Top Ten Go-To Authors for Reluctant Readers by Brooks Spencer

As a former Librarian and current Reading Specialist, I have to be ready with authors and titles for my reluctant readers.  Going into our library of thousands of books can be overwhelming to students who are only there because they were brought or sent.  If they go with an author or two in mind that I’ve assured them they WILL LOVE, it makes finding a book a lot easier.

These are my go-to authors not just because they are awesome, but because they have a body of work from which students can choose. When students find an author they like, they make a connection and will search for other books by that author.  We John Grisham, Alice Hoffman and Stephen King fans understand this.


Gary Paulsen – Surprise! Hatchet, of course, but also My Life in Dog Years, Notes from the Dog, Lawn Boy, and the newest Road Trip. Hatchet has launched many a young boy on his reading life including two of my sons.


Gordon Korman – I have to let our librarian know when I read aloud On the Run from the Chasing the Falconers series. There is always a huge demand for the next books in the series. Swindle, now a five book series, with a TV movie, is also a hit with reluctant readers. Other favorites include No More Dead Dogs, Schooled and the new Ungifted. The Sixth Grade Nickname Game is a great way to start the year.


John Scieszka – For the truly reluctant, The Time Warp Trio series is a must suggestion. Beginning with The Knights of the Kitchen Table, the boys travel around the world and through time. Each one can be a standalone because the premise is clearly stated in each book.  Some are only 52 pages.  Success!  There are 16 in the series now. There is also an animated series on TV but it doesn’t do the books justice.


Roland Smith – You want adventure? Here it is. The Storm Runners trilogy is hot right now and there are so many others I can recommend from this author. Cryptid Hunters, Sasquatch, Zach’s Lie, Jack’s Run, Peak and my favorite Elephant Run. Plus, he and wife Marie have several picture books, E is for Evergreen: A Washington State Alphabet and he also has several nonfiction books like Sea Otter Rescue and In the Forest With Elephants.


Fred Bowen – These are sports books with a message and nonfiction component. We did a grade level read with Winner Takes All and that’s all it took for our students to get hooked on Bowen’s books.  I learn something new in each one and the “real story” at the end is always fascinating. Quarterback Season, Perfect Game and 16 more titles don’t disappoint, and the girls like them too!


Peg Kehert – Ghosts, mysteries, dogs and elephants are popular topics in Kehert’s books. I first discovered her in I’m Not Who You Think I Am and The Stranger Next Door. Her books are frequently on State lists because they appeal to all students. Escaping the Giant Wave, Abduction, Saving Lily and My Brother Made Me Do It are some of my favorites.


Byars and Myers – Betsy Byars and daughter Laurie Myers together in My Dog, My Hero, Dog Diaries and The SOS Files. Byars alone in The 19th Emergency, the Bingo Brown books, the Blossom Family books, too funny. Myers’ Surviving Brick Johnson and Lewis and Clark and Me are great reads. Another sister, Betsy Duffy, also collaborates and has her own books.


Andrew ClementsThe Jacket is a good introduction to Clements and then on to A Week in the Woods, Frendle, and for my 8th graders, Things Not Seen. So many great books to choose from, both girl and boy friendly.


Jerry Spinelli – although Maniac Magee is outstanding, Crash is my favorite Spinelli book. Wringer, Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush and Stargirl are easy recommendations.


Tom AnglebergerThe Strange Case of Origami Yoda created a grade level of readers at my school a couple of years ago. Each addition to the series, Darth Paper, Fortune Wookiee, and Jabba are eagerly checked out.  Can’t wait for Princess Labelmaker. Fake Moustache is also a fun read. These books are clever and clearly have middle school pegged.


Again, I chose these authors because they have a body of work for students to explore. And, I know I left off a bunch of fantastic authors, ten can be a lonely number, too.


Brooks is the Reading Specialist at Cedar Lee Middle School in Fauquier, VA.  When she’s not promoting the Virginia Reading Association, she can be found talking and sharing books with students and staff.  She would like to be a book editor when she grows up, but the grandchildren are taking up a lot of time!