Children’s Books: Series books geared to new readers
This piece below was published in the Raleigh News and Observer and Charlotte Observer on July 26, 2014
Why are there so many series books for young readers? They come at a crucial time when, between ages 4 and 9, children begin to devour books. Adults have to make this transition along with them. It’s not as quick or easy to judge a novel as it is a picture book. Successful series provide a known quantity for both adults and children.
Most early reading begins with I-Can-Reads. Reading specialist Dr. Julie M. Wood’s Tug the Pup series (HarperCollins, ages 4-6) has composed three sets of graduated books for beginning readers. “Big Pig,” the first book, has only four words per page, while the last book in the third set, “The Dancing Lessons,” has two lines per page.
In these books, a young pup and his animal friends star in simple stories with lots of repeated sentence patterns and rhyming words that aid predictability. Each set contains 11 books and a parent guide that includes stickers to reward children’s success. Each book comes with tips that encourage shared reading, and discussion questions to encourage contextual learning, comprehension and vocabulary building.
Fortunately for young book gobblers, there is a smorgasbord of short novel series. These books have large print, a low page count, easy vocabulary and occasional illustrations. Here is a sampling of new series to fit the many interests of emerging readers:
Animals: Cynthia Lord’s Jelly Bean (Scholastic, ages 6-9; Shelter Pet Squad series; 105 pages) features a sensitive, animal-loving heroine, Suzannah, who can’t have an animal at home so she volunteers at a shelter. She and her fellow volunteers learn much about the care of dogs, cats and, in this particular book, a lonely guinea pig who needs a new home.
Humor: Karen English’s Dog Days (Clarion, ages 7-10; Carver Chronicle series; 122 pages). Gavin gets in one mess after another, ending as he earns money by walking his bossy great aunt’s ugly, yippy Pomeranian.
Adventure: Marlane Kennedy’s Earthquake Shock (Scholastic, ages 8-10; Disaster Strikes series; 108 pages). Joey is mastering skateboarding tricks when an earthquake changes everything. Because of its intensity, pre-read this book if you have a more sensitive child.
Fantasy/Humor: Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer’s Archie Takes Flight (Little Brown, ages 7-9; Space Taxi series; 98 pages). Eight-year-old Archie is looking forward to the night he’ll spend with his taxi-driving father, but soon finds himself helping to navigate to a giant invisible wormhole where unearthly adventures await.
Magic: Kate Egan with Magician Mike Lane’s The Vanishing Coin and The Incredible Twisting Arm (Feiwel and Friends, ages 8-10, Magic Shop series; 150 pages). Fourth-grader Mike Weiss is always in trouble. Everything changes when he stumbles on the hidden room at the back of the White Rabbit magic store.
School Problems: Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver’s A Short Tale About a Long Dog (Grosset & Dunlap, ages 6-8; Here’s Hank series; 122 pages). A dyslexic Hank Zipper works to prove his sense of responsibility with a new dog.