Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reading books that are too easy

A few days ago I mentioned the problem kids have in sticking with books that are too easy for them. I found this a common issue, especially in September with my Third grade classes. They had gotten comfortable with the easier levelled readers, and were not challenging themselves with longer and tougher books.

There are a few reasons they do this, and it completely makes sense. First off, those easier books are just that - easier. They have pictures, the kids are familiar with the series and characters, they are fast...all those things. Those things are great too, but when it becomes a crutch, we need to gently nudge them.

You wonder - hmm...is this my child? Well, take a look in their backpack. If they have four or five thin paperbacks, and those paperbacks change on almost a daily basis...your child might be doing this. If they sit down for 15 minutes and have completed an entire book - it's probably time.

Here's the deal. You need their buy in. They are scared. They are comfortable. They don't necessarily want to get into those thicker books that don't have pictures, take a few days to read, and have harder words.

This is where it is important to have a sales background (I don't) haha - and a variety of books.

I do my research. I find out what they are interested in, then find books that are a tad tougher than they are used to (remember the JUST RIGHT rule!) and we get to talking about it. Then I FOLLOW UP. I meet with them daily, and ask them about THAT book. Often, that book is not the one they want to continue with at first. They want to pick out those easier books. It's the following up and asking them questions about that book that will keep them going. We set goals together. Be it read a chapter, few pages, or all the way to the end.

What you may find, is that in this transition, they may have a tough time finishing a book. They don't have the stamina, just like if I were to try to run a marathon tomorrow, even though I only run about 4 miles at a time right now. I need the follow up and goal setting of a coach.

That's how I found the Gym Shorts series. They are great -- they are shorter chapter books that have a sport theme. That's how I hooked my students Allyson and Olivia -- they are swimmers, and there is one centered around a girl on the swim team. PERFECT FIT. Once they tried it, they forgot that it took them a few days. It was interesting, actually. Olivia loved to pick up books that were too hard, and then she'd never finish. Allyson, on the other hand, was switching books too quickly because she was sticking with those books that were too easy.

Anyhow, you may be familiar with some of these series, but I find that these are good books to transition from the easy readers into chapter books (I have to warn you, I am picky. I don't like to pick just the rave - I like books that have GOOD WRITING) So, I will include some of the standbys, but know that I may offer some that you aren't so familar with.

Junie B. Jones
Magic Tree House
Judy Moody
Max and Mallory
Pirate School
Gym Shorts
A to Z Mysteries
Just Grace
Rainbow Magic
Matt Christopher's Sports Series (careful, there are several levels)
The Pain and the Great One series (Judy Blume)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

Something you might want to look into is the author of the series your child was reading before. I know that if they love Cynthia Rylant's Henry and Mudge, she has other books that are harder. If they fall in love with an author, you are golden. You can keep them reading for years.

These are series that will transition early readers to chapter books...I will tell you about some other series to help transition these readers to harder chapter books in coming days.

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