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Best books for 10 year olds who are reluctant readers

With her children's ages spanning 22 years, LongTimeMother has 40 years experience in parenting - including home schooling and foster care.

Incentive to read

Before I would buy even one Harry Potter movie or PlayStation game, my daughter had to read the Harry Potter books. She now has the movies. :)

Before I would buy even one Harry Potter movie or PlayStation game, my daughter had to read the Harry Potter books. She now has the movies. :)

The best books for 10 year olds are often suitable for boys and girls slightly younger or older as well, depending on whether they are reluctant readers, or avid readers from a young age who are willing to read anything and everything.

I have had children who fall into both categories, and I believe the books listed here are perfect for all children about ten years of age. Many of them had not yet been published when my older kids were young, but fashion in books change like all things, and I believe they would have been favourites had they been available.

It is interesting to note that my youngest child refuses to part with her favourite books, despite growing too old for them. Her older siblings were exactly the same. Many of our books have been given to friends, donated to the local library or passed on to other families.

But there are always a few special books that kids refuse to part with, determined to hold onto them until they have children of their own. These are the books I will share with you.

As the photos show, they stand straight and tall on the bookshelf. Not just any bookshelf, but the shelf safely out of reach of little children; up on the wall above her bed. There's no danger of them being kicked on the floor or having a drink spilt on them on a table. They are treated with care.

These are the special ones.

Don't swamp reluctant readers

There's a lot of words in the Harry Potter series, and a lot of them are difficult. Reluctant readers are likely to be overwhelmed by such big books when they're ten years old.

There's a lot of words in the Harry Potter series, and a lot of them are difficult. Reluctant readers are likely to be overwhelmed by such big books when they're ten years old.

Lots of 10 year olds are reluctant readers

Before I begin discussing books that 10 year olds like to read by themselves, I'd like to address the subject of reluctant readers. I've known a few over the years.

If your child is ten and a reluctant reader, you really must make an effort to kick-start their interest in reading. Books are often considered just amusement and fun when kids are young, but the ability to read an entire book from cover to cover becomes increasingly important as your child gets older and goes to high school.

There will be books to study in literature, and a great deal of reading in other subjects as well. Parents really need to encourage boys and girls to enjoy reading, as early as possible. If your child is a reluctant reader at ten, the alarm bells start ringing.

So what kind of book can you buy for a child who shows no interest at all in reading? Should you choose a book with pictures? An action story? A dose of horror? Is there a particular children's author with guaranteed success?

Some books have great titles. Others have great pictures. Many are easy to read. But how do you get 10 year old reluctant readers to pick up a book in the first place?

I have been asked these questions over the years and, I have to admit, I can't honestly think of one children's author better than another for inspiring initial interest in words on a page once a boy or girl reaches ten.

There is one book, however, that I can recommend. In my experience, and the experience of friends with children who are reluctant readers, one book gets a 10 year old's attention every time!

Ten year olds love these stories!

The best book to encourage a 10 year old to read

This is going to sound like a really strange suggestion, and there will be some who think I am mad, but what the heck. It won't be the first time someone's thought that, and I doubt it will be the last. :)

If you have a reluctant reader aged ten or even older, I suggest you buy a copy of 'The Darwin Awards'. There's a whole series of them. We collected four or five over a period of about ten years, I think. They are packed away in a box in the shed. I haven't needed them for my youngest.

Essentially 'The Darwin Awards' are short stories about people who died because of their own stupidity. Every story is allegedly true. Stories range from half a page to a couple of pages long.

It is not a children's book, so don't even suggest that you are buying it for your child. Buy it for yourself and read in front of your child.

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You'll laugh, you'll guffaw, you'll shriek, "I can't believe he was so stupid!!" and your ten year old will want to know what you're reading.

Keep control of the book if your child is just ten because some stories are more adult than others. By the time your child is a teenager, they'll be fans of the Darwin Awards and you can buy new books for birthday gifts. But in the first instance, The Darwin Awards is a tool, not a gift.

Here's how you use The Darwin Awards with a 10 year old

You choose a story to read your child. (Make sure you've read it first. You don't want to be caught red-faced halfway through a story.)

I recall there was a story about someone who went skating on a pond, cut through thin ice and then fell into the freezing water. Miraculously they survived. They then went home and told their story to a friend, brought them back to the same pond, and demonstrated what happened.

This time when he fell through the ice, he drowned.

That's why they deserve a Darwin Award.

(If someone's read the story more recently than me, help me out here. Did they both go on the ice and drown?)

Now we all know it is not nice to laugh at someone's misfortune, but most of these stories are hilarious. It is hard to believe people can be so stupid.

Even if you're not laughing, it is a chance to discuss with your child what the victim of stupidity could have done or should have done. It's a chance to encourage your child to think things through and never be as stupid as the people in this book.

So, you read a story or a couple of stories, then pass the book to your child to read the next one out to you. (Again, make sure you've read it before you pass the book over. You really must keep control when using this as a tool!) Take the book back, and leave it for another time before you read the next one.

Most kids will be desperate for another Darwin Awards story. That's when you say, "I tell you what. You start reading one of your books, and I'll come in with my book in a few minutes."

When you join them again with your Darwin Awards book, that's when the bargaining begins. "You read me two pages of your book out loud, then I'll read you two pages of mine!"

Don't make the big mistake of reading the entire Darwin Awards book with your child before they start reading their own book. That will defeat the purpose.

You can string the Darwin Awards out over weeks or months if you play the game correctly. Hopefully you've provided your child with a good book to read of their own, so they get caught up in the story line and continue reading even when you are not actively encouraging them.

I suggest you buy (or borrow) one of the books I will discuss below to bring home with you when you first get The Darwin Awards. "I've bought a book for you, and a book for me. Let's see who can finish their book first."

Reluctant readers may show no interest at all in their own book until you start laughing at yours. That's okay. At least they have it on standby.

I suggest you always insist you are too busy to read The Darwin Awards for very long at any given time, and hide it away when you are not reading it.

That takes care of the reluctant readers. Now let's move onto my list of the best books for 10 year olds to read by themselves.

Great books to start with

Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are great for boys and girls about 10 years old.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are great for boys and girls about 10 years old.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

The series increases with regular new releases. Easy reading, fun sketches. Good books for 10 year olds. Best to begin with the first book in the series.

10-year-olds love these books

Collecting a series of books

The advantages of collecting an entire set of good books

Children like sets. They like collecting things that belong together. Fast food outlets cash in on that fact every time they issue a new collection of toys with their children's meals.

Little Golden Books have been publishing their books for young readers for 65 years. I remember collecting them when I was very young. One of my kids collected them in the early 1980s, and they are still being sold and collected today.

Launched in 1042 during the Second World War, they sold one and a half million copies within the first six months. Since then, their sales have reached over two billion. The Poky Little Puppy holds the record with over 15 million copies sold worldwide.

Of course, once I had The Poky Little Puppy I was busting to add The Saggy Baggy Elephant and the Tawny Scrawny Lion to my collection. More than 50 years later I can still remember spotting the familiar gold spines in the store and proudly grouping all my Little Golden Books together.

If you want to encourage your child to read, no matter what age they are, give serious thought to the appeal of collecting a set of books by the same author, printed in the same size and style. A bunch of books on a shelf is just a bunch of books on a shelf. A collection of books, however, is something to enjoy and be proud of.

Mister Men and Little Miss books are great for very young children. Their first collection of books could easily be Mister Men or Little Miss. Here's a tip though. I've always found a boxed set of books stays tidy on the shelf, but discourages active reading.

It is much easier for young children to access books that are stacked or piled together, instead of struggling to remove them from the confines of a tight pack, knowing it will be too difficult for them to put the book away when finished. Any sets I bought in boxes when my children were very young, I removed from the box so they could enjoy the books.

Once a child has the fun of collecting a set of books, they start to watch out for other sets that might interest them. By the time your child is ten years old, they'll be looking for more interesting and challenging stories but they'll still have an eye out for a series or set.

Lay out the rules clearly. Most kids will respond to a challenge.

"I'm not buying books so they can just sit on your shelf. If you want me to buy you the whole set, you're going to have to read the whole set. Is that what you want to do?"

Buy one or two and see what happens. If your ten-year-old reads them, with or without your active involvement, it is worth buying more.

Fun stories, quite easy to read

Selby is a dog. There are lots of books in the Selby series. My daughter only owns a few, but read the entire series courtesy of the local library.

