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“Captain Underpants” Movie May Encourage Reluctant Readers

By Michael Bahler, JD on

Captain Underpants, the popular book series, has been made into a movie. The film keeps to the book’s original story line, which follows two fourth graders who don’t like school but love pulling pranks.

The movie hits theaters June 2. Ed Helms is the voice of Captain Underpants. Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele and Kristen Schaal also star.

The creator of Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey, can relate to the mischievous kids in his books. He didn’t like going to class either. But he had a serious reason why. Pilkey has and .

As a child, Pilkey used his creativity to help him cope with his learning and thinking differences. He liked to invent and draw superheroes and make up fun stories about them. And when his teachers got angry with him, he wrote comics where kids had all the power.

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Captain Underpants is known for its potty humor. The books can be naughty and edgy—and that may be why so many grade-schoolers love them. Kids can’t help but smile as they read about characters like Professor Poopypants, Turbo Toilet 2000 and the snitch Melvin Sneedly.

They make reluctant readers laugh, too. For kids with learning and thinking differences who may be frustrated about school, the books can be a welcome and relatable escape. Kids are drawn into the imaginary world where kids can do what they want and trick grown-ups.

Not all parents and teachers are fans of the series, however. Captain Underpants can be vulgar and full of misspellings. And Pilkey’s books have been criticized for not meeting good literature standards.

But if the story interests kids who typically avoid books, that’s enough for some parents to let their kids read as much Captain Underpants as they want. You can always address the book’s teachable moments once your child is finished enjoying it.

In addition to relating to the books, kids with learning and thinking differences can relate to Pilkey. At a crowded school event that Pilkey attended, he yelled out to a group of young fans, “Does anyone here have ADHD?” The audience responded with loud cheers.

Captain Underpants may be naughty, but it makes a lot of struggling readers excited about books. And that fact alone could be reason enough to see the movie.


Discover more books for reluctant readers in grade school, middle school and high school. Explore books featuring characters with ADHD and dyslexia. And watch as an expert explains how to choose books for struggling readers.

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom