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Hi-Lo Titles for Middle-Grade Reluctant Readers

When I was a kid, I was not what you consider a reluctant reader. I was always reading and wanting to read. I never had trouble picking up an interesting book and digging right in, eager to jump into the world of fantasy. I never understood why there were other kids who hated reading.

Now I’m older, wiser, and a professional librarian who understands more about why a child may be reluctant to pick up a book and read. To help these reluctant readers find their “next great read,” there is a type of book often called “Hi-Lo,” which actually means “high interest, low level.” In order to be called this, Hi-Lo books need to be well-written and engaging, but also easy to read, in order to keep readers’ attention.

Hi-Lo books can be found in any genre or format, ranging from well-known graphic novels and fiction, such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney or Smile by Raina Telgemeier, to young adaptations of popular adult titles, like Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain or It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by, of course, Trevor Noah. 

Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is extremely popular with young readers, even spawning movies and the Rowley Jefferson spin-off books. The books are formatted to look like a middle schooler’s diary or journal entries, covered in handwritten font and doodles throughout, and chronicle main character Greg Heffley’s exploits in navigating middle school.

Another popular title, Smile by Raina Telgemeier, is part-autobiographical and part-colorful adventure that talks about the author’s personal drama with her teeth and middle school woes. Telgemeier’s graphic novels are fun and colorful reads that are surely engaging to a middle grade reader. 

For other readers, non-fiction that was adapted from adult stories might be more interesting. One such book, written by comedian and host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah, discusses his childhood in post-Apartheid South Africa. Noah’s Born a Crime is both funny and informative on the topic, written from a personal perspective that pulls the reader in and makes them think. 

There’s also learning about oneself. Susan Cain’s Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts might sound more appealing. Similar to the adult version, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Cain’s book discusses the introvert’s life, how they relate to the world around them, and social relationships. 

These are only a small selection of Hi-Lo titles, and there are many more to explore. You can check out any of these books through eLibraryNJ, hoopla, or at your local branch.

Happy reading!

— Jamie C., Twin Rivers Branch

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