Selby is a dog. There are lots of books in the Selby series. My daughter only owns a few, but read the entire series courtesy of the local library.

Tales of a talking dog

The Selby books are written by an Australian author (who was born in America), Duncan Ball. My daughter was a great fan of Selby.

The 10 year old boy next door is currently reading his way through the series.

Selby is great for reluctant readers

Appealing to the mischievous rebel within the average 10 year old

Andy Griffiths has the best titles, and kids love looking for words that sound funny and rude. That's reason enough to open the books and read!

Andy Griffiths has the best titles, and kids love looking for words that sound funny and rude. That's reason enough to open the books and read!

Write to the author!

  • Andy Griffiths | FAQs
    Funny books to delight, amuse and disgust the whole family! This link takes you to Andy Griffiths' FAQ page. You can read about the author, his books, and the address your child should send fan mail.

More Australian humour

We have a very funny children's author here in Australia called Andy Griffiths. He writes books that children love. They have crazy storylines and gruesome comic illustrations.

Children who read Andy Griffiths' stories can write to the author, and he will write back. How exciting is that?

He won't respond to emails, but he will reply to a letter sent with a stamp. Post a letter to Australia, wait a while, and get a letter back from the author.

Andy is currently on tour in the US. His titles include gems like:

Just Annoying; Just Crazy; Just Stupid; Just Disgusting; The Bad Book; The Very Bad Book; The Day My Butt Went Psycho; Bumageddon; and What Bumosaur Is That?

Reading when you are 10 years old should be fun. Andy Griffiths has very successfully caught the interest of youngsters around the world.

His books are not pretty. Lots of blood and gore and goo in the drawings.

I have always found it works rather well to react with horror and say, "Ooooh. You're not going to read that are you? It looks dis-gus-ting. Are you sure you want to keep reading that book?"

Kids laugh, and come running to show another gruesome picture and read another funny part out loud.

If your ten year old enjoys a good bit of goo and gore (or, more importantly, enjoys seeing you squirm at the thought of goo and gore, lol), Andy Griffiths is your author.

Too Ghoul for School

10 year old boys in particular have a fascination for ghouls, but my daughter loved the series as well.

10 year old boys in particular have a fascination for ghouls, but my daughter loved the series as well.

More fun books for 10 year olds

These 'Too Ghoul for School' paperbacks are a quick read. Again, the titles have a lot going for them. Silent But Deadly; School Spooks Day; Attack of the Zombie Nits!

There are ten books in the series.The author is British this time, not Australian.

Every year St Sebastian's School in Grimesford sinks a bit further into the boggy plague pit beneath it, and the ghosts of the plague victims buried underneath become a bit crankier.

They cause as much mischief as inhumanly possible trying to get St Sebastian's School closed down. But a small gang of students refuse to give in.

All good fun!

Too Ghoul for School author

A fun and easy read, and each book is inexpensive

Books for 10 year olds can also be heard on CD

Talking books are an option if you are looking for a way to help reluctant readers develop a love for good books. We use ours when travelling. These are not videos. Just stories for kids, read out loud.

Talking books are an option if you are looking for a way to help reluctant readers develop a love for good books. We use ours when travelling. These are not videos. Just stories for kids, read out loud.

Best books for 10 year olds appeal to 10 year olds, not parents

At the risk of stating the obvious, I urge you to remember that the best books for 10 year olds must be capable of catching a child's interest, making them laugh, and inspiring them to turn the page and read more.

I gave up trying to guess what children like to read years ago, and decided that the best expert on book choices for a ten year old is a twelve year old. They've had time to find the best books available, read them, and decide their value.

I hope this assortment of different books to the ones you normally see reviewed will be helpful to you and your children. Reading is a skill all children need to develop, and a love of books certainly helps develop that skill.

© 2013 LongTimeMother


LongTimeMother (author) from Australia on June 25, 2017:

Hi Rachael. I understand what you're saying, but I take great comfort from knowing there's no calories or artificial preservatives in what you call junk-food books. I'm much more lenient in what can go on kids' bookshelves than on their dinner plates. To me, the action of turning page and reading the next one is a very valuable life skill. As they grow older, their tastes for books will change. But, most importantly, when kids are holding text books in their hands, it is nice to know they'll be prepared to open them and start reading. In my experience it's the kids who never read when they're young who leave school books unopened in their school bags or on their desks.

