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Beyond Captain Underpants and Wimpy Kids: Why Read Books in Series

by Miriam Downey 31. October 2011 15:50

 

 

 Think back to your childhood reading. What were your favorite books? My guess is that for many of you, they were books that were part of a series. You most likely remember reading about Laura, Mary, and the other members of the Ingalls family in the Little House books as well as Nate the Great or the girls fromThe Babysitter's Club. Most of us also remember reading comic book series like Archie or Superman. Our parents were bemused and would shake their heads and say, "Well, at least they're reading!"

Research shows that the most important key to creating confident readers is for children to take pleasure in the experience of reading. As anyone who has taught a child knows, it takes practice to become a good reader. Children who read a lot by choice and enjoy it are far more likely to succeed at their schoolwork than those who dislike reading (1).

Catherine Sheldrick Ross notes: "Series books minimize the risks of reading, which is probably particularly important for novice readers who have not yet developed confidence in their ability to make book choices." She suggests that series books teach beginning readers about the process of reading itself--strategies for making sense out of extended text. She concludes that series book reading might be for some readers an essential stage in "their development as powerful literates" (2).

I watched my 12-year-old grandson plow through the Hunger Games series this summer just as another grandson was devouring the Percy Jackson series. He excitedly said to me, "Grandma, you have got to read these books. They will teach you all about mythology." I had to find an online list of Greek Gods in order to read through the first book, Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. I had forgotten all my mythology and had to find a cheat sheet.

My twin granddaughters, who are 10, have been busily reading the Anne of Green Gables series. Even my son-in-law got hooked on the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, and I couldn't wait to read the next Stephanie Plum book, Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich. (I've read them all.)

In my career as a librarian, I have noticed that the children who read books in series read the most. Those children actually devour books in the same way they devour hamburgers and fries. There is comfort in a set of characters with whom the child is familiar. For the youngest reader, there are fewer words to learn; they already know the words Amelia Bedelia or Frog and Toad. The middle reader wants to know what is going to happen next to characters they have grown to love. The older reader becomes hooked on the philosophy of the book--the consequences and the cause and effect.

A parent-educator might ask if there is literary value in books in series. Of course, like everything else, some series have more value as literature than others. Certainly the Little Women series have more literary value than the Choose Your Own Adventure series. I have posted on the Other Great Books library list some book series that I would recommend for educational or literary value (through grade 8). I have also included some websites of book lists that you might find valuable as you are helping your child choose books.

Email me if you would like some additional book sources, or if you would like titles of non-fiction books that might tie-in with the fiction series that your child is reading. For example, books on the frontier to go with the Little House books or fact books about frogs and toads to go with the Arnold Lobel books. My email is Miriam.Downey@freeworldu.org.

Also, if you have a library or book store that you visit, remember to let your child browse and choose books on a variety of topics. Lifelong interests and lifelong skills grow from choosing and reading books.

So tell me...what series of books is your child devouring? What are your feelings about books in series?

(1) http.edina.k12.mn/concord/classrooms/media/parents/seriesbooks.pdf

(2) Ross, C.S., If they read Nancy Drew, so what? Series book readers talk back. Library & Information Science Research. Volume 17, issue 3. Summer 1995, Pages 201-239

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Welcome to the Free World U Library

by Miriam Downey 20. October 2011 12:56


Welcome to Free World U's new library. I am Miriam, the Cyberlibrarian. Every week I will post an article on this blog related either to books or to research and reference materials. Books will be added to the library in either the category of Online Books or Other Great Books. The category Research Resources will contain websites that will help our children find the information they need to develop reports or essays.

I am hopeful that this blog can become a dialog between the librarian (me), students, and parents. I can help with research projects, book selection, and teaching materials related to a book study. You can help by sharing websites that you have found to be useful, book studies that worked particularly well, and by asking questions that the group can help answer. Of course, all the sites, studies, and questions need to be literacy related; this is the goal of Free World U's library and this blog.

Now let me share just a few words about the classic books that are on our list of books available free online. First, you need to know that as long as the copyright holds for a book, it most likely will not be available on the Internet. Copyrights last for seventy-five years, so most of the books that you will find on our classic book list are more than than seventy-five years old. I guess that's what makes them "classics." There are several projects that seek to digitalize these classic books; Project Gutenberg is one such project.

The exceptions to the copyright rule include several websites that contain a lot of picture books. These are usually sites that promote reading, and authors have given permission for one or more of their books to be utilized on these sites. We Give Books is one such site. It has a marvelous array of free online books. Additionally, you might occasionally find a book that is available through a commercial site, or a book that is on a foreign site where the copyright is no longer in effect. You will find a few books on our lists from those sites.

As we developed our list of classic books, we used this criteria for each grade level (beyond picture books):

  • Books of interest to both boys and girls.
  • Both fiction and non-fiction.
  • A book of poetry.
  • A book of short stories.
  • A biography.
  • A play.

Some of these books can be downloaded; some can only be read online. All of these classic books would be available at your local public library if reading them online is too difficult. Most, if not all of them, are available for Kindle or Nook for a small fee.

I might add that most of the classic books (above the picture book level) will have had a movie made of them. Some of these books are really challenging to read. Sometimes it helps to watch a movie, either at the end of the project, or during the project, as a reward.

One more thing...this is a very fluid list. I would suggest that your reader check out the books several grade levels below and several grade levels above his or her age. Reading interest has no boundaries. For young students, parents might consider finding a book at a higher grade level and use it as a read-aloud for your children.

My questions for you are these: What classic books have you enjoyed that appeared or did not appear on this list? Any suggestions for additions to this list? What are you or your children reading now? Be sure to add websites if you found the book online.

So dear friends, welcome and happy reading.

Miriam

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