I have the distinct honor of mothering young readers. My firstborn was a bit more sheltered than his little sister, watching only PBS Kids and Thomas the Tank Engine in his preschool and kindergarten days. By the time number two joined us, he had graduated to Disney Channel, so her TV watching contained more school-aged themes than Jay-Jay the Jetplane.
Anyhow, I give a bunch of credit to good ol’ Thomas videos (on VHS actually) — especially the episodes narrated by Ringo Starr because my son picked up the cutest British accent. You see, Thomas stories are narrated, as if someone is reading directly to you. When my two year old laid on his belly, his chubby hands pushing the wooden trains, he narrated his playtime.
He loved being read to, short books mostly, and the same book over and over and over and over. Once the story was memorized, the book would come to life in his play, extending out like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’.
In kindergarten, we read together. Another mom had started us on the Magic Treehouse series, with Jack & Annie and their marvelous discoveries. My sweet, obedient boy would tell the characters not to leave the house in the night, and say “no, you shouldn’t be in the woods.” He preferred Jack’s reasonable decision making to Annie’s whimsical choices. We learned about dinosaurs and ninjas and pirates. And if the next book didn’t interest him, we skipped it.
See, that’s the key – he picked the books that he knew he’d enjoy, even as a little guy.
In first grade I downloaded Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales from the Odyssey as an audiobook. We listened to it on many long drives, then would chat about the stories, often laughing. Reading is fun – even when someone else is doing the reading.
At some point around second grade, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series was gaining popularity. He enjoyed the series, as new titles were released every year. More about Wimpy Kid here.
In the second and third grade years he consumed library books, but I made sure to include a few of my childhood favorites, including Ralph S. Mouse, The Mouse & The Motorcycle, and the Fudge series.
A lot of random titles passed through his hands.
When he was in fourth grade, I discovered the Who Was / Who Is…? series. Every trip to the bookseller, I’d check for new biographies in this fun series. I love reading them to learn more about famous people from history and today. When Who is JK Rowling? came out, I think he read it on the drive home from the bookshop.
Fourth and fifth grades were dominated by Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Kane Chronicles, and The Heroes of Olympus. When Percy Jackson was made into a movie, my son was bitterly disappointed, “the books are better Mom.”
Right around this age, we downloaded Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist as an audiobook. We listened together on a roadtrip (I had read it prior and just knew he’d love the adventure and appreciate the lessons).
With long waits between new releases, my son finally decided it was time to read Harry Potter. During the month of December in his fifth grade year, he read the entire series. My husband on more than one occasion told him to “put down the book and watch a little TV.”
After Potter, he read The Chronicles of Narnia then watched the movies.
In fifth, sixth and even seventh grades, he was immersed in Ranger’s Apprentice. Books four through seven were so enjoyable he read them two or three times each.
I stopped in at our local Independent book shop and asked for recommendations… I thought for a minute there might not be anything left to read, but the sales lady managed to send me home with The Candy Shop War (still haven’t seen the sequel hit shelves), and The Hunger Games.
Having just completed the seventh grade, with thousands of pages read this year alone, he has diversified his interests, reading four series all outside of school. My favorites are the Theodoore Boone series by John Grisham. My son reads them because I keep buying them. His real interests were the LOTR series and the all new Brotherband Chronicles series.
You may have noticed how many of these are in hard cover editions – he wouldn’t wait for paperback (not that I ever discouraged new releases), and despite the Kindle he received for Christmas, he prefers to hold a real book.
I look forward to finding what interests him as he continues to mature. And I can’t help but smile when too late at night one of us has to march in to his room and remind him it’s time to sleep. Bigger problems are sure to come, but for now I’ll savor that one!