The Best High-Interest Books for Struggling Middle School Readers

High-interest, low-level books, also known as "hi-lo" books, can be incredibly helpful for middle schoolers who are working on expanding their reading skills.
By Amy Mascott
Oct 10, 2019

Ages

10-13

The Best High-Interest Books for Struggling Middle School Readers

Oct 10, 2019

Older struggling readers can be in a tough spot: They want to be stronger readers, and they want to read what their classmates are reading (after all, it's fun to be able to contribute to conversations about the latest book in a popular series!). 

That's why it's imperative that your child has strong, rich reading material to help build their skills and 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 they can easily read.

Struggling older readers need high-interest texts. They need well-written, engaging books on topics that are cool, hip, and relevant, but also books that they can read with relative ease. These types of books are often referred to as "hi-lo" — or high-interest, low-level reads.  

Here are great titles that fit the bill, and that your growing middle school reader will love.  

Bad Island 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 is a riveting favorite for many middle school students. 

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
A graphic novel (remember — they benefit reading skills, too!) that is somewhat autobiographical in nature, this book follows the author's story of what happens when her "dental drama" is compounded by normal middle school stresses. If your child loves this book, they'll also love Telgemeier's Sisters, Guts, and Drama.  

Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland

Between its super-relatable dragonets to its core-shaking phrophecies and raging wars among dragon tribes, this series is on fire and a major trend in kids' literature right now. New books in the series include Wings of Fire #13: The Poison Jungle and the Wings of Fire Graphic Novel #3: The Hidden Kingdom.  

I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis
This series follows fictional characters as they experience real disasters and historical events. The first book is about the sinking of the Titanic, and the newest one documents The Great Molasses Flood of 1919

Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce
Nate is not even close to being a perfect kid, which is why readers love following his adventures. Big Nate: In a Class by Himself is the first book in this fun-loving series.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Told by two memorable characters in two different ways — one with words and one with pictures — this book is a favorite of middle school readers and approachable for those still growing their reading skills. Set 50 years apart, the two mesmerizing stories weave back and forth with astonishing symmetry. 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
Greg Heffley shares his thoughts on middle school in his personal diary in this series. He is super funny, honest, and observant, and the handwritten font and doodles throughout will engage middle school readers from the beginning. 

Judy Blume: The Complete Set of Fudge by Judy Blume 

There's a good reason young readers have been falling for these books for generations — they're irresistible! In this special collection of five books by Judy Blume, kids will laugh at the incredible wit of Peter Hatcher, the antics of mischievous Fudge, and the unbreakable confidence of know-it-all Sheila Tubman. 

To keep your middle schooler reading voraciously, check out these books every kid should read before age 13

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