By the way, I loved Anne of Green Gables when I was young. And the Laura Wilder books. I could never much get into Nancy Drew stories though as a girl, but many of friends loved them. Despite our differences, we all grew up to be avid readers. I believe it is always worth the effort to get kids reading some kind of books.

Naomi Starlight from Illinois on June 13, 2017:

I think it is important to get kids to read books based on what the kids themselves like. I had a lot of Newberry and Caldecot winning books foisted upon me as a kid and needless to say, I didn't respond to most of them as well as an adult seeking a grown-up book with literary merit would. Anne of the Green Gables bored be to tears, and I didn't understand the point of Julie of the Wolves. But at the same time, should kids really be reading gross books with fart jokes and gory humor? Even if they like them, those are "junk food" books in my opinion. Best in moderation.

LongTimeMother (author) from Australia on April 08, 2013:

A mother's opinion and experience can be just as useful as that of a professional. Often, more so.

You can always provide links to the experts. Good luck with it. :)

Cat from New York on April 05, 2013:


Roald Dahl on CD; how cool. I've never owned his books, but I think I've read them all several times. I'd almost like to collect them now and see if they do for my kids what they did for me.

I have found my son's reading disabilities extremely challenging, especially because I can't relate to reading difficulties. He would grind me into the carpet in Math or Science though. I think that's very common, when a person has a disability in one area, they often excel in others. I would lay on my belly on the floor in pigtails as a child and just read for hours. I loved reading and I would read the same books over and over again; I also liked quick easy poetry like Shel Silverstein. The more you read the better your reading skills become. I remember being in the "108 club" in elementary school; if you got a perfect score plus the bonus right on enough spelling tests you only had to write your weekly spelling words one time each instead of the 10 which was the norm. With that being said, I took for granted my reading abilities and my potential. I wasted much of my schooling and it was one of my first regrets after graduating. I was more concerned with being "Class Clown" then actually learning anything. For 13 years I heard "You have so much potential if only you would apply yourself" and I never did anything about it. So, when I realized that my son really was struggling with grasping reading, I first attributed it to it being a "new and foreign activity", but at his first parent/teacher conference his teacher told me that he had very poor self-esteem and I broke down, lost it, right there in front of the teacher. How does a kid have low self-esteem when they are loved and praised so much? I realized that it was entirely academic related, but still, I felt a guilt and responsibility. I had read my children a book at bedtime every day of their life and I thought that I had him exposed. We couldn't even give his disability a name until he was in school for a couple of years and I have to admit, I took the news a little hard. Not every word, but many, my son will read backwards first then has to flip it around. That's a lot of work for one word. He reads dog and sees god. When we read dog, we see dog. So it only makes sense that it takes him significantly longer to read than others. He has to unscramble his words. When he started to notice that other students were handing in their papers so much quicker than him, he viewed it as him being stupid. I despise that word and I tell him every day how bright he is. I don't let his disability make him who he is and we aren't aloud to use it for an excuse, I don't want it to serve as a crutch. I always remind him that some of the most famous, brilliant people in history have had disabilities as well and the he must be someone famous someday. I would like to write about dyslexia, but I am certainly no expert, just a mother who is living and facing it. I fear the critics will come calling? But you know what, I think I just might try it. Thanks for making me think down this road.

LongTimeMother (author) from Australia on April 05, 2013:

Hi cantuhearmescream.

Roald Dahl was a big hit in our house as well. James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Witches, BFG. I don't have any of the books here anymore. My daughter finished reading them before we moved house.

I do, however, know where the box of CDs might be. We travel quite a bit and, while the kids always carry a few books with them for reading, I found it convenient to collect 'talking books' they could listen to on long trips if they wanted. I'll edit and add a photo so Roald Dahl gets a mention.

Thanks for your input. The more mentions of good authors, the better!

Dislexia is difficult. I accompanied another mother and her child to appointments for testing with different coloured paper and filters etc recently. It was an interesting process. Are you going to write a hub about it?

LongTimeMother (author) from Australia on April 05, 2013:

Hi Nell. I was a fan of comics as a kid. For some reason though, my children didn't really take to them. It might have had something to do with the fact that Casper the Friendly Ghost and all the other characters in comics seemed to be much more interesting when animated on television. lol.

LongTimeMother (author) from Australia on April 05, 2013:

Thanks, kallini2010.

I had started typing what I thought would be a simple answer to your question, but it was growing so long it seemed more appropriate to just turn it into a hub. lol.

You mentioned your son is enjoying RL Stine (the Goosebump series, right?), so I think you'll find all these books could potentially catch his interest.

If you are going to introduce him to Andy Griffiths, the author who writes back, I suggest you start with the "Just" books like Just Crazy or Just Disgusting. Another good starter is Pencil of Doom! It's about a boy called Henry McThrottle and his teacher, Mr Brainfright.

You don't have to own the books to write to the author. You just have to read them. :)

Cat from New York on April 05, 2013:


I'm so glad you wrote this article. I wasn’t overly scholarly growing up, but having one TV in the house and no portable electronics, I loved reading. I loved library day in school and I reread books off the bookshelf in my home hundreds of time. Roald Dahl and Judy Blume were two of my favorites. Unfortunately, my son has no passion for reading, he is dyslexic and reading has been such a struggle for him that he finds it a hard activity to enjoy. Whatever we read, I always throw myself into the book, change my voices and act as if the book is oh-so-interesting me (and sometimes it is) and he usually gets on board. It seems that the more he enjoys the book, the better his reading. I’ve noticed that when he’s eager to find out what’s going to happen next, he really focuses on his reading better. We have been through a lot of testing and different challenges and I was told very early on that it doesn’t matter what he is reading, even if it’s a cereal box; any reading will help. My son just turned 12 and we are doing excellent with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series; he reads them so fluently and I’m sure it’s because he enjoys them so much. I have a wall to wall bookshelf that I have poured hundreds of dollars into for the last decade. The earlier days were a little easier with the easy-readers, but these last couple of years have been much more challenging. I am also a fan of the Magic Tree House books because they are easily digestible and they have action along with little nuggets of real history. The other series that we did well with was Captain Underpants. It is a silly series, but they created a fun reading environment. I think the goal with any reluctant reader is to find the fun in reading.

Great hub, voted up!

Nell Rose from England on April 05, 2013:

Hi, interesting books to choose but as you mentioned they can be hilarious the Darwin books. I remember reading something similar in Fortean times, they always have a column about how people killed themselves doing something stupid! lol! so I do get the point, my son was a good reader but started really reading at about 6 or 7, before that I bought him loads of comics, some he read others he wasn't interested in, but it got him reading proper books, nell

kallini2010 from Toronto, Canada on April 05, 2013:

Thank you, LongTimeMother, for your informative and entertaining answer!

I quite agree with your understanding of children, parents have to understand children in order to be helpful.

It's funny that you said that a child who is still a reluctant reader at 10 sets off the alarm! Yes, indeed! My my alarm was set long time ago - when at three (I consider myself patient!) my child still did not speak.

My ex (his dad) hypnotized me with this number - three - supposedly or according to his mother anyway, my son should have started speaking at three. When my son failed to do just that, I urged my ex to call his mother and ask her SPECIFICALLY at what age… The number went from THREE to FIVE.

So, every child comes with his own specifications. And, yes, reading has been a challenge. I am quite thrilled that he finally came to like R.L. Stine’s books.

I carefully read all your suggestions and I place a few holds in the library. At his moment, buying and collecting is not an option for us, we rent books at the library, but it is quite all right. But I buy him some “special” books, when he wants it so much that it would be counterproductive to say “no”.

I kept my children’s books – my mother even brought them from Russia to Canada, and I am not going to part with them until I die and later Daniel can get rid of them. He has almost no interest in them, but there is one book that I read over and over (repeat as many times as you can, 1042, 1942…).

Maybe my son is not the worst case scenario, but my dilemma was just that – what books would be the ones that he would be willing to read without me standing over him.

I hope your suggestions help other struggling parents. And I am intrigued to see if I can get books of the Australian author who writes back. That would be awesome!

I am selecting your answer as the best, even though normally I am against the idea. I appreciate all answers and welcome all feedback, but you found the time to write a hub and I think it is very special.

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