron Maxabella


Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here.

Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

  1. I agree, it’s finding that key, that book/series that sparks to life a reader.

    and wait, what, you’re friends with John Flanagan’s daughter!
    We’re like mega fans over here, he ‘birthed’ a whole way of life for my kids and their friends.
    Cloaks, bows and arrows, moving through the bush stealithly being Rangers, waiting at the doors of Big W on new book release day.
    Huge fans over here.

    Yep it’s different reading Enid Blyton to today’s kids, good for them though.

  2. We have a keen independent reader and it really started with Encyclopaedia Brown, so I was so glad to see that on the list.
    We’ve also done most it not all of the Treehouse series, Tom Gates and Ahn Do. He’s now alternating between Famous Five, Geronimo Stilton and Big Nate.
    My other suggestions would be Captain Underpants and Billie B Brown.

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