Great books for a second-grade reader who is a little behind
February 20, 2014 4:47 PM   Subscribe

(Asking for a friend) My second grader is struggling to read at grade level, and I want to encourage him to associate reading with pleasure instead of frustration by giving him some books he'll love and that will be appropriately challenging but not vexing.

My second-grader is reading at a first grade level and is having trouble solidifying the skills that second-grade reading requires. I've got someone to help out with schoolwork, but I want him to become a lifelong reader despite his struggles. I would really appreciate suggestions for books that are at an advanced first-grade level, and which will encourage him to learn and offer an enjoyable reading experience. Thank you!
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Education (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you know what level he is at? Most schools use one of the scales, like Guided Reading or the like. Or if you don't know that, would you say he can read an Elephant & Piggie book or a Time Warp Trio book? It would help to know which books to suggest.

Also, what subjects does he like when you read to him -- funny, scary, adventure, friendship, magic, animals?
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:56 PM on February 20, 2014

What books does he enjoy reading now, regardless of grade level?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:03 PM on February 20, 2014

I taught grade school for 32 years. There are so many good books out there. I love the If You Invite a Pig Series. Also children at that age still love to be read to. Cozy Mom and Dad time at night. Read an easy chapter book that has some substance that he would understand. Word decoding and hearing the sounds of words are important and all children reach that understanding at different ages. Limit Ipad time, games ect. I am not saying I have all of the answers, but your child sounds very bright and aware of things ahead of his age. Just don't push too hard or you will turn him off to "school" stuff. Love that you are a concerned parent and are doing early intervention.
posted by gbcaine at 5:14 PM on February 20, 2014

Is reading with him ok if he gets the bug? I have a second grader too and the Bone series was what got him from only reading with me to sneaking a flashlight under the covers to keep going on his own long after bedtime. He also likes the Captain Underpants series. Both sets of books are heavily illustrated which helps keep his attention. We both loved Bone, Captain Underpants is full of boogers and toilet jokes which he thinks is hilarious.
posted by Cuke at 5:15 PM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

At the same age, my older son was struggling with reading, and Tales of a Third Grade Nothing by Judy Blume turned his life around. He went through the whole series several times, and the Beverly Cleary books about Henry Huggins. No chapter books before that.

I am reading the Magic Tree House books to my kindergartner right now. They are excrable as literature, but very structured in a way that a new reader might like. There is simple language and some actual history.

The Flat Stanley books are probably about the right level too.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 5:36 PM on February 20, 2014

Comics and Captain Underpants.
posted by KwaiChangCaine at 6:53 PM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Bunnicula & Friends books (a pre-cursor to the main series, which is for grades 3 and up) by James Howe.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:03 PM on February 20, 2014

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Stick Dog were the books that launched my son from "decent 1st grade reader" to "amazing 2nd grade reader."

Also we would do this thing where I would lie in bed and read out loud to him every night. Every time I made a mistake and he caught it I would pay him a quarter. It was surprisingly motivational for him to catch me being wrong.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:10 PM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of my kids went from struggling to read to way above grade level when we read Harry Potter out loud - she got grabbed and started reading them to herself - in 2nd grade. So finding a really engaging story can be a huge game-changer.
posted by leslies at 7:27 PM on February 20, 2014

My Weird School series.
posted by tilde at 7:49 PM on February 20, 2014

The Frog and Toad books -- Those are always great and level appropriate.
posted by Jewel98 at 8:49 PM on February 20, 2014

Comic books! The graphics will help him contextualise vocabulary and there are lots of kid-friendly ones out there. Children's libraries often have good sets of appropriate graphic novels and a decent comic store can make recommendations. Bone is lovely, and was a big hit with my kids from early on. You can also check out the english translations of popular Manga titles (but check they are PG/G), because a lot of them are aimed at kids. Mine are mad about this educational science series but I don't know if it's available in the US. There are increasingly more comic book versions of children's stories that are just great for struggling readers.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:41 PM on February 20, 2014

The Henry and Mudge series. I can't recommend it highly enough. Simple funny real. Great early readers.
posted by alms at 10:02 PM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Snowy Day - Ezra Jack Keats
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile - Bernard Waber

For reading out loud:
The Mouse and the Motorcycle - Beverly Cleary
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
When I was that age, I had a teacher who would read books out loud to our class, one chapter per day, every day after lunch/recess. These were two of those books.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:09 PM on February 20, 2014

