Many children with ADHD are unwilling to read, especially for pleasure. How can they learn to enjoy reading? Try this list of lively books that ADHD children will love.
ADHD and Reading Difficulties
Although ADHD is not a learning disability, it impacts many cognitive processes, including reading. As this article about reading comprehension explains, children with ADHD often have difficulty remembering what they read because they can have a hard time sustaining their attention.
But maintaining attention is not the only challenge. Working memory deficits in ADHD minds make comprehension difficult. ADHD impairs the ability to recall what was read and to identify the main ideas. Poor working memory interferes with assimilating new information.
However, the situation is far from hopeless. When ADHD children are encouraged to read material that interests them and given tools to improve their comprehension, they can become more eager and skilled readers.
Ten Books Children with ADHD Will Love
Since many children with ADHD have difficulty reading, it's crucial to guide them toward books that will keep their interest and become personal favorites. The ten books on this list are filled with wild adventures, quirky characters, fun facts, and snappy conversations. Most of them are part of a series, and all of them can be an effective starting point for turning a reluctant reader into a devoted bookworm.
Horrid Henry (Ages 7 - 10)
Mischievous schoolboy Horrid Henry faces the frustration of dealing with his brother, Perfect Peter. His next-door neighbor, classmate Moody Margaret, further complicates Henry's life.
Four short stories comprise Horrid Henry, which may make the book more approachable for young ADHD readers. Horrid Henry is the first of many books Francesca Simon has written about the character and his associates.
The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Ages 7 - 10)
When he was in the second grade, author and illustrator Dav Pilkey created his most famous character: Captain Underpants. In the same year, Pilkey was diagnosed with ADHD. He incorporated his hyperactive classroom behavior into the characters of George and Henry, the heroes of the Captain Underpants series.
These books are favorites for many ADHD children. They have encouraged kids who once found reading boring to become avid readers. With 15 books in the series so far, fans will have plenty to enjoy. Dav Pilkey has written several other book series ADHD children may like, including Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot and Dog-Man.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Ages 8 - 12)
Fictional middle schooler Greg Heffley's handwritten journals form the basis of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Greg's issues with transitioning from elementary school to middle school are relatable for many children. The cartoon illustrations may provide memorable visual stimulation for children with ADHD.
The first Wimpy Kid book was published in 2007, and eleven more novels have followed. There are also four supplemental books, including The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book, which prompts readers to write their own life stories on its pages, and The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary, a non-fiction book that details the making of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid feature film.
Warriors #1: Into the Wild (Ages 9 and up)
Skulduggery Pleasant (Ages 8 - 12)
Irish writer Derek Landry brings supernatural detective Skulduggery Pleasant to life in a series of adventure-filled books. In the first book, Skulduggery teams up with adolescent Stephanie Edgley to unravel the mystery of her uncle's death. The duo takes on a string of paranormal adversaries in the books that follow.
With plenty of action and humor, these books take readers on fast-paced journeys that will hold the interest of children with ADHD.
Hoot (Ages 10 and up)
Newberry Honor Award Winner Hoot by Carl Hiaasenbrings the author's outrageously wacky imagination to younger readers. While not part of a series, it's the first of Hiaasen's five books now available for children.
Hoot is driven by a serious theme of environmental responsibility and buoyed by zany characters. While its protagonists are all outcasts to a certain degree, they find acceptance and friendship in each other as they band together to fight for the threatened habitat of endangered owls.
Mystery of the Egyptian Scroll (Kid Detective Zet) (Ages: 9 - 12)
This first book in Scott Peters' Kid Detective Zet series takes young readers on a thrilling ride through history and ancient Egyptian culture. Hoping for a reward, Zet and his sister Kat go on the trail of a prized stolen scroll. Working together, they persevere through resistance and trouble.
The author provides lots of extra background information for readers on his site, EgyptAbout. The articles are organized into brief, absorbable sections, with bulleted points to make the information easier to scan. The site uses a wealth of photographs and other illustrations to draw readers into the rich tapestry of ancient Egyptian history and mythology.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (Ages 10 - 14)
The start of Rick Riordan's 5-book adventure series Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief brings Greek mythology to the modern day world in a titanesque epic.
Percy Jackson was born out of the tales that author Rick Riordan dreamed up for his son, Haley. A former teacher with a background in Greek mythology, Riordan conceived Percy Jackson when he ran out of traditional myths to use as bedtime stories. Because Haley was in the process of being tested for ADHD and dyslexia at the time, Rick built those characteristics into Percy as marks of his Olympian heritage.
Brainwashed: Crime Travelers Spy School Mystery & International Adventure Series, Book 1 (Ages 9 - 14)
Like Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan, Paul Aertker is a formal middle school teacher. A speaker of several languages, Aertker has spent a great deal of his life traveling. He brings his extensive cultural knowledge to the Crime Travelers series of spy thrillers for young readers. The short chapters carry readers from one exciting plot point to the next, while taking them on exotic excursions around the world.
National Geographic Kids' Why: Over 1,111 Answers to Everything (Ages 8 - 12)
With lots of questions and answers for active minds, National Geographic Kids' Why?: Over 1,111 Answers to Everything is chock-full of easily digestible, fascinating information. Written in short snippets, its format is ADHD-friendly.
According to recommendations from ADHD coach Jacqueline Sinfield, reading books in a non-linear fashion may be helpful for those with attention regulation issues. The format of Why? allows readers to flip through the book and peruse passages at random.
The expanding National Geographic Kids series contains volumes catering to many different interests, including That's Sneaky, a book about spy gadgetry, and How to Speak Cat, a guide to feline communication.
Encouraging ADHD Children to Read
In addition to selecting books that will keep their interest, there are many tips and techniques for helping ADHD children with the process of reading.
Tips for Focusing on the Text
As these tips detail, there are several simple ways to keep an ADHD child focused during the reading process. They include:
- Tracking the words with a finger or ruler
- Highlighting and taking notes
- Engaging the child in active reading activities, such as answering questions or searching for keywords
Reading Aloud and Audiobooks
Long books may be intimidating to ADHD children. Kathy Doyle Thomas, who serves on the board of Literacy USA and is the mother of a son with ADHD, suggests using audio books or reading to your child to spark interest. Thomas explains that her ADHD son was willing to read books in the lengthy Harry Potter series only after having enjoyed the first volume as an audiobook. Prior to listening to the audiobook, he had balked at the length of the popular novels and had been unwilling to try them.
ADHD author Bryan Hutchinson echoes this advice about audiobooks. When an audiobook is unavailable, he suggests simply reading aloud.
Reading Series of Books
''It seems like series of books keep us going more than anything else,'' states Michele M. Cook, writer and ADHD mom of two ADHD boys. Readers of book series develop long-term interest in the characters and become comfortable with the familiar settings, which encourages reading as a habit.
Readers for Life
When children with ADHD read books they love, they cultivate a lifelong passion for reading. Use these tips to improve the reading process and maintain focus, a winning combination that can help students with ADHD succeed in school and beyond.