Every so often I get an email from a concerned parent of a reluctant reader who is looking for ideas that might get a book into the lap of their small person on a more regular basis. There is a lot to be said on this subject; much more than will fit in this post with all of the other Monday business nipping at my heels today. So let's save some of that for another day and for now, focus on the fun bit: great books for motivating reluctant readers.
The Henry and Mudge series is written by the always fantastic Cynthia Rylant (and illustrated by Sucie Stevenson). Regular readers of this blog know that along with cupcakes and my disdain for mud, Cynthia Rylant is one of the things that I like to talk about the most. I personally love pretty much everything I have ever read of hers, but have to admit that Henry and Mudge seems to have a special something when it comes to encouraging otherwise persnickety little boys to pick up a book. I have seen many a third grader, struggling to learn to read independently, and discouraged by a lack of good books that are "easy" enough for reading alone, pick up a Henry and Mudge title and never look back. These are classic boy and dog tales that are sweet, funny, and infinitely readable. I have yet to meet a kid that doesn't like them, and with a reading level hovering around early to mid-second grade, they are excellent confidence builders for struggling or reluctant readers in the seven to ten age range. If Henry and Mudge prove popular, you might also try Mr. Putter and Tabby.
You can read my Library Monday post on Henry and his big dog Mudge here.
Another series that I particularly like for reluctant or struggling readers is the Nate the Great detective books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. There is a lot to love here: longer books that have the "look" of chapter books but are still quick reads, humorous plots with quirky characters, mysteries that are fast moving and not overly involved. Nate the Great books also generally hover around the end of first grade or beginning of second when it comes to reading level, a fact which, when paired with the fact that they have the look and feel of a chapter book, can be a really nice confidence booster for kids who aren't sure about reading non-picture books.
Our favorite boy detective gets the Library Monday treatment in this post.
The Houndsley and Catina books are somewhat newer on the scene here, but are so charming and well-done that I definitely plan to build a little collection of them to share with Zak as he gets older. Written by James Howe (of Bunnicula fame), this series pairs reading levels mostly hovering around mid-second grade with a cast of animal characters both lovable and funny. I especially like the fact that Howe's characters in these books are anything but one-dimensional. In spite of being animals spread across the pages of an early reader, they have relatable personality quirks that I think kids can really appreciate, and that make them good "starter characters" for delving into books with more nuanced storylines.
Read up on a Houndsley and Catina favorite here.
As with Cynthia Rylant, there is special place on our bookshelves for all things Gail Gibbons. Now, these books don't necessarily have text that is written with struggling readers in mind. In fact, the reading levels tend to be high, generally out of the reach of independence for the younger readers that the books are written for. So why include them here? Because compelling informational books like the ones that Gibbons writes are a perfect vehicle for helping reluctant readers to understand what the fuss is all about. They may not be able to read these books on their own, but browsing through them or reading alongside a grown-up is a really great way to further emphasize the idea that we read to get information about things that we would like to learn more about. All of Gibbons colorful illustrations about owls, milk production, mail sorting and phases of the moon? Well, she will tell you all about them if you are willing to spend a little time learning to read her words. Jump in.
Gail Gibbons love on Library Monday in this post.
Can we give just a little bit more love to Cynthia Rylant before we move on? Because when it comes to really great reads for reticent readers, I do think that her High-Rise Private Eyes series has a lot to offer. This series, about an animal detective pair, has reading levels that consistenly come in around mid-first to early second grade, making them really accessible for younger or struggling readers. But the books are also full of slightly clever (and very corny) humor that kids seems to love and that lets the reader feel that they are in on the joke; something which helps to disguise the fact that these books are written as early readers. Everybody wins! This series, along with Nate the Great and Encyclopedia Brown, was one of the primary sources of inspiration behind the kid detective issue of Alphabet Glue (Volume Two).
Oh, and all this week get a free issue of Volume Five of Alphabet Glue (one of my favorites!) when you purchase Volume Ten or Eleven. Just let me know where to email the free issue in the "note to seller" area when you checkout!