School & Learning

Great Books to Read on the Beach, in a Treehouse, or Under the Covers

Readers from elementary school to high school will recognize themselves (and their ADHD brains) in these books.

Credit: Malte Mueller/Getty Images
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Great Books to Read This Summer

When students with ADHD recognize themselves in fictional characters, something magical happens: they become energized by a fresh sense of resolve.

Elementary school readers may learn about creative problem-solving from Remi the squirrel. Middle school students may feel less alone thanks to Ally and her leap of faith. High schoolers may ditch their devices for the action and suspense in Skyhunter and Steelstriker, two sci-fi novels that touch on themes of disability and prejudice.

Engage your children with these and the other fictional characters featured in these books, grouped by grade level below. All are recommended by caregivers and professionals in the ADHD community.

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‘Remi in Overdrive’ by Ashley Bartley

Illustrated by Brian Martin

Remi the squirrel stirs up a terrible mess, blurts out his thoughts, and breaks things a bit too often. When Remi asks for help, his parents and a kind school counselor suggest creative accommodations to address some common challenges: organization, sleep, memory, and impulsivity.  —Merriam Sarcia Saunders

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‘My Wandering Dreaming Mind’ by Merriam Sarcia Saunders

Illustrated by Tammie Lyon

Sadie’s wandering mind drifts to undersea worlds and animal adventures, causing her to miss instructions, forget homework, and lose things. With her parents’ help, Sadie comes to understand the flip side of her inattentive ADHD: curiosity, kindness, and creativity. As a bonus, this book (written by me!) includes self-esteem boosters for girls with ADHD.  —MSS

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‘Thank You, Mr. Falker’ by Patricia Polacco

Her fifth-grade classmates call Trisha dumb because she struggles to read. Trisha believes them until her new teacher, Mr. Falker, identifies her dyslexia. Through his encouragement and support, Trisha builds confidence — and reading skills. The author based this story on her own experiences as a young girl.  —Melanie Wachsman

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‘Aaron Slater, Illustrator’ by Andrea Beaty

Illustrated by David Roberts

Aaron Slater, Illustrator is the latest installment in The Questioneers (#CommissionsEarned) series (including Sofia Valdez, Future Prez and Ada Twist, Scientist). Aaron loves listening to stories but struggles with reading and writing them. Will this learning difference squash his dreams of becoming a storyteller? Printed with a dyslexia-friendly font, Aaron Slater is an empowering story that reminds kids: Learning differences don’t define you!  —MW

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'The Unteachables’ by Gordon Korman

Students placed in SCS-8 (self-contained special eighth grade) exhibit behavior problems and weak academics. Their apathetic teacher, Mr. Kermit, ultimately sees that his SCS-8 students are more than their misinformed labels. The reader gets a glimpse of life with ADHD, dyslexia, and emotional dysregulation in this laugh-out-loud novel with middle-school hijinks and heart.  —MW

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‘Guts’ by Raina Telgemeier

This is the autobiographical story of best-selling graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama , Sisters, and Ghosts (#CommissionsEarned)) as a middle schooler. Initially, Raina contends with typical adolescent drama. As the story unfolds, it reveals her almost-crippling anxiety and emetophobia (the extreme fear of vomiting). Through humor and compassion, Guts paints a realistic portrait of how childhood anxiety manifests (stomach aches, confusion, miscommunication) and shows the importance of therapy.  —MW

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‘Trouble with a Tiny T’ by Merriam Sarcia Saunders

Between his ADHD brain, friend problems, and divorced parents, fifth-grader Westin thinks he knows trouble with a capital T. But things get worse when he finds a magical pouch and conjures a mini T. rex in his bedroom! Readers will enjoy the humorous and heartwarming as Westin tries to hide his tiny secret while navigating school, friendships, and family as a tween with ADHD. — MSS

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‘Sidetracked’ by Diana Harmon Asher

Seventh-grader Joseph Friedman is the funny, bumbling, likeable protagonist who joins his school’s new cross-country team at a teacher’s urging — even though he’s terrible at running — and then trips through the season while navigating school (avoiding bullies), family (grandpa moves in), and friendship (however unlikely, with a new girl).  —Kay Marner

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‘I Survived …’ by Lauren Tarshis

Graphic novels are popular among kids who struggle to read. Each of the four books in the graphic adaptations of the I Survived series tells the story of a real historical disaster, such as the sinking of the Titanic or the shark attacks of 1916, through a kid’s eyes.  —KM

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‘Kid Innovators: True Tales of Childhood from Inventors and Trailblazers’

By Robin Stevenson
Illustrated by Allison Steinfeld

Kid Innovators is the seventh installment in the Kid Legends (#CommissionsEarned) series of non-fiction books. It tells the stories of successful inventors and change-makers in science, technology, art, entertainment, education, and business, with a focus on how their childhood experiences helped shape their future success. Florence Nightingale, the Wright Brothers, Maria Montessori, and Elon Musk are among those featured.  —KM

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‘Fish in a Tree’ by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally Nickerson would rather misbehave and land in the principal’s office than expose her inability to read. That is, until a substitute teacher helps Ally believe in herself and her determination. Her budding confidence inspires her classmates, who have their own quirks and struggles, to stand up to bullies. Fish in a Tree will resonate with middle schoolers who feel alone by making them laugh — and, possibly, shed a few tears.  —MW

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‘The Edge of Anything’ by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Len knows her photography could lead to a college scholarship, but feels increasingly ruled by her obsessive-compulsive tendencies and anxiety. Sage is a high school volleyball star searching for meaning in her life after a medical diagnosis threatens her future as an athlete. Poignant and memorable, The Edge of Anything charts the girls’ unlikely friendship as they face their fears and see their true value.  —MW

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‘The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily’ by Laura Creedle

Lily Michaels-Ryan is trying to keep her grades up and trouble at bay. But when she can’t resist the lure of her impulsivity, she ends up in detention with her classmate Abelard. After Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (#CommissionsEarned) online, Lily becomes convinced that he is the boy for her. Will Lily’s ADHD and Abelard’s autism undermine their love? This tender romance captures the highs and lows of teen love and neurodiversity.  —MW

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‘Ready Player Two’ by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One (#CommissionsEarned), made into a movie in 2018, introduced us to teenager Wade Watts, who survives the grimness of life in 2044 by immersing himself in an alternate online reality. In the sequel, Watts must decide the fate of the OASIS — and all of humanity. Both books will appeal to teens who enjoy escaping into video games or absorbing pop-culture trivia.  —KM

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‘Kat and Meg Conquer the World’ by Anna Priemaza

The friendship between Kat and Meg develops after they are forced to collaborate on a science project. Kat has anxiety, which makes it difficult for her to make friends. Meg has ADHD, which makes it difficult for her to keep friends. Together, they learn to navigate the challenges of their conditions, high school, crushes, relationships, and more.  —MW

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Books to Read: Next Steps

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