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- author Jackie French

Thursday 16 May 2024

Guest Post: Dan Rice on The Less Reluctant Reader

My third grader is a reluctant reader. But he's less reluctant than he was two years ago. While in first grade, he was violently opposed to reading, and all he would read, under protest, mind you, were the Bob Books by Lynn Maslen Kertell. These are simple books for beginning readers and were great for getting him started on reading, but we needed to find more complex books he was willing to tackle for him to advance.

Dragons, Dragons, and More Dragons

Perhaps because he knows dragons feature in my novels, he became interested in The Glitter Dragon Series by Maddie Mara after spotting one at a school book fair. We read the entire series together and even made it through several of the follow-up The Treasure Dragon Series before he grew tired of these wonderful books.

Each novel features a different young girl as the narrative voice. She and her two friends travel to the magic forest where they aren’t humans but dragons. In the forest, they go on fantastic adventures battling the evil forces bent on harming the natural environment.

On the learning to read front, these novels are fantastic. Each is about 130 pages and sprinkled with cute illustrations while still having many pages of only text. When we started reading these books, my son struggled with many words and was intimidated by the pages full of text. When we began reading The Treasure Dragon Series, he was no longer scared, and he read smoothly.

Eventually, he told my wife he wanted to read a book with dragon boys. Not long after, he was done with the dragon girls. We never finished the final installment in The Treasure Dragon Series.

Boy Dragon Stories

We were stumped by the boy dragon request. Searching Google and Amazon didn’t provide anything that fit the bill. Some books looked promising but were meant for older audiences with more advanced reading skills.

Inspiration struck when I noticed one of the many How to Train Your Dragon cartoons on Netflix. I discovered the cartoons are loosely based on the long-running series How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. These novels were a huge step up for my son in terms of length and level of difficulty. However, large text and copious illustrations help make the books approachable, even for an anxious reader. Best of all, the potty humor inspired belly laughs, which helped him soldier through several books.

We haven't finished this series, but I suspect we might one day, and we are indebted to these books. Before reading How to Train Your Dragon, my son would never have considered tackling a novel of 250 pages or more. After reading these books, although he still doesn’t look forward to reading a longer story, he is willing to try.

Reluctant But Not Violently So

As you can imagine, as someone who loves books and has spent years writing them, I find it disconcerting to have an unenthusiastic reader in the family. With my son’s and his parents’ hard work, he is reading at grade level, which is a tremendous accomplishment and a relief. However, he doesn’t find joy in reading. He views reading as a task to get over with so he can go back to what he’d rather be doing, which usually involves a screen.

Here are some books he has enjoyed and why:

How to Train Your Dragon is a fantastical series about boys and their dragons. It’s full of lowbrow humor, sure to appeal to young ones finding bodily functions hilarious. Some books are fairly thick, but illustrations and large text cut back on the intimidation factor.

Books featuring animals are popular with my son. Although we don’t have a pet, he is obsessed with dogs, probably because his grandparents have one. Nugly by M.C. Ross is about a dog who suffers a horrible accident that leaves him scarred. The book kept my son engaged and was the first tale he read without illustrations.

As I write this, he is beginning the I Survived Series by Lauren Tarshis, starting with I Survived the Great Molasses Flood, 1919. This dramatization of an actual historical event engrosses him. The writing is complex enough to be challenging for him to read without being too difficult. A handful of illustrations also adds to the book’s appeal.

If you have a reluctant reader, hopefully, my experiences with my son will help light your path. We’re still on our reading journey. He’s still reluctant, but he’s no longer violently recalcitrant when told to read and is reading with the competency expected at his age. These are steps in the right direction. The final march to the reading summit of finding pleasure in books will be the hardest yet, but a worthwhile endeavor.


Dan Rice pens the young adult urban fantasy series The Allison Lee Chronicles in the wee hours of the morning. The series starts with his award-winning debut, Dragons Walk Among Us, which Kirkus Reviews calls 'An inspirational and socially relevant fantasy.' The third novel in the series, The Wrath of Monsters, releases on June 19, 2024.

To discover more about Dan’s writing and keep tabs on his upcoming releases, check out his blog and join his newsletter.