5 Terrific Picture Books About Children Having Problems Learning to Read

Posted on July 19th, 2019 by Carolyn Hart in Outstanding Picture Books to Enjoy at Home or at School

5 Picture Books About Characters Having Trouble Learning to Read

If you are supporting a child who is having difficulty learning to read, these are picture books that share an encouraging message. Reading well involves learning a variety of strategies and practising them with increasingly difficult text. For a child who has difficulty with letter recognition, dyslexia, phonemic awareness or comprehension, reading can be a terrible struggle. Hearing about the experiences of other children can be a help.

Here, we share five picture books that will be helpful for children who are having trouble learning to read.

“Learning to read and read well is already hard enough: it takes years of practice to make knowledge of reading automatic, transparent and fluid. When children practice reading in a context that’s kind– with books they love, teachers who understand reading, and systems devised to make a hard thing easier — they’re more inclined to practice, remember, make sense of, get better at, and love reading.”

Nancie Atwell in The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers

5 Terrific Picture Books About Children Having Problems Learning to Read Click To Tweet

I Don't Like to Ready by Nancy CarlsonI Don’t Like to Read! written and illustrate by Nancy Carlson
Picture book about Having Trouble Learning to Read published by Puffin

Henry likes first grade but he does not like reading. He avoids it at school and at home. One day, his teacher asks him what the problem is and he confides. His teacher offers extra help and before too long, when a babysitter is not available to read aloud to Henry and his sibling, Henry takes over, reading with increasing confidence and emerges with a love of reading at home and at school.

Ms Carson’s illustrations are a highlight of this engaging picture book. Henry’s body language, especially as a non-reader, is a terrific addition to her delightful story.

Level of Reading Intervention – Resource teacher at school, extra practice at home
Reason for reading difficulty (if any identified) – N/A

I Don’t Like to Read! at Amazon.com

I Don’t Like to Read! at Amazon.ca


Lily and the Mixed Up Letters is a story about difficulty learning to readLily and the Mixed Up Letters written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Fance Brassard
Picture Book about Having Trouble Learning to Read published by Tundra Books

Lily enjoys school and especially opportunities to create art. Unfortunately, grade two is not as much fun as kindergarten and grade one were. Reading aloud is especially worrisome for Lily and, when her teacher announces Parent Day will include having each student read out loud, Lily confides her lack of confidence reading to her mom,

I can’t do it,” she sobs. “I can’t read my page on Parent Day. It’s too hard. All the other kids can read their pages, but I can’t read mine.”

Lily’s mom is empathetic and requests that she receive extra help at school. Her teacher assigns a peer Reading Buddy and Lily also practices at home. By Parent Day, Lily is ready for the challenge.

Level of Reading Intervention – Peer reading buddy at school, extra practice at home
Reason for reading difficulty (if any identified) – N/A

Lily and the Mixed-Up Letters at Amazon.com

Lily and the Mixed-Up Letters at Amazon.ca


Children's books about learning disabilities, Miss Little's Gift
Miss Little’s Gift written by Douglas Wood and illustrated by Jim Burke
Autobiographical Picture Book about Living with ADHD and Difficulty Learning to Read published by Candlewick Press

Douglas is in grade two and he doesn’t like having to sit still. He interrupts his teacher; he has problems with reading and on the playground. He is very resistant to staying after school in order to get extra help with reading but Miss Little is firm and determined. She finds a book to match his interests, she encourages him and she gives him just enough help. Miss Little’s Gift is a celebration of the difference a wonderful, caring teacher can make.

Level of Reading Intervention – extra time with a classroom teacher
Reason for reading difficulty (if any identified) – ADHD in Author’s Note

Miss Little’s Gift at Amazon.com

Miss Little’s Gift at Amazon.ca


Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader BehindMiss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind written by Judy Finchler and Kevin O’Malley and illustrated by Kevin O’Malley
Picture book about a reluctant reader and a persistent teacher published by Bloomsbury USA

In Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind, we meet a student who is able to read but simply does not like reading. He much prefers playing video games with his friend. His very determined book-loving teacher spends the entire school year trying to find a book that will captivate him. One by one she wins over his classmates but it is not until the year is almost over that she finds the key to unlocking a love of reading and books.

This picture book would be a good read-aloud at the start of a school year, especially for teachers and librarians who have an extensive classroom library and a very good knowledge of books that will appeal to hard-to-reach students.

We also suggest reading our series, Journey of a Reluctant Reader

Level of Reading Intervention – Classroom teacher
Reason for reading difficulty (if any identified) – Reluctant reader

Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind at Amazon.com

Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind at Amazon.ca


Thank You, Storytime Standouts looks at picture books about children having difficulty learning to read including Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia PolaccoThank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Picture book about Having Trouble Learning to Read published by The Penguin Group

Thank you, Mr. Falker is an autobiographical picture book about Ms. Polacco’s difficulty learning to read and the help she finally received in grade five. A detailed, thoughtful story for older children, Thank you, Mr. Falker explains that Trisha grew up in a family that loved reading and treasured books. After the loss of her grandparents, she moved to California with her mother and her brother. Trisha hoped it would be a fresh start and that reading would be easier but her struggles persisted and before too long she was being teased by bullies.

it is not until Trisha is in fifth grade, with a teacher who is new to the school, that the bullying is called out and Trisha receives extra instruction.

We’re going to change all that, girl. You’re going to read – I promise you that.”

This picture book is best-suited older children and highlights the fact that some children can hide their difficulties with reading for quite some time.

Level of Reading Intervention – Classroom teacher and reading resource teacher
Reason for reading difficulty (if any identified) -N/A

Thank You, Mr. Falker at Amazon.com

Thank You, Mr. Falker at Amazon.ca

The Girl Who Hated Books

An animated short from the National Film Board of Canada introduces us to Meena, a young girl who hates books.

We also wrote about Storytime Standouts writes about I Hate BooksI Hate Books by Kate Walker


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