Spoiler Alert: Finding chapter books for kids who are reluctant readers is a challenge. Not every one of the 2nd grade books your child encounters will genuinely engage her. Reluctant readers often come to light around second or third grade. The linguistic clues provided by illustration-filled pages quickly fade as children are pushed to rely more heavily on text to uncover the story in chapter books. High-interest second grade books with an illustration on each page can be the perfect bridge from picture books to chapter books. Every single book on this list has come through both of my boys. These books are highly engaging and perfect 2nd grade books to keep those budding readers engaged!!!
This is the best list of exactly those books! If you don’t already read to your children at bedtime, I highly encourage you to start. If you’ve stopped reading at bedtime because now your child can read independently – there are many reasons to keep reading aloud to even your older children.
One of my boys dove into the world of second grade books as well as early chapter books for kids and devoured them faster than I could check them out of the library or have Amazon deliver them.
My other son is getting a slower start with chapter books. He’s looking for a softer and more gentle transition from picture books to chapter books. He still uses the pictures to complete his mental image from the words he’s reading or listening to.
So I set out to find books that I can read to him, or that he can begin to read independently, that still offer contextual picture clues. I can read these to him throughout the school year and then he can follow up with independent reading for the series he enjoys!
Second grade books often loose the repetition and predictability of pictures books aimed at younger children. But 2nd grade books haven’t thrown out the baby with the bathwater either. They are telling compelling stories. And, for that, they hold a special place in my heart!
What Comes Before Chapter Books?
There’s such a push to have children “graduate” from picture books into chapter books. And I think this is the wrong way to look at it. Sarah Mackenzie, at Read Aloud Revival, is my muse for all things reading and children.
She describes genres of books as concentric circles which you can move back and forth between – not like stairs that you step on and leave behind. For example, I love to use picture books to raise subjects that may be difficult to discuss without a strong parental prop: like refugees, terrorism, or death and grieving.
What concerns me most about children reading “age-appropriate” books, is this trend of moving children too quickly into chapter books and away from picture books.
Learning to read before her classmates may look impressive, but that advancement may not last long beyond her current grade level. Studies that followed students through elementary school found that it is just as likely that the pressure will diminish her independent love of reading and hold her back from achieving later on.
Even gifted children benefit from time with picture books, learning how to get the most out of what they read. (cite)
One of my favorite things about 2nd grade books is that so many are written as part of a series. And, once your child finds a book he loves, the series is almost guaranteed to get children motivated and excited about reading! I know once mine got started – he ripped through series after series!
And many of the 2nd grade books that I’ll share here with you today have that same advantage – they are part of a series.
2nd Grade Books That Will Enchant Any Reluctant Reader
Meet Logan Pryce, an eight-year-old boy whose family hardships are made better by his small-town community in this start to a wholesome series that’s like Little House on the Prairie for younger readers.
It’s 1892 in Maple Ridge, Illinois, and Logan Pryce is worried about his family. His dad, Dale, needs to find a new job because their farm is failing. He may even need to look for work in another city. Logan offers to earn some money by selling his latest invention, but his parents tell him not to worry and that everything will be fine. Then Dale is hired for a temporary job at the general store, and Logan can’t wait to lend a hand! But his eagerness may cause his dad to lose the job he so badly needs. Can Logan’s mistake be fixed in time?
Ava plays outside one lovely fall day and finds Squisy, the invisible cat, in the vegetable garden. The two play happily together, and Ava brings Squishy home and introduces him to her mother. Mummy plays along at first, pretending to see the cat, until Squishy’s antics get out of control. Mummy tries to get rid of Squishy but to no avail. Eventually, Ava assures her mother that Squishy will learn to behave, and Mummy agrees to let him stay. In the second book, Squishy’s exploits continue, this time at the grocery story—to Mummy’s great consternation. Children will giggle at Squishy’s misadventures and want to read more. VERDICT Rhyming text and simple, three-color illustrations make this a thumbs-up choice for early chapter readers.
