WSIRN Ep 49: How to help kids fall in love with reading with Sarah Mackenzie

I’m so excited about today’s guest! I couldn’t think of a better person to kick off our special 5-day miniseries: What Should I Read Next for Kids, and Kids at Heart. We’re focusing on a variety of young and young at heart topics: children’s literature, coming of age stories, literary heroines, kid lit for grown-ups, and more.

What Should I Read Next #49: How to help kids fall in love with reading with Sarah Mackenzie

Sarah Mackenzie is a friend, devoted reader, and Kid Lit Expert Extraordinaire. You may know her as the host of the Read Aloud Revival podcast and site, or as the author of Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace. Her mission is to help YOU help the kids in your life fall in love with books, and this episode will leave you feeling inspired and empowered to do just that.

What Should I Read Next #49: How to help kids fall in love with reading with Sarah Mackenzie
You can connect with Sarah on the Read Aloud Revival website, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Plus, make sure to check out her free read-aloud booklist!

Don’t miss today’s blog post: 7 tips for raising kids who love to read.

Books discussed in this episode: 

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The Babysitter’s Club, by Ann M. Martin
Anastasia Krupnik series, by Lois Lowry
Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M. Montgomery
Love Anthony, by Lisa Genova
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova
Inside the OBriens, by Lisa Genova
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
Emma: A Modern Retelling, by Alexander McCall Smith
The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Cafe, by Alexander McCall Smith
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series, by L. Frank Baum
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
Nobody Likes a Goblin, by Ben Hatke
The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
Stuart Little, by E.B. White
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
The Cat In The Hat, by Dr. Seuss
Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

Recommended for Avery, who loves Elephant & Piggie:
The Elephant & Piggie series, by Mo Willems
Fox and Crow Are Not Friends, by Melissa Wiley
The Pete the Cat series, by Eric Litwin
The Book With No Pictures, by B.J. Novak

Recommended for Dan, who likes Loot, The Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson
Loot, by Jude Watson
The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins
The Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan
The 100 Cupboards series, by N.D. Wilson
The Outlaws of Time series, by N.D. Wilson
Boys of Blur, by N.D. Wilson
The Dragon’s Tooth, by N.D. Wilson
The Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan

Recommended for Sienna, who loves the Pegasus series:
The Pegasus series, by Katie O’Hearn
The Fablehaven series, by Brandon Mull
Magyk (the Septimus Heap series), by Angie Sage
The Ruby Redfort series, by Lauren Child
The Charlie and Lola series, by Lauren Child
The Clarice Bean series, by Lauren Child
Mother-Daughter Book Club series, by Heather Vogel Frederick

Recommended for Ivy, who loves the Tuesdays at the Castle series:
The Tuesdays at the Castle series, by Jessica Day George
The Wide-Awake Princess, by E.D. Baker
The Rise & Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale

Recommended for Jace, who loves Harry Potter & the Warriors series:
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
Warriors series, by Erin Hunter
The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Chronicles of Prydain series, Lloyd Alexander

Recommended for Sigrid, who loves Smile and Rollergirl:
Smile, by  Raina Telgemeier
Rollergirl, by Victoria Jamieson
Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer L. Holm
Frazzled, by Booki Vivat
The Babysitters Club graphic novel series, by Raina Telgemeier

Recommended for Marin, who loves the Magic Tree House series:
The Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne
The Encyclopedia Brown series, by Donald J. Sobol
The McBroom series, by Sid Fleischman
The A to Z Mysteries series, by Ron Roy

Other authors mentioned in this episode:

Roald Dahl
Jeanette Oake
Willow Davis Rob

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Leave A Comment
  1. Angela says:

    Loved this episode- thanks! Requested so many from the library! Just a note- the book Dane was talking about was Loot by Jude Watson, not Lute as in show notes, in case other kids like those types of adventure/caper books.

  2. Jenny says:

    This was such a FUN episode! Thanks Anne!!! After listening I told my kids about all the books and have put several on hold at the library for them and me! Is there any way to get a printer-friendly version of the list of books? I tried to cut and paste and that didn’t work. I know I will need to come back to this list, and potentially the lists in the upcoming episodes this week, and will want to print the list for future title searches.

