This year, I’ve been fortunate to work in a school where the kids love to read for fun. Throughout the year, I’ve noticed a couple of standout books, the kind of book where there is waitlist for reading; the kind of book where if they can’t find a new book to read, they’ll reread one that they liked before; the kind of book that the students will hide in their desks so that no one else can have them. Intrigued, I snuck off with a couple copies and read them, noticing that all of them are part of a series.
Here’s what my 3rd graders are reading.
Geronimo Stilton series (Scholastic)
The main character, Geronimo Stilton, is a smart and cautious rat, surrounded by a various cast of characters. It lays out exactly what a 2nd/3rd grader would like to read — mostly plot and minimal (funny) dialogue. There are graphics on every page: colors are dominant throughout, the font changes to emphasize certain words, and pictures of characters and maps are scattered among the chapters. Though I understand why my students like it, I found the graphics and colors overwhelming. I prefer the Bad Kitty and Diary of A Wimpy Kid series, which is the same concept of a strong mix of graphic and text (and humor), but the layout is less jarring.
Who was… series (Grosset & Dunlap)
Though the covers are cartoonish, the content and graphics inside are not. This nonfiction biography series clearly outlines the childhood, adult life, and successes of a famous historical person. I enjoyed reading this because the content was rich without oversimplifying. The graphics support the text well, and there’s even a timeline comparing the person’s life with the overarching historic events of the time. My students also eventually used these for their biography book reports, providing that rare mix of useful teaching tool and pleasure reading.
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (Bloomsbury)
Can anyone deny the power of this series? I’m not sure if it’s quite at their reading level, but I recommend the spinoff books (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Quidditch Through the Ages; The Tales of Beedle the Bard) as a good alternative for those looking for a “right fit.”
World’s Worst Monsters and Villains: Scary Creatures of Myth, Folklore, and Fiction by Kieron Connolly (Scholastic)
This isn’t a bestseller book. However, it hasn’t been on the library shelf for months. Whenever I walk by a student reading it, the pictures are so vivid that even I will stop to read over their shoulder! The book is divided into mythical monsters, classic folk tales, literary monsters, and gods and monsters. It then takes on a faux-scientific format, providing drawn diagrams dissecting physical characteristics, a short history of the monster, and size comparisons. What this book does well is that it is graphically pleasing and easy to read, and provides interesting myth and folklore about worldwide monsters. Though not meant to be a series, there are companion books (Mythical Monsters: Legendary, Fearsome Creatures and Dragons: Fearsome Monsters of Myth and Fiction) that follow the same format and some overlapping content.
By no means is this list supposed to be a list of quality “teachable” books. We have those already. We teach good literature all year. What can be more difficult to achieve are books that are the “right fit” and are fun to read. I hope this short list offers some more books to add to your library, and to help hook your students into reading for pleasure!