Phoebe loves her pet fish, Betty #2 (named after Betty #1, may she rest in peace), making lists, and her best friend Sage. But when Camille, a tall French girl, arrives at school with unusual lunches, Phoebe’s friendship with Sage doesn’t seem so important anymore. Thanks to Camille, Phoebe discovers goat cheese, butter lettuce, and cilantro (although she’s convinced that’s not a real word). She’s determined to get invited to her new friend’s house for dinner to see what other mysterious food Camille eats. But what about Sage? Can Phoebe make a new friend and keep an old one?
In the tradition of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries comes The Mysteries of Maisie Hitchins! Twelve-year-old Maisie is a noticing sort of person. Thats why she is convinced she would make an excellent detective if she ever got the chance! But instead of detecting, she spends her days polishing the banisters at her grandmother’s boarding house or fetching fish for the lodgers’ dinner. In The Case of the Stolen Sixpence, Maisie’s big chance to prove herself finally arrives when crime strikes her Victorian London neighborhood. While the grown-ups turn a blind eye to the whodunit and justice goes un-served, Maisie and her canine sidekick, Eddie, search the streets for clues to crack the case.
Life with only the sea can be lonely. Just ask Pandora and Seabold. They’ve lived most of their lives with the sea — Pandora in a lighthouse and Seabold on a boat — and they’re each quite used to being alone. Or they were.
But one day, the sea did something extraordinary: It brought Pandora and Seabold together! And even better, the sea gave them the ingredients for an adventure that neither of them had considered before-an adventure called “family.”
Any one of Alvin Ho series is the perfect 2nd grade book that will keep you and your kids in stitches.
Alvin, an Asian American second grader, is afraid of everything—elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’ s there, he never, ever, says a word. But at home he’s a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother to Calvin and Anibelly, and a gentleman-in-training, so he can be just like his dad…
My Father’s Dragon is a classic for good reason. I’ve never met a child who didn’t love these stories.
When Elmer Elevator tells a stray cat about his dream of being able to fly, he learns of a captive dragon on Wild Island. The dragon has been forced by the jungle residents to serve as their shuttle across a wide river — and anyone who rescues the dragon from its cruel captors might be entitled to a free ride.
Elmer needs no further encouragement to stow away aboard a ship to the island, where he matches wits with hungry tigers, an irate gorilla, cranky crocodiles, and other moody creatures.
Got a mystery to solve? Jigsaw Jones is on the case. When Bobby Solofsky is accused of stealing the grand prize for a pet talent show, it’s up to Jigsaw to clear his greatest rival’s name. Soon, more things start to go missing at the pet store and Jigsaw enters his own dog into the contest to solve the case. Can he find the prize medal in time for the competition?
Meet The Cobble Street Cousins: Lily, who wants to be a poet; Tess, who wants to be a Broadway star; and Rosie, who wants a little cottage with flowers by the door.
Right now, though, the cousins are sharing an attic bedroom in their Aunt Lucy’s light blue house on Cobble Street, and happily making plans for the summer. A cookie company seems the perfect way to make a little money, but it turns out to be much more — an opportunity to meet some very special neighbors!
With magical animals, science, mystery, and adventure — the brand new series Zoey and Sassafras has something for everyone! Easy-to-read language and illustrations on nearly every page make this series perfect for a wide range of ages. This series is currently my son’s obsession. I read them aloud to him at bedtime, which gave him the encouragement he needed to decide he would read them on his own for school. He can’t get enough!
In the first book of this series, Zoey discovers a glowing photo and learns an amazing secret. Injured magical animals come to their backyard barn for help! When a sick baby dragon appears, it’s up to Zoey and Sassafras to figure out what’s wrong. Will they be able to help little Marshmallow before it’s too late?
Each story in this series is the perfect 2nd grade book! Good stories are good stories no matter what your age – and Lulu delivers!