    • Anne says:

      I always use the “print selection” feature on my computer. If that doesn’t work, I’ll see what we can do. We’re a little overwhelmed putting out 5 episodes in a week but we’ll try!

      • Jenny says:

        No worries! I hesitated to ask, but this is such a great resource and I know I’ll be kicking myself not remembering the titles. I spend so much time searching for good books for my kids and students to read. I will work with the print selection and see what happens. Thanks again.

        • Jenny says:

          FYI, I selected the section of the list I wanted to print and then right clicked and selected “Print”. It printed the list formatted as it is on the page! Yay!

  3. Beth B. says:

    Avery’s Mom here – Thanks for great recommendations! She fell in love with the Book With No Pictures when we checked it out from the library, and she’s getting her own copy for her birthday next week. Spot on recommendations once again! 🙂

    • Ashley says:

      I just have a few other ideas if she likes Elephant and Piggie (my daughter loves them, too!). The Dog & Bear series, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is quite similar in terms of humor, friendship and style. Also, try the new Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series—we just read The Cookie Fiasco (so cute!) and We Are Growing from that series (and E&P make a special feature in each one).

  4. Christine says:

    Thanks for the mention of Brightly. I’d heard of the other two resources for books/book lists, but I’d never heard of this one. It’s wonderful! I could spend all day browsing this kind of site. Not sure if you know about this other one… What Do We Do All It also has book lists for various ages and categories and is a great resource too. Looking forward to checking out some of the books you and Sarah talked about on this episode which was so fun to listen too… thanks!

  5. Anne and Sarah, I so enjoyed this delightful podcast–thank you! I’ve been in love with children’s books as long as I can remember, and that love only increased when I ran elementary school libraries and read a ton to my three sons and now to my five young grandchildren. In my book there’s nothing better than the sweet bonding that occurs when reading aloud together.

    I can think of some titles to add to this impressive list, which I hope to do later, but for now I think you meant Janette Oke, (instead of Jeanette Oake), under other authors mentioned. Her books are the basis of the When Calls the Heart series on Hallmark. (I don’t have TV and haven’t seen any episodes, but I know the series has quite a following.) Another author Sarah mentioned at the beginning was Robin Jones Gunn, who has written 90+ books for all age groups. I’ve been fortunate to know Robin since the 1990s, and just last night the movie Finding Father Christmas debuted on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel, based on Robin’s books, Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas. A third one just came out: Kissing Father Christmas. The lead character in the movie is Erin Krakow who stars in the When Calls the Heart. Just thought your readers might enjoy knowing these tidbits, since Robin was one of the first authors Sarah read in her younger years.

    Thanks again, Anne, for these great podcasts!

  6. Meredith Hankins says:

    Bless you Anne! We were hitting the bottom of the barrel for my 11 year old voracious reader. She and her Language Arts teacher had a meeting of the minds regarding “What to Read Next” and were coming up short. This should fortify us for a few months! Trying to put off moving to YA as long as possible!! More of this for middle grade readers please!

  7. Rebekah says:

    I love children’s books. The Wingfeather Saga is a great series for kids and adults but may be intense for younger readers.

  8. Rachael says:

    I loved hearing y’all channel your inner Kathleen Kelly! Thank you for the wonderful recommendations…the Christmas list for my nieces and nephews is growing!

  9. Mia White says:

    I love this SO much, and wholeheartedly agree with everything shared. I especially liked both yours & Sarah’s covert tactics for encouraging/introducing books– just leaving them where they’ll be stumbled upon. I confess I hadn’t gotten that far, but might try your approach in lieu of my more aggressive manner next time. 😉 I wrote something similar to your post that went out, will attach the link.

  10. Kyla says:

    I loved this episode! My kids are still quite small, but I’m looking forward to introducing them to all of these great reads when the time is right. I’m also quite happy to think about reading aloud with them even after they’re old enough to read on their own. Sounds like a great way to bond as a family. Keep up the good work on the website, podcast, and book club!

