Recommended Reading for Children and Teens with ADD/ADHD
"What kind of books should kids who have ADD or ADHD read?" I've been asked this a lot. As a parent of a teen aged boy who has ADHD, I have practical experience. There is no magic formula that will cause your ADHD child to want to delve into Moby Dick or The Canterbury Tales. Just because a child has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, doesn't mean they are any less or more intelligent than anybody else. They just see things a little differently.
To the person who asked the question I will respond, "Whatever they like to read." I do believe, though, that fast moving books that don't have a lot of slow, boring sections seem to be easier read by kids with ADHD. Of course, isn't that the case for most of us? Some books are more engaging than others and, with that in mind, I have compiled a list of books that my ADHD child has enjoyed over the years.
Best books for teens and preteens
Finding books for teens is tough, especially if your teen is a boy. Many books are about female characters trying to be popular or gain the attention of a certain boy. While good for many, some young men just don't find them relatable. This list of books is one that my kids--a teen aged son and a daughter--have enjoyed over the years. I always read what my children read because I want to ensure the books are appropriate and I want to be available to discuss any parts that the kids may find confusing or distressing.
A boy with ADHD and dyslexia finds that he's the son of a god and his "disabilities" are really part of his abilities.
The Percy Jackson Series
This is a fantastic series of books. A movie was made based upon the first book, Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. There is much more to this series than the movie was able to convey and I highly recommend it to kids, particularly kids with ADHD. Author Rick Riordan actually wrote the books for his oldest son who has ADHD. Percy Jackson, the protagonist, has ADHD and is dyslexic. After being thrown out of several schools, he finally arrives at Yancy Academy for Problem Children. While there, he discovers that his disabilities are really part of his abilities. I love these books. Percy, a 12 year old boy, has struggled to fit in the "normal" world and finds a place where special is the norm. He is faced with the choice to follow the path of good or evil and he learns to believe in himself. These books, written by author Rick Riordan, are very fast paced and my son, who happens to have ADHD, devoured every last word that Riordan crafted. He began reading them in the 6th grade. My daughter, who is 2 years younger, also began reading them at around the same time. It's a great series of books for either gender and for ages 10 and up.
From best selling author, James Patterson, this young adult series is a page turner even for us not-so-young adults.
The Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson
I read this series right along with my kids because it was really good. The story is about a group of children who escape from a laboratory after having their genetic makeup altered. They are now 98% human and 2% avian. These kids, who refer to themselves as a flock, spend most of their time fleeing the scientists and their other genetically altered creations. Regardless of their bird DNA, they still suffer the same pains that any child has to endure while growing up. This is another wonderful story for kids in which young people overcome overwhelming obstacles to achieve something great. With a plethora of action sequences, even a person who struggles to focus will find these books entertaining. This book series should not be confused with Patterson's earlier work, "The Lake House", which is also about a group of flying kids led by a character named Max. "The Lake House" is intended for adults while the Maximum Ride series is written for the younger set. You'll want to hurry to read this series. A movie based on the book is scheduled for release in 2013.
For 7th grade and older. This book keeps your teen on the edge of their seat. These books are long but both of my kids loved them and read every book in the series.
This book was a bit frightening for me. Imagine, suddenly and without warning, every human being over the age of 15 disappears. Younger teens, middle schoolers, and even toddlers are left to fend for themselves. Bullying in middle school is nothing compared to what ensues in the aftermath. Groups are formed and battle lines are drawn. Even more alarming is that the animals and children begin to mutate and develop powers forcing good to battle evil throughout this page-turning story. Gone is the first of a six-book series, and, a story that neither of my kids wanted to put down. Thrown into a seemingly impossible situation, the protagonists find out exactly what they are made of. Gone is a modern day Lord of the Flies and I highly recommend this quality series for middle school and up.
This is a great series, especially for teen girls, about accepting yourself and fighting for what's right.
The Uglies Series
This is a great read, especially for pre-teen and teen girls. The Uglies series, written by Scott Westerfield, is a futuristic story, set in the 24th century. Tally Youngblood is the female protagonist and she lives in a world where all kids must undergo plastic surgery at the age of sixteen in order to become "pretty". After the surgery, nicknamed the Surge, newly beautiful and perfectly symmetrical young adults go off to a place called New Pretty Town where they party and dance and appear to be in a hypnotized state that strips them of their individuality. Tally is more intelligent than the average teen but is still looking forward to the Surge and her sixteenth birthday. Her best friend, Shay runs away and Tally is forced to seek her out as a spy or she will be denied the surgery. On her journey, Tally learns the pretty world is pretty ugly and she is faced with some tough decisions. This is great for kids who can learn to embrace their individuality and differences. Being exactly like everyone else isn't necessarily a good thing and even pretty people can be ugly inside.
A boy is charged with saving the world by fighting off aliens. This action packed book series is good for boys or girls. Mine started reading this in 5th grade but it's great for older teens, too.
The Dangerous Days of Daniel X
These books are great for grades 6 and up while still captivating teen readers. Personally, I enjoy these books, too. Daniel X is a fifteen year old alien hunter. When he was three, he watched as his parents were killed by and alien called "The Prayer". He was bequeathed a list of alien criminals and has spent his days hunting them down, one bad guy at a time. How can a fifteen year old fight aliens? He has powers. Of course he has powers. Daniel has super speed and can manipulate objects and animals with his mind as well as having the ability to alter his own appearance. Each book in the series involves him hunting down another bad guy from his list. Action packed and intense, author James Patterson keeps his readers turning page after page. This is another book that you should really read because I have heard rumblings here and there that the rights to this book have been sold and a movie is in the works. It's always fun to have read the books before seeing the film. A little warning, there are a few swear words in this book. I felt confident allowing my kids to read it, though, because I felt they were responsible enough to not repeat them.
