The endless search for that next great read

By Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research

If you are like me, after you finish reading one book, you simply cannot get to the next one fast enough. As a mother of young children, I read for a sliver of time each night between when my children fall asleep, and when I do. This is just enough time so that I can get through a few pages before I surrender to sleep. I look forward to these peaceful moments when I can dive back into the latest book I’m reading and rejoin the characters where I left them the night before.

Reading on a device, I feel the slightest sense of unease, however, as I see my reading app’s status bar inching its way toward the book’s inevitable conclusion. It’s so comforting when I catch that little bugger only a quarter or so on its way. As much as I am enjoying every minute of the book I’m reading and wondering how the author will bring the story to close, I’m very often also torn as a part of me wants the reading to go on forever.

The good news is, of course, that it can! There is literally no end to the books, literature, stories, and information available to each of us. That’s a great feeling. That’s actually amazing and awe inspiring. No one person can or will ever read everything that’s out there, and that means so many options abound for that next great read.

As that pesky bar continues its march forward toward the last pages of the book I’m currently devouring, I often begin thinking about what I’m going to read next. In addition to wracking my brain for titles I’ve stashed on my to-do list, quizzing family and friends, and searching the internet for book recommendations, a resource I’ve used over the past decade to find my next great read has been our What Kids Are Reading report. This handy report has served as a trusty resource for reading materials not only for my kiddos, but also for me. It’s jam-packed with lists of books kids in kindergarten through twelfth grade have read—this year 9.9 million kids, in fact, who read 346 million books and nonfiction articles—as well as informative analyses on student reading practice, nonfiction reading, and text complexity.

For me, these lists serve as bona-fide book reviews. We know these kids have actually read these titles, from start to finish, because our reading data come from Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360®. The kids didn’t just check out, buy, or receive these books as gifts, only to cast them aside. They liked them enough to see them through to the end, and we know this because they had to pass carefully constructed Accelerated Reader 360 comprehension quizzes in order for these titles to have a shot of making our most read lists.

Speaking of what kids are reading, what the data tell us this year about how kids read and grow is fascinating. Did you realize the gulf that exists between what kids read in high school versus what they are expected to read only a short time after graduation when joining the workforce or pursuing further education? In the graphic below, note how reading levels hover between 5 and 8 for books and articles, respectively, in twelfth grade, versus reading levels of 10 to 14 for college and career texts.


How do we bridge this gap? The answer is complex and multifaceted, but it certainly all begins with reading. Exposure to vocabulary, content-area and otherwise, is critical. Ensuring students dedicate significant time to reading each day is non-negotiable. The more students read, the more vocabulary they are exposed to—our data also found that students’ encounters with vocabulary could be increased dramatically, by more than 10 million words over the course of their schooling, by increasing reading time by just minutes each day (see graphic below).


Are you currently looking for a great book that just might hook one of your reluctant readers? Perhaps you are searching for another engaging title for your third grader, or a book series to get an eighth-grade boy reading more frequently, or maybe it’s holiday gifts you are after. The What Kids Are Reading report is a great place to start.

When “The End” is in sight, I always feel so much better knowing I’ve got a book ready and waiting so that the end isn’t an end after all, but rather a new beginning. Visit to access the full report, other data nuggets, or use the web app to customize your own popular book lists by grade, gender, fiction/nonfiction, and more.

Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research
Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research
Heather Nagrocki works as senior writer and editor for the Research team where she oversees all external publications for the department. She collaborates with educators on case studies highlighting school and district success with Renaissance solutions as well as shepherds the development of key annual reports including What Kids Are Reading.


  1. Francine Canarios says:

    This is great information. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Dvawn Maza says:

    This seems like a great tool to use, especially knowing that students have read the whole book..and it kept their interest! Other students can be informed that ‘this book is popular among students your age!’.

  3. I visiting a 6th-grade classroom yesterday; those kids were DEVOURING Percy Jackson.

    • Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research says:

      That is great to hear, Krystle! Which Percy Jackson books are most popular?

  4. Donna Nichols says:

    I love reading these reports to see what I need to keep in my media center for my students

  5. Sarah Swanzy says:

    My students love the series:
    Who Would Win…
    My Weirder School
    Who Was…
    Horrible Harry

  6. Robyn says:

    How do i find out if my school is using this?

  7. Lee says:

    Thank you for sharing these reports.

  8. Rita Platt says:

    Here is another resource for kids who need hi/lo materials in 4th through 12th grade.

    Also, a list that is made from titles that seem to especially appeal to African American boys.

  9. Veronica Rodriguez says:

    This is a great tool to use to keep students reading. Great information!

  10. David Keech says:

    Thanks for the report. Very well done and ripe with timely data and information. I will be sharing this with ELA teachers in multiple districts.

  11. Nancy Jackson says:

    I can’t keep Big Nate, I Survived, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bone, Heidi Hecklebeck, Riordan, Harry Potter, or Dork Diaries on the shelf.

  12. Kelsie says:

    Great information!

  13. Deb Allen says:

    Kids love looking at what books others at their grade level, etc., are reading

  14. Laura says:

    Very informative!

  15. Ms. Moetell says:

    So glad to read this! I need to use it with some of my students that hate to read aloud,

  16. Celia Taylor says:

    I’m going to share this report with the teachers at my school so they can see what other students are reading.

  17. Micah Chatterton says:

    I recognize a lot of the titles on the list as ones that move quickly in my library: Raina Telgemeyer books, Fly Guys, Biscuits. What I don’t see, what my students love more than anything, are Mo Willems books: the Elephant and Piggie series, the Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny series. Those books are the backbone of my emergent reader section and they get trashed quickly.

  18. Sheila says:

    Glad to see, “Number the Stars,” “The Watsons go to Birmingham,” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” still on a list of what 6th grade students are reading now!

  19. Jennifer says:

    I hope to share some of this with our parents at our AR parent meeting. Thanks!

  20. Dalina says:

    I have noticed that this year, more than most, students are looking for series. I love to follow a character through the books. Msybe i rubbed off a little.

  21. Deborah Wechsler says:

    My students love Fly Guy and Pete the Cat.

  22. P R says:

    In the era of data driven instruction, this data tool will be beneficial!

  23. Renee Graham says:

    Such good info! Thank you.

  24. Chimere McRae says:

    Thanks for sharing the reports!

  25. Katie Williams says:

    My 3rd graders read a lot of the same stories, primarily because they are a part of our reading series.

    They also love the Wimpy Kid books!

  26. Jennifer Bunn says:

    This is consistent with what my K-2 readers are reading! They definitely enjoy the same books. The report will help me add a couple more books to my classroom library!

    • Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research says:

      I’m glad you found it useful, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Jacob Brinkman says:

    Found the article a good read. I agreed with a lot of it.

  28. Stacey Painter says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful information.

  29. Fatima Peters says:

    Love this!!! Thanks so much!

  30. Denisse Ochoa says:

    Thank you for sharing such wonderful information!

  31. Melissa Robles says:

    Thank you for sharing this information.

  32. Kirsten Wolinski says:

    As a reading teacher trying to get every kid to read this list is a great tool. While I keep track of what my students are reading, it will be interesting to see what students across the country are enjoying and hopefully pass it on to my reluctant readers.

  33. Anne T. says:

    The I Survived series is very popular with our kids.

  34. Virginia Wiedenfeld says:

    One of the resources I like is Accelerated Readers summary of the top books read at each grade level! Thank you Renaissance for making this data available to us every year!

  35. Virginia Wiedenfeld says:

    Thank you for the information in this article