  11. Veronica says:

    Really enjoyed this episode! Another good series for kids who like Percy Jackson is the Nicholas Flamel series, by Michael Scott. It’s very good, and fun.

  12. Mary Hunt says:

    I look forward to the podcast every week and now this week is like Christmas morning!
    I would suggest for any age the book Journeys by Aaron Becker. There are no words, just beautiful pictures and a fantastical story. These types of books not only help a child visualize the story, but there is some inference work going on.
    I used this book with some of my after school kids and they saw things that added to the story, that I did not see.

    As a Mom and Grandma, I have always read to my kids and still do. Just as my Mom read to me. May I suggest something a bit off the topic? Over the past year my mom has been in a memory care unit in a senior living community. She has been a life long reader and at 96 her eyesight is failing. So, I have begun to read to her when i visit. I bring books from the children’s section of our library. Books that are big and colorful. I have taken one of my reader grandchildren to read to her too. This is a beautiful way to share a moment with someone so special.

    • Mary, thanks so much for sharing that about your mom–so precious. I’m grateful you have the opportunity to make more memories with her and your grandchild in such a wonderful way. My mom passed away in June, and I so miss her. I know she’s enjoying heaven with my dad, but this will be my first Christmas without her. I’m so thankful my parents instilled in me the love of reading.
      Btw, are you the Mary Hunt who writes the books on financial issues? If so, I met you years ago at the writers’ conference at Mount Hermon. 🙂

  13. Kristen says:

    THE BEST read-aloud chapter book is Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls (author of Where the Red Fern Grows). A story about a Depression era boy in the Ozarks trying to earn a reward by catching escaped circus monkeys. Lots to discuss as a family in this one: grit, ingenuity, family relationships, disability, and doing the right thing. An ending that will MELT YOUR HEART (with NO dying dogs!). A perfect book.

    • Yes, Kristen, Summer of the Monkeys is one of my favorite books ever! Thanks so much for reminding me of that gem. I didn’t discover it until I ran school libraries, and I recall laughing out loud several times while reading it. Oh, for enough time to reread treasured books while so many new ones are tugging at me–I wish I could give up sleep for reading! 🙂

  14. Jacelyn says:

    I enjoyed this episode. However, you know you’re going to just have to have Sarah back on for a standard WSIRN podcast, right? 😉 I’d love to hear Anne’s suggestions for Sarah as a reader herself, not just the kids’ lit.

  15. Shar says:

    This is for Jace, who liked Harry Potter and The Warriors series. My son loved the Gregor the Underland Chronicles and read them in grades 4-6 (Gregor the Overlander is book 1 of 5). It is written by Suzanne Collins, who wrote the Hunger Games series, but this series is NOTHING like like her other series and more suited to younger readers. It is a great story about a boy, who lives in NYC and the laundry room for their building is down in the basement. His sister goes through this grate on the wall and he follows after her to bring her back. Crawling through the tunnel, he suddenly finds himself in Underland. Underland is this fantastical underground kindgom where creepy crawly things like bats and cockroaches are 6 ft tall and speak. I don’t want to say more so that I don’t spoil the plot for you, but I will say that my son is the pickiest reader I have ever met and he loved this series. I hope you enjoy it.

  16. Erin in CA says:

    Just popping in to say thanks for the Caddie Woodlawn shout-out! I LOVED that book as a kid, and both my 13-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl loved it as well. I so admire Caddie’s spirit and spunk, and that book has stood the test of time for me (although fair warning to parents — the treatment of Native Americans is probably historically accurate but may need a little follow-up discussion).

  17. Amanda S. says:

    I have five kids, ages 2-11, who are all readers. THANK YOU for this list! After listening to this podcast, we now have a HUGE list of holds at the library, along with many more titles downloaded to kindles. My kids (all homeschooled) were begging for a “reading lunch” today so they could delve into their new finds. I have been listening to and LOVING your podcast for months now and this week’s series is just the cherry on top for me. Thank you!!

