Trying to find something for your child to read? Yep, me too.
For great ideas for middle-grade readers, check out kateywrites, Nerdy Book Club, or Scholastic.com. Don’t forget about your local children’s librarian—if you know even ONE book your child liked, ask for something like it. The Internet is great, but a real librarian is all that with a frontal cortex, a master’s degree, and often a smile. Plus, they have a memory that goes back longer than six months.
We’ve got a nine-year old who reads to the exclusion of taking care of vital needs (sleeping, eating), and a seven-year old who mostly refuses to read independently, for fear we will stop reading to her. Finding fuel to keep both these kids’ fires burning is challenging. The avid reader is picky. The stubborn reader is too, and we’re tired of A-to-Z mysteries (she’s not). The first one was great, but by Q, the formula is…predictable.
Oh, what could the quicksand question be?
Here’s some successes we’ve had recently:
The Seven-Year Old Emerging Reader
—Trying to duplicate the success of Captain Underpants (the first book she read on her own at home), I’ve tried many tricks, but mostly I resort to arguing.
“Just read one paragraph!”
“No. It’s too hard.”
“You can do it!”
“I don’t want to.”
“Just try it!”
Yeah, I know how ridiculous that sounds. My other trick is getting to the good part, and then saying, “Sorry, I’ve gotta go feed the cat.” (Really, I have hungry cats.) Only I come back ten minutes later to find her staring at the same page.
So what finally worked?
I was trying to get her to read things that were too hard. It turns out she really likes those A-to-Z Mysteries for a reason—they’re exactly at her reading level. Right now, she needs that confidence boost. So one night I read her a chapter, and then went to bed. In the morning, she got up and finished the book on her own.
I should have listened to her instead of argued with her.
Same old Nancy, Bess, and George, but with laptops and cellphones.
—The second success was reading her a real novel: We bought her the first Nancy Drew Diaries by Carolyn Keene. She usually balks at longer chapter books, so this was momentous. Some of the words were too complex for her to read on her own (some seven-year olds wouldn’t have a problem with this, but she’s not quite there yet). She loved it, as long as we were reading it TO her. Because I had learned my lesson (see above), I happily read her the whole book, and she happily listened.
Maybe it’s something about those cliffhanger chapters…My son saw us reading to his little sister, and wanted in on the action.
The Nine-Year Old Emerging Reader
Few would consider a nine-year old who can read way above grade level an “emerging reader”, but this article reminded me that reading aloud, even to older children, is still important.
A great book to read aloud to a younger reader, if you don’t mind a few swear words and a lot of dead bodies.
So I bought my son Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
Sure, I could have set him up with a dictionary. His friend tackled the same book this way, and it’s how I probably would have done it at the same age. There’s nothing wrong with letting kids read complex things, as long as they are given the right tools.
Occasionally, one of those tools may be you reading aloud.
Reading this book to my son gave me a chance to do something I hadn’t done in years—reconnect with him at bedtime. He’d been reading by himself because he could and his sister couldn’t. By reading to him again, I was able to check in: “Did you get what they meant by that?” This book was set in a foreign country almost eighty years ago—there were many things he THOUGHT he got (the words were the same) that meant something else entirely.
Of course, even a nine-year old is too cool to let his mom read to him every night. So he’s back to his usual routine, reading the Guinness Book of World Records, the I Survived series, the Infinity Ring series, Origami Yoda, and anything else that gives him an excuse to stay up long after we tell him to turn off his light.
“One more chapter. I promise…..” (Next thing I know, he’s on the next BOOK.)
“Just let me finish the chapter.”
Turns the page.
“Wait, you just started a NEW chapter!”
Though my son hasn’t returned to the mystery genre, reading aloud let us explore something new together: a complex story with mature themes and many new words. My daughter continues to gobble up the whodunits.
It’s no wonder why. They’re usually quick, the tension is high, and there’s always an answer at the end. Kids love a good mystery! To find more:
Children’s Mystery Series Authors – a list of traditional series
Top Ten Middle-Grade Sleuths – more literary heroes
And though not on either of these lists, Agatha Christie is the Queen of Mysteries for a reason!