Suggested reading for kids
My son was an excellent reader, but, he couldn't sit down and focus on a book of any length when he was in elementary school. Struggling to earn "accelerated reader points" required by his teacher, he often would read several short books below his level in order to meet the minimum. As a mother, I had to sit back and evaluate who my child was as a person. ADHD didn't, and still doesn't, define who he is and what kind of things he likes. What it does do is create a greater importance for him to be exposed to things that do interest him. My son has a really funny sense of humor. He always laughed at the most random things, even as a small child and he always had a strong sense of right and wrong. Humor was the hook that I needed to get him reading as well as books that feature a main character, often a boy, who has to stand up for what is right. From there we built his repertoire to action and now, today, he enjoys reading non-fiction and history-based books. I've compiled a list of books that my son enjoyed in his grammar school years. If you are a parent of an ADHD child, it's important that you evaluate what brings joy to your child and point him in that direction.
For the child with a funny sense of humor. This was the first book series I could get my son to read.
The Day My Butt Went Psycho
No. You didn't misread the title. Andy Griffiths created a hilarious world in which a boy, named Zack, wakes up to find his butt has run away while he was sleeping. This book, which Amazon.com has rated G for "gross", continues on a humorous and action packed adventure in which Zack pursues his runaway butt and meets with an army of feral butts. Puns and word play abound in these books which really are just traditional good versus evil plots told with hilarity. Little details add to the charm, like crossing the "Windy Desert", and something called a "butt-cano". This book is definitely not for adults. Kids, however, who often think there is nothing funnier than bodily functions, love this kind of humor. To he honest, when I saw my child sit down and read these books without being prompted, I was thankful to Andy Griffiths and his books about butts. Think of this as a "gateway series" that can lead to other types of reading.
A domestic cat enters a world of wild warrior cats in the forest and overcomes his perceived weakness to become victorious.
Into the Wild: Warriors series
Both of my kids enjoyed these books up to about grade 5. Into the Wild introduces us to Rusty, a domestic cat who enters a world of warrior cats who are part of wild cat clans. The clans have shared the forest peacefully for many years with each other, dividing it up into distinct territories. The wild cats aren't too keen on Rusty because he is what they refer to as a "kittypet". A kittypet is a domestic cat who lives with humans. When the cats learn that the warrior code is at risk and the evil Shadow Clan is gaining power, conflict arises. The wild cats soon learn that there is much more to Rusty, the kittypet, than they originally thought. A clever story, this series is another example of a protagonist overcoming obstacles on the way to triumph. There are so many books in this series and subsequent related series that it will become a regular part of your month to head to the library or your local bookstore and find the next installment of the story. As a mother, I like that because it makes the shopping trip a bit easier.
It's like several books in one. Your child decides the path the book follows. A good way for kids to feel a sense of control while enjoying a good book.
Choose Your Own Adventure books
Here's the thing about a lot of ADHD kids: they are extremely inquisitive. Things our minds are able to gloss over, they become focused upon. I remember the first time it came to my attention that my son had trouble focusing in the classroom. His kindergarten teacher told me she couldn't get his attention and he just zoned out looking at the bulletin board. When I spoke with him and the school counselor he said, "She changed the bulletin boards and never said anything about it to us. I kept waiting but she never talked about it." The other kids in the class didn't notice that anything was different in the class. They could focus on wherever the teacher directed. My son found one little thing and couldn't stop focusing on it. Unfortunately, that little thing was never a teacher. This brings me to the Choose Your Own Adventure books. My son would always ask, "but why?" He wanted to know why a book had to be that way, why did the main character decide to go there, and why did it have to end like that? He couldn't move on from a question or thought he had. Handing him a book for which he had control over how the story went not only let him decide the what's and the why's but it also kept him actively engaged. He loved these books and I loved them for him because seeing my highly intelligent boy enjoy reading gave me great pleasure.
A portal to a magical world found in an everyday basement. What else could a kid want?
Secrets of Droon
When I asked my kids what some of their favorite books were when they were in elementary school they both brought up Secrets of Droon. Three best friends stumble into a magical world of magic and wizards when they enter an everyday basement. When they first discover the world, they are in awe. For the first time in their lives they see magical flying lizards and other furry creatures. The problem is, they aren't exactly sure how to get home. This is a great series for the young reader who enjoys fantasy like Harry Potter or The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. The books aren't overly long and they do a great job of keeping the young reader engaged. Two big thumbs up for the Secrets of Droon series.
Reading and your ADD/ADHD child
Finding books for your ADD/ADHD child isn't a huge challenge. It's just important to realize that they are not defined by their diagnosis. Each child, whether they are attentive or inattentive, has his or her own interests and passions. The trick is to find what that is and work to try to engage them in those things. If you find something that your child is interested in, like basketball, they may enjoy reading books about basketball. Through trial and error and by listening to recommendations from others, you can get your ADHD child to learn to love reading.
Recommended Books by Age
Pre-teens and Teens
Percy Jackson series
The Day My Butt Went Psycho
Choose Your own Adventure
Secrets of Droon
Dangerous Days of Daniel X
©Denise Mai, September 27, 2012. All rights reserved.