Im gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna, get a bronto-bronto-bronto-bronto-saurus for a pet!
Lulu is so accustomed to getting what she wants that when her parents deny her birthday request for a brontosaurus, she throws a four-day temper tantrum and then storms off into the forest in search of the dinosaur she clearly deserves. Lulu isn’t particularly impressed with the snake, tiger, and bear she encounters, but then she finds him—a beautiful, long-necked, graceful brontosaurus. Mr. B completely agrees with Lulu that having a pet would be a wonderful thing, and Lulu thinks she’s gotten her birthday wish at last. Until she realizes that Mr. Brontosaurus thinks that she would make an ideal pet for him!
Despite her name, Clover has always felt decidedly unlucky. So when she stumbles upon a mysterious cottage in the Woods, she can hardly believe her good fortune. It’s the Magical Animal Adoption Agency, and it houses creatures of all kinds. Fairy horses, unicorns, and a fiery young dragon are just the beginning!
Mr. Jams, the Agency’s owner, agrees to hire her as summer helper and Clover hopes her luck has finally changed. But when she’s left alone to care for the Agency, a sneaky witch comes after the magical creatures! Will Clover outsmart her in time to protect the animals?
The first installment in a new illustrated chapter book series by Kallie George, featuring enchanting illustrations by Alexandra Boiger, will charm young readers as Clover learns that courage and heart can be even more powerful than good luck.
Go crayfishing in the summer at Nocken, “dipping in the pot” at Christmastime with Lisa and Karl, and join Britta and Anna who know the best way to go about “nutting” for the New Year. In this gently humorous tale, master storyteller Astrid Lindgren takes us through a year in the lives and customs of six Swedish children living on a group of three farms in the countryside.
Meet Lucas, the eight year-old prince, and Clara, the daughter of the queen’s seamstress. Lucas is an only child who longs to make friends and go on adventures. Clara knows the kingdom well, so she and Lucas team up and explore the lands of Wrenly! In The Lost Stone, Lucas and Clara search for Queen Tasha’s missing emerald. On their exciting adventure, they travel to all the main attractions of Wrenly: Primlox (the island of fairies), Burth (the island of trolls), Crestwood (the island of dragons), Hobsgrove (the island of wizards), and the beautiful Mermaid’s Cove. King Caleb has promised to reward the person who finds the precious stone, and Lucas and Clara are determined to search the entire kingdom until they find it!
Pa Lia Vang’s first day at Jackson Magnet, her new school, isn’t going so well. She doesn’t know anyone. She can’t find her second-grade classroom. And then she gets the only person who’s been nice to her into trouble. Will Pa Lia ever fit in? In this first chapter book of the Jackson Friends series, Michelle Edwards explores with humor and sensitivity the anxieties children often face in a new situation.
Roland Wright wants to be a knight in armor. The problem: Roland’s dad is a blacksmith, and only boys from noble families can even dream of becoming knights. When mysterious visitors arrive in the village one day, everything changes. Roland finds himself in the contest of a lifetime, with a real chance to become a page, the first step on the road to knighthood. But how can skinny, clumsy Roland beat an opponent who is bigger, stronger, and older—and who doesn’t play by the rules?
Jaden Toussaint is a five year-old who knows it all. I mean, really knows it all. Animal Scientist. Great Debater. Master of the art of ninja dancing. There’s nothing Jaden Toussaint can’t do. The only problem is that grown-ups keep trying to convince him that, even though he’s really smart, he doesn’t know EVERYTHING. The thing is…he kind of does. This time our hero must use all his super-powered brain power to convince the grown-ups that he needs more screen time. Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest is a series of chapter books that kids and parents love. Kids love the awesome brain power and ninja dance moves of a superhero as real as they are. Parents appreciate the author’s humor, but they love watching their kids– even reluctant readers– keep turning pages. Jaden Toussaint is the new definition of cool.
