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Independent Reading: Bring on a Series! - Reading with Bean

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Independent Reading: Bring on a Series!

I get asked this question all the time:

How do I find interesting books for her to read independently? She can’t find anything she likes.  

My answer has two parts. 

1. What is your child’s reading level?  If you don’t know this, find out. The reading that your child does independently needs to be at their level, using just right books. Most children want to read above their level because they want the ‘status’. But in order to get better, they need to stay at their level.

I like to compare learning to read to skiing. A lot of us want to ski black diamonds when we are only a blue square skier. Skiing black diamonds will only frustrate (and possibly hurt) us, and so we must practice on our blue squares now to be able to be a competent black diamond skier soon. Can you tell I am dreaming about ski season?

So, to reiterate, the first step is to find out your child’s level before looking for books. If you don’t know it, ask their teacher.

2. Once you have your child’s independent reading level, help them find a book at that level. While there are many great books out there, one strategy to find books is using series. 

Series are AWESOME in so many ways:

  • Most books in a series are written at about the same level, so when they finish one they don’t have to search for another book, there is another waiting in the queue.
  • When your child becomes comfortable with a series, they get to know the characters and the way the series is written; children love knowing what to expect.
  • Once a child is comfortable with a series they begin to make connections and see parallel plots across books and story lines. This is EXCELLENT for their comprehension.
  • If your child likes one series, it is easy to find other series that are similar. Librarians and book stores can help with this.

If your child is not interested in a series, but also has not given the series a shot, then it is in your best interest to push them to try it. Many times I have tried to turn kids on to a series only to hear, “I don’t want to read that, it looks boring.” When I ask them to hold off on their opinion until they read a chapter, 80% of the time they end up sticking with the book. Why? Because it reads easily (they are very comfortable with it because it is the right level) and it is more interesting then they had expected from their cover judgements.

*One more thing to note about series….Your child may worry that they have to finish an entire series before moving on to a different type of book. Remind them that this is not so and that there are no rules in book reading. They can stop, continue, or pause a series as they wish.

I have put together a list of series, organized by reading level. There are many leveling systems, and I use Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading levels. If you know your child’s level in another system (DRA, Reading A-Z) here is a good correlation chart.


10 Comments

  1. Marty Mokler Banks

    Hi, Lori. This is SUCH an important topic. I just started a blog as well and talked about this subject in last week’s blog, as it relates to chapter books and middle grade. If you’re interested, see it at:

    http://chapterbookchat.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/chapter-book-vs-middle-grade/

    Take care and good luck with your blog!
    Marty Banks

    • readingwithbean

      Thanks so much for reading and writing, Marty. It is a very important subject, and having easily accessible resources for parents is my goal!

  2. What a great tip – Sam came home raving about Pete the Cat so we just ordered the series for his birthday. I felt like it was overkill to buy so many books but sounds like it was a smart move!

  3. Celia

    Your list and attitude is so helpful – thanks so much! You’re definitely on my watch list as a new school librarian!

    • readingwithbean

      Thanks, Celia! I have been delinquent in my posts because I have had a lot happening in my life, but there is a lot of great info already up. So, read on!
      🙂

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