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High-Interest Books for Struggling Middle School Readers

Hi-Lo books are the way to go for many older, struggling readers.
on March 24, 2014

Older, struggling readers are in a tough spot. 


They want to be stronger readers, and they want to read what their classmates are reading. 


They want to be able to contribute to conversations about the latest book in a popular series, and they want to be seen picking out the same books in the media center as their peers.


So it's imperative that they have strong, rich reading material to help them build their skills and to give them the drive to want to read more.  A sixth grader reading at a second grade level will not want to be seen carrying around a "baby book," even if it's the only thing he or she can read.


These struggling, older readers need high-interest texts.  


They need well-written, engaging books on topics that are cool, hip, and relevant.  They need books that they can read with relative ease.


The books they need are often referred to as "hi-lo" or high-interest, low-level.  



Here are 10 high-interest books that will appeal to struggling middle school readers:


Bad Island series by Doug TenNaple

What begins as a family vacation ends in an unexpected way when Reese is shipwrecked and ends up on Bad Island.  This graphic novel series is a favorite of many middle school students. 


Amalee by Dar Williams

Amalee is challenged to lean on her dad's four best friends when her dad becomes ill. On top of the other middle struggles, Amalee wonders how she will move through this difficult time.


On the Run series by Gordon Korman

The Falconers are facing serious trouble—unless their kids, Aidan and Megan, can prove their innocence and get their parents out of prison.  


Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo

Charlie Bone is a young boy with a powerful ability to look at photographs and hear conversations that took place at the time. This series is engaging and interesting, and struggling older readers will want to reach for one. 


Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce

Nate is not even close to being a perfect kid, which is why readers will love following his adventures. 


Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar

Secrets are revealed and friendships are challenged when Laura and her friends form a top-secret club at school.


I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis

This series follows fictional characters as they experience real disasters and historical events.  Super support for each text can be found here.


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Told by two memorable characters in two different ways—one with words and one with pictures—this book is definitely a favorite of middle school readers.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

Greg Heffley shares his thoughts on middle school in his personal diary. He is super-funny, honest, and observant, and the handwritten font and doodles throughout will engage readers from the outset. This is the first of an 8-book series, and kids will love each one. 


Smile by Raina Telgemeier

A graphic novel that is somewhat autobiographical in nature, Raina shares what happens when her "dental drama" is compounded by "normal" middle school stresses. 


Thankfully, there are many great high-interest, low-level texts to choose from at this point, and the list keeps on growing. 


What are your favorite picks? Let us know!


Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find Amy on Twitter, @teachmama, and let's continue the conversation!



Read all posts by Amy Mascott.


About this blog

Get the latest advice, tips, and resources on helping your child read at every age and every stage. Each week, find kids' book reviews, ways to extend the reading experience, and tips on how to spark a reader's interests from our expert contributors and editors.

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