This is the age when you start to see a real disparity in kids’ reading levels. Some kids shoot ahead, reading Harry Potter in the first grade, while others seem to lag behind, reading Henry and Mudge books for a long, long time.
Here is my advice: if you have a Henry and Mudge reader, DON’T PANIC. If you have a Harry Potter reader, DON’T GLOAT.
THIS IS NOT A RACE. Much of the disparity evens out over the next two years, and kids who read late are no less likely to be great readers, have high SAT scores, or lead successful lives than their early-reading peers.
The most important thing you can do for readers at this age is meet them where they are with books they will love. Don’t push them! This is supposed to be fun! These are the years to really instill a love of reading. Read aloud! Let them read picture books, or Captain Underpants, or whatever they feel like. Studies show that when it comes to brain development, reading is reading, whether it is The Secret Garden or Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
You will notice that many books intended for this age reader are formulaic. This is not intended to torture YOU, the parent. It is meant to make reading chapter books as comfortable as possible for kids.
The first chapter of any book is ALWAYS the hardest to read. Why? Because when you start a book EVERYTHING is new: the characters, the plot, the author’s style. If a book has a formula, like the Magic Treehouse books, the reader saves a lot of work. Who are the main characters? Jack and Annie! What is this book about? Time travel in a treehouse, of course. Once we know all that we can get on with the fun stuff, like dinosaurs and knights.
Familiarity gives comfort: less work, more reward.
So YOU THE PARENT may not be in the mood to read ANOTHER formulaic early chapter book, but your fledgling reader probably loves it. Take a deep breath and meditate. Think of the repetition as a pleasant mantra. Ooommm.
And, in truth, there are alternatives to the tried and true transitional chapter books like Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones. Check out these series:
Transitional Chapter Book Series Boys AND Girls will Love:
- The Rainbow Street Shelter by Wendy Orr. Each book in this new series follows the destiny of a lost pet that ends up at Rainbow Street Shelter. High-quality little books that read like real literature.
Transitional Chapter Book Series for Boys:
- Alvin Ho by Lenore Look. A boy who is afraid of everything shares his comic take on daily life.
- Stink by Megan McDonald. Judy Moody’s little brother takes on life with his own twist, with lots of cartoons.
- Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka. Three boys travel through time with a little more potty humor than Jack and Annie ever found in the treehouse.
Transitional Chapter Book Series for Girls:
- Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. My personal favorite 8-year-old irreverent heroine.
- Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows. They never thought they would be friends, but it turns out you just never know.
- Cobble Street Cousins by Cynthia Rylant. Sick of sassy heroines always getting in trouble? Try the Cobble Street Cousins. These sweet, nostalgic books will appeal to girls who love tea parties and old-fashioned things.
- Just Grace by Charice Meracle Harper. Another heroine pays homage to Ramona, getting into lovable scrapes.