Have you thought of getting him a magazine subscription? Find one that has the sort of things he may be interested in or check some out of the library and see what he's drawn to.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:14 AM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, try to make regular weekend trips to the library! Ask the children's librarian for suggestions, let him browse and pick out his own books too. Maybe even an ice cream cone bribe afterwards if he finished all 5 books he got out last week?
posted by fontophilic at 5:31 AM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

We used comic books as a way to get our early reader more engaged and excited about reading and I think it had a truly positive impact.
What's helpful is they can use the images to apply context that they might not be getting from just the words on the page.
From there the transition to books with fewer illustrations is easier.
posted by exparrot at 7:00 AM on February 21, 2014

Do you think he'd prefer illustrated books or chapter books? What topics interest him? Does he like sports, science, scary stuff, history, biographies, outer space, etc.? What are his current favorite books? Need to know these things before making recommendations.
posted by Dansaman at 8:30 AM on February 21, 2014

A lot of the books being suggested aren't going to work at all for a kid who is only reading at a late first grade level. Magic Tree House, Bone, Captain Underpants, etc. will be probably be great choices in another year or so but would be too difficult now.

Mo Willems's Elephant & Piggie books would probably be good, though some second graders might feel they were too babyish. The Don't Let the Pigeon . . . books, also by Mo Willems, would probably work too.
posted by Redstart at 9:01 AM on February 21, 2014

My stepson (turns 7 next month) wasn't sold on the whole "reading" thing, he didn't think reading had anything to give him (if you know what I mean). I started reading to him every night. First I read "The BFG", which he liked but it wasn't all that and a bag of potato chips. I started reading him "The Hobbit" every night and holy mother of God has he changed his mind about reading and books. He is absolutely RAPT with that book, he literally hurries to get to bed and urges his father to tuck him him faster so that I can read to him, and he is now thinking that reading has its value. I was a little worried it might be too grown up and scary for him, but he loves that it is a "grown up" book. He also knows that if at any time he doesn't understand a word or is getting confused we can stop and I will explain. I told him there are three more books after this one and he is SO EAGER to read those with me as well.

Since I've started reading to him he has been doing a lot more reading (and writing for that matter) on his own. He stumbled upon the Star Wars early reading books we got him late last year that he declared "too hard" and "boring" and said that reading was stupid. Now he is reading them all on his own.

Basically, my solution for my not-too-keen-to-read, slightly-behind-others-in-his-age-bracket, reader was to show him that reading and stories can be all kinds of awesome, and that has made him want to do more reading himself. I found book(s) that interested him and caught his attention, and now he is seeing that learning to read means he could be reading stories like this all the time. He is now taking it upon himself to read more, be challenged, and improve.

The Hobbit has also become pretty solid behaviour currency. If he is good I will read extra long to him at night. If he acts up he gets less reading time or no night time reading of The Hobbit at all. For example, he got a note sent home from school yesterday for punching another kid on the playground. There were a bunch of different consequences/punishments for him (lost allowance, no playing minecraft, no access to any technology, having to go to bed early, etc) but the one that seemed to upset him the most was that, for the first time since we started reading every night, I wouldn't be reading to him that night.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2014

I just happened to find a book at the library today that might be the perfect answer to this question: Killer Koalas from Outer Space by Andy Griffiths. It's a bit above late first grade reading level, but it's full of cartoons, jokes, and very short funny stories, with small amounts of text on each page and lots of pictures, so even a kid who had to struggle with some of the words might not be too intimidated by it. It includes some difficult words like "marsupial," "volcano," and "neutralized" but most of the text is pretty easy and it has some very easy parts, like a cartoon with no text other than "TNT," "BLAM" and "THE END." And it could serve as a great motivator to get a little better at reading.

This isn't the kind of book a second grader would find too babyish. My own second grader, who wouldn't be caught dead reading Elephant & Piggie, seized Killer Koalas with delight. He thought it was hilarious and kept reading funny parts out loud to his sister. Some parents might not find it appropriate. It has lots of poo jokes, a dentist who pulls off a kid's head by mistake, a kid who turns into a fly and is killed by his mom, etc. But I suspect most second graders would love it as much as mine did.
posted by Redstart at 6:06 PM on February 21, 2014

Thirding the read aloud recommendations, but with a twist: audiobooks. In the car, while you're making dinner, whatever. It's a way for a kid to enjoy books that are beyond his reading skill level without stress and stuff.

Also seconding Elephant and Piggie. That was the magic bullet for my kid.
posted by missrachael at 6:34 PM on February 22, 2014

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