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Summer Reading Challenge: Read a Book Series

by Miriam Downey 30. June 2014 05:53


"Mom!," my nephew called! "I just can't stop reading! Do I have to go to bed?" That's something that warms any mother's heart. Evan was reading a book in a series of historical fiction called The Sons of Liberty by Paul Thompson. Think back on your own childhood reading? If you were at all like me, you loved books that were part of a series. You may have read about Mary, Laura, and the other members of the Ingells family in the Little House books, or maybe Nate the Great, or the girls from The Babysitter's Club. Most of us also remember reading comic book series like Archie or Superman. Our parents were just happy that we were reading. Today's parents would be happy that their kids are reading rather than playing video games.

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.

One researcher, Catherine Sheldrick Ross, suggests: "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 an essential stage in "their development as powerful literates."

For example, my grandsons loved the Percy Jackson series of books. One grandson said to me excitedly: "Grandma, you have got to read these books. They will teach you all about Greek mythology!" They sure did. I had to find an online list of Greek Gods to use as a cheat sheet as I was reading. My twin granddaughters have been reading the Anne of Green Gables series this summer (which, by the way, you can find online at Project Gutenberg.)

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 readers, 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.

Does it matter if the books are great literature? I am going to propose the thought that it doesn't matter too much, because summer is a time to read for fun. Save the classics for the school year. That's the reason some books are called "beach reads!"

If you go to the section of the Free World U's library called Other Great Books, you will find some suggestions of books in series that are recommended for each grade level. Have fun reading this summer! 


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