Most days the best thing about being Ruby is everything. Like when she’s the star of her own backyard magic show. Or when she gives a talk at the school safety assembly on the benefits of reflective tape. Or when she rides the No. 3 bus all the way to Chinatown to visit GungGung and PohPoh. And then there are the days when it’s very hard to be Ruby. Like when her mom suggests Chinese school on Saturdays. Or when her little brother, Oscar, spills all of Ruby’s best magician secrets. Or when her parents don’t think she’s old enough to drive!
This is truly the most unique children’s series we’ve ever read. Not a night went by that we weren’t howling with laughter!
The beginning of a weird, wacky, one in a million series about the plight of the truly nasty Mr Gum and a crazy cast of characters—a cross between Roald Dahl and Monty Python. Mr Gum is a truly nasty old man. He’s a complete horror who hates children, animals, fun, and corn on the cob. This book’s all about him. And an angry fairy who lives in his bathtub, Jake the dog, a little girl named Polly, and an evil, stinky butcher all covered in guts. And there are heroes and sweets and adventures and everything.
Danger! Action! Trouble! Adventure! What would happen if your next-door neighbor were a mad scientist? Gabe, Laura, and Cesar live on a quiet cul-de-sac. They are the whiz kids of Newtonburg Elementary and each specializes in their own subject. In fact, everyone in town lovingly refers to them as the Data Set. However, their quiet days of learning take a sudden turn for the exciting when they meet Dr. Gustav Bunsen—a mad scientist who throws the kids into a wild spiral of adventures.
When Dr. Bunsen’s latest invention, a growth ray, hits several tiny animal toys, the mini beasts don’t just grow, they come to life! The DATA Set love their new tiny pets…until they continue to grow. Now there’s an actual elephant in the room—not to mention a chimp, a giraffe, and a dinosaur. When the beasts wander off, it’s up to the DATA Set to track them down. But will they catch the mini beasts before they grow big enough to start trouble in town?
Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She’s sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She’s sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won’t let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn’t expect that help to come in the form of a crocodile—a crocodile who does not behave properly. With perfectly paced dry comedy, children’s book luminaries Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca send Princess Cora on a delightful outdoor adventure — climbing trees! getting dirty! having fun! — while her alter ego wreaks utter havoc inside the castle, obliging one pair of royal helicopter parents to reconsider their ways.
Meet Mr. Penguin: Adventurer (and penguin)! He has a dashing hat, a battered satchel, and a packed lunch of fish finger sandwiches. Now he just needs an adventure! So when Bouddica Bones from the Museum of Extraordinary objects calls for help, Mr. Penguin swings into action. Can he and Colin the spider find the museum’s missing treasure before bandits do? Or is this the adventure Mr. Penguin should have never answered?
Claude is no ordinary dog―he leads an extraordinary life! When Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes leave for the day, Claude and his best friend Sir Bobblysock take a walk in the park. Suddenly, a woman calls for help, and they find themselves rescuing a runaway baby carriage―with the baby still inside! To reward their heroism, The Amazing Alan invites them to watch his circus. They arrive early, and, as he’s been on a cleaning frenzy lately, Claude decides to tidy up the big top. In the process, he accidentally sabotages the performers’ equipment. But the show must go on―even if Claude and Sir Bobblysock have to put on the entire thing themselves! Quirky, delightfully odd, and positively surreal, Alex T. Smith’s illustrated early chapter book series promises giggle-filled bedtime reading and a laugh-out-loud option for readers transitioning from picture books to chapter books.
So, I’m sure many of you know Mercy, but I just couldn’t leave Kate Camillo off this list. My boys both devour her writing!
Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s porcine wonder, Mercy, loves nothing more than a ride in the car. It takes a fair amount of nudging and bribing and a “You are such a good sport, darling” to get the portly pig out of the driver’s seat, but once the convertible is on the road, Mercy loves the feel of the wind tickling her ears and the sun on her snout. One day the Watsons’ motoring ritual takes an unexpected turn, however, when their elderly neighbor Baby Lincoln pops up in the backseat in hopes of some “folly and adventure” — and in the chaos that ensues, an exuberant Mercy ends up behind the wheel! Soon there’s a policeman on her tail, a struggle for the brake, and a blissfully airborne Mercy. Of course, it’s nothing that an extra helping of buttered toast can’t fix!
Who says princesses don’t wear black? When trouble raises its blue monster head, Princess Magnolia ditches her flouncy dresses and becomes the Princess in Black! Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret? From award-winning writing team of Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham, here is the first in a humorous and action-packed chapter book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black.
Fergus loves being the class pet. When the teacher plans a field trip to a museum, Fergus doesn’t want to miss the fun, so he stows away in a backpack and sets off for an adventure. The museum is a little overwhelming — huge and full of exciting things to see. Luckily, Fergus meets a new friend, Zeke, who knows the ropes, and together they explore everything from moon rocks to butterflies to a giant dinosaur skeleton. But when it’s time for the bus to leave, will Fergus make it back to school to take his place as class pet once more?
Diva, a small yet brave dog, and Flea, a curious streetwise cat, develop an unexpected friendship in this unforgettable tale of discovery. For as long as she could remember, Diva lived at 11 avenue Le Play in Paris, France. For as long as he could remember, Flea also lived in Paris, France-but at no fixed address. When Flea flâneurs past Diva’s courtyard one day, their lives are forever changed. Together, Diva and Flea explore and share their very different worlds, as only true friends can do.
Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker! She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie―something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before. But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day?
They might be chicks, but they sure aren’t chicken, and they’re on a mission. And on this, their first (mis)adventure “in this delightful spinoff of the J.J. Tully series” (Kirkus Reviews), the Chicken Squad launches a galactic backyard expedition. Meet the Chicken Squad: Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie. These chicks are not your typical barnyard puffs of fluff, and they are not about to spend their days pecking chicken feed and chasing bugs. No sir, they’re too busy solving mysteries and fighting crime. So when Squirrel comes barreling into the chicken coop, the chicks know they’re about to get a case. But with his poor knowledge of shapes (“Big” is not a shape, Squirrel!) and utter fear of whatever it is that’s out there, the panicky Squirrel is NO HELP. Good thing these chicks are professionals.
The J.J. Tulley Mysteries (fewer pics than the Chicken Squad – but still a good 1/2 or 1/3 of pages with pictures) J.J. Tully is a former search-and-rescue dog who is trying to enjoy his retirement after years of performing daring missions saving lives. So he’s not terribly impressed when two chicks named Dirt and Sugar (who look like popcorn on legs) and their chicken mom show up demanding his help to find their missing siblings. Driven by the promise of a cheeseburger, J.J. begins to track down clues. Is Vince the Funnel hiding something? Are there dark forces at work—or is J.J. not smelling the evidence that’s right in front of him?
Camping with Desmond Cole is a lot of fun, until he starts telling ghost stories around the campfire. Most kids tell creepy stories that are totally fake, but Desmond tells totally true stories that will give you goosebumps. So, settle in while Desmond, Andres, and their ghost-friend, Zax, take turns trying to tell the scariest story of all.
Aliens Attack! When science camp buddies Kevin, Warner, Tara, and TJ summon alien life to earth, they quickly find out that not all extraterrestrials come in peace. Can they stop an alien takeover and save the world in time to win the Invention Convention?
When ten-year-old Tiger Brooks and his family move into a new home, he sees some strange things at the house next door—like a talking pig in a top hat! When he and his neighbor, Luna Lopez, investigate, they discover a reclusive old woman and her magical golden frame, through which they can enter the world’s greatest paintings. In this book, Tiger and Luna get pulled into the painting Surprised! or Tiger in a Tropical Storm by Henri Rousseau. But they must escape the jungle adventure before time runs out, otherwise they’ll be trapped in the painting forever!
