One of the questions I was asked most as a librarian was “How do I keep my son interested in reading?” It’s very typical for normally book loving young boys to lose interest in reading right around age nine, and to continue to be disinterested during the middle school years. With a multitude of tempting technological distractions like tablets and video games, as well as other hobbies such as sports and music, it’s nearly impossible to get your average boy to sit still and be fulfilled by turning the pages of a book. But don’t fret, because I’ve put together a list of what librarians would typically call “hi/lo” readers. These are books that have a “hi” interest, with an average or low reading level, and often offer the best chance to keep a boy’s nose in a book. Left off the list are graphic novels but don’t discount this genre, or even comic books for that matter, as being a poor reading choice. Remember the goal is to slowly get them simply reading and engaged in pages, and for many boys, graphic novels are the first step to doing just that.
Holes by Louis Sachar
This may well be on your son’s school required reading list, but if it isn’t, it should be. The winner of both a Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, this inventive page turner will have boys guessing the “whats?” and “whys?” until the very end. Great story of true friendships and why we fight for the underdog.
The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence
Outdoor adventure fans and boys who loved “Hatchet” will devour this story of survival set in the Alaskan wilderness. Fast moving pace, suspenseful, and gripping scenes of life or death will keep boys turning pages.
Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Stories about a boy and his dog (in this case a fox) never go out of style, and this one is no exception. Long listed for the National Book Award and set during amongst the ravages of a war, a boy’s search for his abandoned fox takes the reader on an adventure with both heartbreaking and tender scenes. Adult readers will enjoy this as well.
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
A magical and oft hilarious mystery, this story leads readers on a clue searching mission full of so many twists and turns readers will dare put it down. From the bestselling author of The Mysterious Benedict Society, readers who enjoy a little magic with their whodunits will love this one.
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Book 1) by Richard Paul Evans
Non-stop action from start to finish, this is geared toward readers ages 11-up. You will root hard or the main hero Michael in this dystopian/sci-fi themed book as they fight a battle against forces who want to take them over. Fans of the Alex Rider series will enjoy this series.
Masterminds by Gordon Korman
Young fans of James Patterson and John Grisham’s YA novels will enjoy this twisted mystery that follows a group of boys discovering their small, quiet town (and their parents) are not what they seem. Great cliffhanger and characters boys will relate to.
The Great Greene Heist (Jackson Greene) by Varian Johnson
Reads like a middle school version of “Ocean’s Eleven,” follow the adventures of a snarky middle school principal, a young future politician, and a funny con artist who swoops in to save the day.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A Newbery Medal winner, this book tells the story of Nobody Owens, an orphaned child raised by ghosts and ghouls in a cemetery. With tones from Kipling’s, The Jungle Book, the adventures of Owens and the cast of historical ghosts who raise him is surprisingly funny, suspenseful, and is wonderfully told.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
This classic sets the gold standard for boyhood survival stories, and is a must read for boys and girls alike. Paulsen’s dramatic storytelling of the young protagonists Brian and his struggle to survive in the wilderness is by far superior to every other survival story out there. Make sure the check out the sequel, “Brian’s Winter” when you’re done with this one.
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
This one you will want to read with your son, as it tells the story many a parent can relate to (letting go of a child when they grow up) but in this case, it’s a boy sending a toy back to its own world. First rate fantasy telling with humor, action, plenty of fun and even some tears.