Engaging reluctant readers Reading for pleasure

Why do your books appeal to reluctant readers?

I’ve received many marvellous messages from parents, guardians and teachers thanking me for igniting a love of reading in their reluctant readers. Such correspondence delights me, because it was my own son’s MAHOOSIVE reluctance to read that inspired the format and content of The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. series.

So, in brief, here are five reasons I think my books appeal to children usually disinclined to choose to read for pleasure:

  1. Early attention-grabbing content
  2. Short chapters easily finished in one sitting
  3. Dynamic content
  4. Laughter and jokes
  5. A relatable (and inspirational) protagonist

Allow me to expand…

  1. Early, attention-grabbing content

The first few pages of a book are important for all readers. For children disinclined to read for pleasure, grabbing and maintaining their interest in the initial pages is, perhaps, vital.

Will I read the rest of this book?

Where children who love to read might enjoy an atmospheric, descriptive build up, reluctant readers (my own son being a prime example of this) are inclined to abandon perfectly wonderful books if nothing has piqued their interest by page four.

Other people have commented on this aspect of my series:

“My 7-year-old is a hard sell… books have to grab him immediately. We could hear him laughing while he was in bed reading this. It’s a triumph. Thank you”


“I have an 8-year-old reluctant reader… hadn’t read anything willingly for well over a year… from page 1 I could see her interest piqued… Tonight when I finished reading to her, she took the book from me and read a couple of pages to herself whilst giggling at the content…It’s early days but you may just have got my lovely girl’s reading mojo back on track.”


2. Short chapters easily finished in one sitting

The feeling of accomplishment should not be under-estimated. I’ve never come across a child who wasn’t thrilled to have found a book they actually enjoyed reading. And a proudly announced, ‘I’ve finished A WHOLE CHAPTER!’ is a moment to be celebrated.

My daughter usually has to be bribed to read. The short chapters kept her going. She read this whole book without complaint and immediately asked me to order the sequel. Thank you.”


“Hasen has finished your book and absolutely LOVED it! Thank you so much for writing a book which has ignited a love for reading in some of my reluctant readers.”

KS2 Teacher

3. Dynamic content

For many so-called reluctant readers I have taught over the years, a full page of text was a real turn-off. Even if the story was gripping, even if I read the opening chapter to pique interest in a book I knew they could read and I thought they’d enjoy, some children (especially those who were also struggling readers) just felt too overwhelmed by dense paragraphs of words page after page, so gave up.

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. series is purposefully packed with doodles, interactive pages and activity ideas – often viewed by reluctant readers as a nice little reading break despite the reading skills these parts of the story involve (Shhh)!

Lots of reading here!

“The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. is immense fun and is the first book I have read in a single sitting in a long time!”

Louie Stowell, author of many great books for children including The Dragon in the Library and Loki


Through funny speech bubbles, daft doodles, blatant jokes and the odd amusing hyperbole, The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. series is intended to make children laugh. In my experience, the LOL-factor can be a magnet for many reluctant readers as books are often competing with games consoles/phones. Certainly, my son always had a better entertainment option unless it was bedtime. As a parent to three would-be screen-addicts, these recent tweet made me VERY happy:

“Awab is really enjoying his new book and was very proud of himself this morning. ‘Miss, I am already on page 111 and I didn’t even go on my PlayStation last night!’”

“Daughter got a copy for her birthday and hasn’t put it down since! Even choosing book over Nintendo she is loving it so much 😊

“Jen Carney writes family life with warmth, nuance and a phenomenal eye for detail. Plus, she knows how to make kids laugh . . . and I mean totally unreserved roll-on-the-floor belly laugh. Billie Upton Green is a firm favourite in our house.

Emma Mylrea, author of Curse of the Dearmad

5. A relatable (and inspirational) protagonist


Many reluctant readers, in my experience, enjoy reading about someone who’s a bit like them.

Billie Upton Green is a regular, present-day ten-year-old – no angel, but likeable. She lives with her family, she goes to school, she watches TV, she plays with her friends, she has disagreements, she visits relatives, she bemoans rules and obligations, she marvels at the extraordinary, and she’d much rather be doodling than writing. She’s not afraid to laugh at herself and the things she struggles with (namely spellings) and she’s very matter of fact about life. Writing about the everyday with no filter, and in a witty but easy to understand manner, she’s a character that proves to reluctant or struggling readers that everyone is smart in their own way.

“The character of Billie is wonderfully relatable, as well as likeable and funny. And Carney has done well to incorporate topical subjects, like diversity, same sex parent adoption and so on. This is life as youngsters know it today, and it’s great to see such issues treated with both humour and respect.”

Amazon reviewer

Class workshop feedback:

“I liked how she made spelling mistakes and drew things she couldn’t spell.”


“I’m going to invent my own biscuit laws later.”

The Cream-Filled Commandment

I dearly hope that one of my books might begin a reluctant readers’ ‘reading for pleasure’ journey because it was these kinds of books that turned my book-loathing son into someone who chose to read for pleasure. (Said son is now sixteen and reads a wide range of books, his current favourite genre being dystopian fantasy. So, to anyone currently struggling with a reluctant reader, my advice would be to pile them with books until they find their pleasure, then wait – they’ll branch out in their own time.)

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. and Basically Famous are available to buy now. They’re recommended for readers aged 7+ (note that plus – it’s very important, my son was eleven when he was reading books like this). If they hook your reader, the third in the series, Sister Act will be published on 3rd February 2022.

PS In addition to all of the reluctant reader hooks mentioned above, all the books in The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. series carry important underlying messages surrounding being proud of who you are, accepting differences and navigating friendships.