During my eleven years in the classroom, I encountered all sorts of readers. One of the common themes I noticed with those who loved books was many of them were reading a book series: Wings of Fire, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Magic Tree House for example. They were caught up in telling me about their favorite characters from a magical place that they just couldn’t get enough of!
A series is a great way to engage reluctant readers. If you fear that you may not be able to find a way to help your child enjoy reading, try a book series! You can find them in every genre, every topic that you can imagine. I bet you can find one for the readers in your life to enjoy.
There are two types of series: sequential, which include intertwined plots and must be read in order to make sense, and non-sequential, which include the same characters, but don’t necessarily have to be read in order. Nancy Drew is a great example of a non-sequential series.
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Here are some benefits of indulging in a series of books:
1. Children Will Read More
If a child enjoys and finishes the first book of a series, they don’t have to think twice about what they will read next. They just grab the next book in the series they are reading!
I find that if I am reading a stand-alone book, I might wait a day or two before picking up something else. With a series, you jump right in, often as soon as the last page is turned. Obviously, this will lead to them reading more!
Carolyn Keene was the master of the cliff-hanger that kept readers turning pages. Every single chapter in Nancy Drew ended this way. I eventually learned that if I wanted to put that book down, I had to stop in the middle of a chapter! The suspense and ongoing story line leave you wanting more.
In writing a series, an author has the opportunity to create more in-depth plots and to deepen your relationship with the main characters. Readers have an opportunity to connect more with the character’s personality, which will also encourage them to read more. Coming to the end of a book where you dearly love the characters is hard because you’re not ready to part ways.
As a side note, reading more has additional benefits! In fact, there is scientific evidence that reading can make you a better person. Start encouraging this for your little one while reading a series!
2. Envision the Story More Easily
Reading a series of books allows you to create an enhanced mental picture of the story. In the start of a story you are introduced to the characters, the setting, and the major problem. Once this knowledge becomes foundational, a reader can picture the events more clearly. Each consecutive book builds on this background knowledge and helps kids to understand the preceding events.
Take Harry Potter for example. We are introduced to these beloved characters at the start of the story, as well as their enemies. Once we learn their traits, the setting of his aunt and uncle’s home, as well as Hogwarts, it is easier to focus on the continued battle against Voldemort which takes place throughout the series.
For parents who are unsure about your child becoming interested even in the first book in a series, I would suggest that you start by reading it with them.
It’s true that many kids have a hard time getting into a book because they have trouble “envisioning the story.” Once they can picture the characters and the beginning of a plot with your help, they are more confident reading the rest on their own.
When I was in the classroom, I always tried to choose read-alouds that were the first in a series in hopes that kids might want to continue reading the next books. It often worked! They could envision the story with my help and they were ready for more.
3. Improve Comprehension
Studies show an improvement in comprehension scores when kids read a book series. As children become familiar with an author’s style, they are able to recognize patterns in their writing. This helps them to have a better understanding of the major story elements: plot, characters, dialogue, as well as text structure.
Another way familiarity with an author’s craft is helpful is children can begin to make predictions as they read. For example, the literal clues that are shared in a mystery are also text clues to help the reader predict what will happen in the next event. Series are highly patterned in their story structure, and help to build a child’s confidence in this way.
Plus, comprehension is improved because, as noted in point #1, they are, in fact, reading more. Reading for pleasure is one of the greatest ways to improve comprehension skills. Teaching every skill directly is nearly impossible to do well. Kids must have time to practice on their own.
4. Common Interest
The fact that many series books are made into movies or television shows help to encourage further reading. Their popularity makes it a hot topic among friends, motivating a common interest and further reading.
When I hear my students having conversations about their favorite books it never fails to bring a smile to my face. They practice on-going conversations and questioning one another about their opinions on the books. This challenges their thinking and further enhances their comprehension. (I directly practice this skill in class, too. To learn more about it, read our post about Meaningful Class Discussions.)
One downfall of this popularity is that kids might have some trouble envisioning the story as it is described in the book because they rely more on the movie producer’s imagination. However, it can be a good conversation to compare and contrast the book from the movie, further building on comprehension skills.
I would consider the popularity of a book series as more of a positive!
“Read a Book Series” Recommendations for Your Kids:
Finding a series to interest your child is important. They should read a book series. I have put together this list of some of my personal favorites, as well as many of my students’ favorites. I am hopeful you will find something of interest for the reader in your life.
Kindergarten through 2nd Grade:
Magic School Bus
Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro
Mercy Watson: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder by Kate DiCamillo
Amelia Bedelia by Herman Parish
Curious George by H. A. Rey
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy and John Steven Gurney
Mouse Books by Kevin Henkes
Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
3rd through 5th Grade
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Three Rancheros (Raymie Nightengale’s Collection) by Kate DiCamillo
Podkin One-Ear (Five Realms Series) by Kieran Larson
Welcome to Wonderland by Chris Grabenstein
Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland
Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
Babysitter’s Club (original) by Ann M. Martin &
Babysitter’s Club (graphic novels) by Raina Telgemeier
Extraordinary Life Collection (Kane Miller Publisher)
I Survived… by Lauren Tarshis
Judy Moody by Megan McDonald
6th through 8th Grade
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Jack Series (Love that Dog, Hate that Cat, & Moo) by Sharon Creech
Shadow Children (Among the Hidden) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Brian’s Saga (Hatchet) by Gary Paulsen