Here’s how to grow a bookworm.
It’s not easy to get kids to pick up a book these days. They have so many other options for entertainment that reading is in danger of becoming a lost skill and pleasure. But we all know the benefits of reading can be immeasurable, so we wanted to give reluctant readers a bit of boost. And who better to highlight some top picks than the teachers who help shape the minds of our children every day? Here are the top book recommendations from teachers and librarians from schools all over Hong Kong.
Books for 4 to 7-year-olds
Author: Suzanne Younan
Recommended by: Charlotte Sizer, Reception Teacher and IEYC Coordinator, French International School
The book is all about a dragon who lives in Hong Kong. Whilst reading the book, children go on an adventure around the islands and beaches of the city. Along the way when meeting his friends, the dragon quickly realises they need help as they are faced with environmental issues due to plastic waste. The story has a fantastic message about looking after and caring for our planet, which younger children can begin to understand and give meaning to.
Available from Bleak House Books for $120
2. The Johnny Boo series
Author: James Kochalka
Recommended by: Charlie Beard, Teacher/Librarian, International College Hong Kong
I always steer reluctant readers towards comics and graphic novels (my own daughter was a reluctant reader until my father-in-law introduced her to comics). I find that young readers (Y1 to Y3) really enjoy the Johnny Boo series as an introduction to the graphic novel format.
Available from Amazon for $67 and up per book
3. The Bad Seed Series
Author: Jory John
Recommended by: Morgan Davies, Teacher/Librarian, American School Hong Kong
I like to encourage our emerging readers to find an author or illustrator they like and keep reading books in that series. I like Jory John series: The Good Egg, The Bad Seed, The Cool Bean. Many areas of the curriculum focus on the social-emotional development of children and these topics help to support students with the issues they deal with in school or in their own lives. They will laugh out loud at the imperfections of each character!
Available from Book Depository for $87 and up per book
More book recommendations:
- Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus – Recommended by Tammy Ki, Y1 Teacher, French International School
- Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? – Recommended by Sarah Guinon, K1 and K3 English Teacher, Kowloon True Light Kindergarten Section
- Nibbles: The Book Monster – Eugenia Chan, Reception Teacher, French International School
Books for 7 to 10-year-olds
Author: Giles Andreae
Recommended by: Ross Armitage, Head of Primary, French International School
This book is great for children from ages 5 to 11 to enjoy. The older children often like returning to these types of books. I often use this story in assemblies and ask the children to act out the dance moves in the story. It has many great themes within it about acceptance, differences and respecting each other as individuals in a community. It engages reluctant readers because it’s funny, has great illustrations and children can relate to the messages in the story.
Available from Book Depository for $80
2. All Roald Dahl books
Author: Roald Dahl
Recommended by: Anna Goodwin, Y1 & Y2 Phase Leader, Kellett School (PFL Campus)
Roald Dahl books are always very popular as they are funny and many have been made into films (Matilda, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, The BFG, etc.) that the children have seen, so they already know the story.
Available from Book Depository at varying prices
3. Buried Alive
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Recommended by: Cecily Radford, English & French specialist, Causeway Education
Just like Roald Dahl, Jacqueline Wilson is an all-time favourite. Buried Alive tells the story of Tim and an unexpected adventure on a holiday. This is a very enjoyable story for young readers, with illustrations by Nick Sharratt and Sue Heap.
Available from Amazon for $54
- All David Walliams’ books – Recommended by Susan Mifsud, Library Assistant, Kennedy Learning Centre, ESF Kennedy School
- The Amulet series – Recommended by Morgan Davies, Teacher Librarian, American School Hong Kong (this is the most checked-out series in the library)
Books for 10 to 14-year-olds
Author: Ben Hatke
Recommended by: Morgan Davies, Teacher Librarian, American School Hong Kong
Ben Hatke’s books span many ages/grade levels in interest. These books challenge gender role norms and offer a new, exciting take on fractured fairy tales. They also encourage kids who are interested in STEAM, coding, engineering and science to keep experimenting. You never know what can happen!
Available from Book Depository at varying prices
Author: Louis Sachar
Recommended by: Charlotte Lane, Y3 Teacher, French International School
My reluctant 10-year-old reader could not put this book down (it’s a little different, even weird, but amazing at the same time!). Stanley Yelnats’ family has a history of bad luck, so when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre (which isn’t green and doesn’t have a lake), he is not surprised. Every day he and the other inmates are told to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, reporting anything they find. The evil warden claims that it is character building, but this is a lie and Stanley must dig up the truth. This book is full of adventure, questions and twists, perfect to hook those reluctant readers and keep them wanting to find out more.
Available from Book Depository for $60
Author: Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
Recommended by: Susan Mifsud, Library Assistant, Kennedy Learning Centre, ESF Kennedy School
I loved this sweet fantasy about a girl and her imaginary friend. 10-year-old Livy lives in America and goes to visit her grandmother in Australia for the first time since she was 5. There, Livy rediscovers Bob, her 5-year-old self’s imaginary friend. The story goes from Bob’s to Olivia’s perspective in each chapter and as it unfolds we begin to wonder if Bob is actually real. It is sentimental and heart-warming with an element of fantasy.
Available on Amazon for $47
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Recommended by Jonathan Barton, Head of Senior English Faculty, Kellett School
- The Boy At The Back of The Class – Recommended by Jane Wakeman – Year 6 Teacher & Deputy Head, French International School
- Rick Riordan‘s books – Recommended by Mei-li Bacani, Assistant Librarian & Reading Centre Administrator, ESF King George V School
Read more: 10 Going On 15? Why Kids Grow Up Faster Now
Books for 14 to 18-year-olds
Author: Jason Reynolds
Recommended by: Mei-li Bacani, Assistant Librarian & Reading Centre Administrator, ESF King George V School
I steer reluctant readers towards verse novels. This is because they are shorter and more to the point than regular novels. That’s why I recommend this book, which is a suspense thriller about a boy who is seeking revenge for his brother’s death. The entire story takes place in an elevator, hence the staccato style. A warning to parents, the book revolves around gun violence and there are a few references to drugs and swear words (read review here). Despite this, the message it imparts is very important and if that doesn’t convince you, the book was on the shortlist for the Carnegie Medal 2019.
Available from Amazon for $54
Author: Adam Braun
Recommended by: Divya Hira, Teacher of Business, Economics and Social Studies, Korean International School
This is the story of how a young aspiring hedge fund associate with a promising Wall Street career left the corporate world, choosing to build a social enterprise focused on operating schools in the most underprivileged areas around the world.
Available from Book Depository for $83
Author: Malorie Blackman
Recommended by: Akina Lam, Librarian, ESF King George V School
This is highly recommended for reluctant readers and appeals to both boys and girls. They all find it scary (parents, please note this is horror fiction). The book is the perfect length – not too long or short and can be finished in a lesson’s time.
Available from Amazon for $52
- Across the Nightingale Floor – Recommended by Jonathan Barton, Head of Senior English Faculty, Kellett School
- What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 – Recommended by Divya Hira, Teacher of Business, Economics and Social Studies, Korean International School
Read more: Places In Hong Kong Where Teens Can Work
Tips for parents to encourage reluctant readers
- “Use paired reading with your child – you read a page and they read a page. Every child no matter what age loves being read to!” – Jane Wakeman, Year 6 Teacher & Deputy Head, French International School
- “Let them see you reading and not just on your phone…I mean actual books in your hand. Have books in your house available at all times! Don’t worry so much about keeping them pristine. Let them be used and loved and worn.” – Morgan Davies, Teacher Librarian, American School Hong Kong
- “Get into YouTube Read Alouds. This is great to show your child a vast assortment of books at their fingertips. If they don’t like a book after trying it for two minutes, then allow them to click next.” – Sarah Guinon, K1 and K3 English Teacher, Kowloon True Light Kindergarten Section
- “There is now a book on almost any topic or genre. Allowing your reluctant reader to pick a topic first will ensure that they are reading something they enjoy. You can even start with fact books (Guinness Book of World Records is very appealing to kids) or comic books. You could always start with audiobooks, too.” – Cecily Radford, English & French specialist, Causeway Education
Read more: 7 Great Picks For Your Next Book Club Read