Uh-oh, Animal Town is in trouble! Meanie King Viking has created a dreaded robot army to spread No Fun across the land. On top of that, he has stolen the happiest and most fun animal ever, Singing Dog. There is only one person who can save the day — Super Rabbit Boy! Super Rabbit Boy is super fast and super brave, but he’s also a video game character living in a video game world. What will happen when Sunny, the boy playing the game, loses each level? Will it be game over for Super Rabbit Boy and all his friends?
Non-Fiction: Start With Any One of These Second Grade Books
With over 200 titles, Penguin’s Who Was?, What Was?, and Where Is? books tell the incredible stories of trailblazers, legends, innovators, cool places, and important events. Here’s just a sampling!
Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?What Was the Great Depression?Where Is Mount Rushmore?Who Was Leonardo da Vinci?Who Was Rosa Parks?Who Was Albert Einstein?Who Was Walt Disney?Who Is Jane Goodall? (Who Was?)What Was the Titanic?What Were the Twin Towers? (What Was?)What Was the Great Depression?What Is the Constitution? (What Was?)What Was the Boston Tea Party?
The Branches Series
There are even publishers catering heavily to this market – you’ve probably read something from the Branches line from Scholastic at least once. Scholastic aims these stories at children between five and eight with high-interest stories and illustrations of every page to fall in love with a series. The Branches series of books is there to “fill the gap between easy-to-read books and traditional chapter books.” (cite)
The Branches series of books is terrific – several of them were widely read in our home. So I want to share them here – just for your reference. But, truth be told – I love the other books on this list soooo much more!
Psssst! And so did my boys!
All Paws on Deck: A Branches Book (Haggis and Tank Unleashed #1)Boris on the Move: A Branches Book (Boris #1)Moldylocks and the Three Beards: A Branches Book (Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe #1)Let’s Get Cracking!: A Branches Book (Kung Pow Chicken #1) (1)The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders (Olive & Beatrix #1)Eva’s Treetop Festival: A Branches Book (Owl Diaries #1)Game Over, Super Rabbit Boy! A Branches Book (Press Start! #1)The Ember Stone: A Branches Book (The Last Firehawk #1)Rise of the Earth Dragon: A Branches Book (Dragon Masters #1)The School is Alive!: A Branches Book (Eerie Elementary #1)Hero Dog!: A Branches Book (Hilde Cracks the Case #1)Stranger Things: A Branches Book (Looniverse #1)Kiki: My Stylish Life (A Branches Book: Lotus Lane #1)Rise of the Balloon Goons: A Branches Book (The Notebook of Doom #1)Monkey Me and the Golden Monkey: A Branches Book (Monkey Me #1)Step Into the Spotlight!: A Branches Book (The Amazing Stardust Friends #1)Sparkling Jewel: A Branches Book (Silver Pony Ranch #1)Stealing the Sword: A Branches Book (Time Jumpers #1)Knit-Knotters: A Branches Book (Stella and the Night Sprites #1)Bo’s Magical New Friend: A Branches Book (Unicorn Diaries #1) (1)The Magic Mirror: A Branches Book (Once Upon a Fairy Tale #1) (1)Pug Blasts Off: A Branches Book (Diary of a Pug #1) (1)Picture Day: A Branches Book (Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe #1)
These 2nd Grade Books Keep Your Reluctant Reader Loving Stories
More than anything I want my boys to appreciate and love story. The 2nd grade books I’ve shared here are almost guaranteed to do that!
Again, this is something that I learned from Sara Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival. And the more I’ve thought about it – I believe that a love for stories and story telling defines our humanity. Before there was written language – there were stories. There were stories to teach lessons, keep you safe, and any other manner of life preserving needs. I feel like I’m perpetuating these traditions by cultivating a family reading habit.
Stories come in many different forms – song, books, puppet shows, stand-up comedy, theater, opera, movies, or art. So expose your children to as many forms of stories and story telling as you possibly can to nurture their love of story. And then keep reading those terrific books!
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