  18. Susan says:

    I would also recommend the John Flanagan Ranger’s Apprentice series for the kids that liked adventure books. It is well suited for late elementary/middle school I think. The main character is a boy who is not physically large but learns to use his other physical attributes to his advantage. There are also some good female characters who work along with him and aren’t your typical damsels in distress.

  19. Courtney Caccia says:

    What a fantastic episode! I have two very voracious readers, and I feel like I can never keep up with their literary appetites! They’re 12 and 9, and like several of the children who called, they’re huge fans of fantasy/magic and love Harry Potter and anything Rick Riordan. You’ve added some promising series to the list which I’ll definitely use for Christmas gifts. In return, I wanted to recommend the four Carl Hiaasen middle reader books (Flush, Scat, Chomp, and Hoot). My girls love these books; in fact, they first read them in book form, and then asked me to get them as audiobooks so that we could listen to them in the car during long rides. They’re clever, funny, and definitely enjoyable for adults, too. Thanks so much for all you do, Anne.

  20. Sarah says:

    I just got around to listening to this post today, and it may be my favorite podcast to date! I loved it!! Loved the mix of adult and kids suggestions, and truly enjoyed hearing the kids who had submitted their questions. I know you posted kids book suggestions on your Quick Lit this month (thank you!) and know you’re genre isn’t kids lit, but would love a recap of your kids favorite reads every once in a while. I have a 5 year old boy, and would always appreciate hearing more of what your 6 year old is into. Thanks for this wonderful podcast!!

  21. Victoria says:

    Thank you for a FANTASTIC week of podcasts – so fun to have a binge listen 🙂
    My boys aged 10 and 12 also love Harry Potter, Percy Jackson etc. and some others that they have also enjoyed include Alex Rider, and the Young Bond series by Charlie Higson.

  22. Gloria says:

    I always find myself anticipating a mention for the Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich whenever there is discussion of Little House on the Prairie. This series is wonderful and so important, I highly recommend it. My 6 and 8 year olds have loved all 5 books so far (with more to come). The first 2 are available as audiobooks which helps to learn the pronunciations of some of the names and common words. Please Sarah and Anne, check this one out, its time it gets the attention it deserves!

    My husband is currently reading the Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome series with them and it is another instant favourite, especially if you want to inspire a love of sailing or just the outdoors.

  23. Jo says:

    We loved this episode! (I normally listen to them by myself, but the kids are off school and I made them all listen. 🙂 They were thrilled.) Just beefed up my wishlist at the library website. My daughter is nine years old and says, “I’ve read the Vengekeep Prophecy series, and the Peter Nimble/Sophie Quire books. I’m wondering if there are any similar books that include thieves, magic potions and things like that.” Anyone have any suggestions? My almost 11 year old daughter has read the Princess Academy series, and the Hobbit. She’s looking for suggestions also.

  24. Mary says:

    Oh my goodness! Part of this podcast really resonated with me. When Sarah talks about quizzing adults at a book club on their book – and then talking about comprehension quizzes for children, I was nearly shouting, “YES!”. I remember the push for Accelerated Reader quizzing in public schools was turning my oldest off to reading at a very young age… it was part of the reason we decided to homeschool, actually.

    I always enjoy your podcasts, Anne, but this one is probably my favorite. Thank you for having Sarah on the podcast!

  25. Pam says:

    After listening to this podcast, I gave my almost 3 year old grand-nephew the book entitled “Nobody Likes a Goblin” as a Christmas gift. My niece and her family live in a different city, and went home shortly after Christmas. Recently, at a family gathering, my sister – the boy’s grandmother – wanted to know who had gifted him this book. Apparently, it is now his bedtime favourite! When asked what he would like for his upcoming birthday, he replied “more goblin books!”. His parents have bought him more books by Ben Hatke, while I’ve purchased “The Story Book Knight” by Docherty. This book will be inscribed to him from me, so that the grand-aunt gets the coolness credits! Love your podcast, helping us raise future readers.

  26. Leanne says:

    My children are in their twenties now but this episode brought back wonderful memories of when they were little and we would go to the library together to choose books. It also made me eager for grandchildren and the opportunity to fill shelves with fun books all over again!

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