Comics or exciting stories for a five year old
March 15, 2017 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I'd like my son who is five and a half to enjoy reading. He doesn't enjoy the assigned reading books from school (Biff & Kipper) and struggles to be persuaded to get through one each week.

He really enjoys being read to, but cannot get motivated to try to read something himself. He's happy to pick up a book and enjoy the pictures. We've read Roald Dahl and lots of picture story books (Julia Donaldson etc).

I was hoping that there may be some comics or visual stories which have a suitably simple reading level but are still exciting and fun. Can you recommend anything suitable for his age or slightly older? He's in Year 1 in the UK if that helps with recommendations.

He's particularly interested in superheroes (particularly Batman and the Flash), vehicles, Pokemon and slapstick humour.
posted by Stark to Education (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My son was the same - loved being read to, not so interested in reading on his own. He did like the Captain Underpants series though. It may be a bit too advanced so far - the lower age level is 7 with grade 2 listed on the Amazon site. Perhaps you could start reading it with him, get him hooked, then he will read on his own as his skills catch up.
posted by maxg94 at 7:18 AM on March 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

There is a Pokémon leveled reader series available for kids. I don't know how suitable it would be as I've not read any of them - I was going to suggest the Pokémon Adventures manga but the reading age was given as 8+ on Amazon and these came up in the related items section.
posted by terretu at 7:18 AM on March 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you have Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems, those are a great bridge from being read to to reading independently. They're simple, funny, and engaging, and they're written sort of like a play - 2 main characters and occasionally a side character who all converse in speech bubbles. You read one part, the kid reads the other, you all giggle hysterically.

Also, if he's relatively fluent but just needs appealing subject matter, my son is currently plowing through the Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot series and the Kung Pow Chicken series. Both have a comic/superhero feel.
posted by telepanda at 7:22 AM on March 15, 2017 [8 favorites]

I just thought of another idea. Crosby Bonsall wrote a lot of books in the I Can Read Series which has levels (Level 1 and 2 should work for him = Age 4-8, KG - Grade 3). They are older books but my son liked them too. They tend to be mysteries like The Case of the Double Cross and The Case of the Cat's Meow but not all are. And the main characters is young boys.
posted by maxg94 at 7:26 AM on March 15, 2017

Oh! Also! Subject wise a little different from what you asked for, but definitely funny: The Urgency Emergency series have lots of pictures and are really funny riffs on classic fairy tales/children's stories from the perspective of the emergency room doctor who is treating their injuries.

Example: a weasel popped his bubble gum too loudly (pop goes the weasel) and surprised Humpty Dumpty into falling off the wall. The emergency room doctor has to treat Humpty Dumpty while lecturing all the king's men on not moving victims of head trauma (they meant well! they were just trying to put him together again!)

My kid was really sad when we exhausted the library's stock of these.
posted by telepanda at 7:30 AM on March 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

You might try the I Can Read series of books, of which there are many superhero-themed ones. Sounds like Level 1 might be his speed. My son also enjoyed many series from the Scholastic Branches imprint (which includes Kung Pow Chicken, as telepanda recommended above).
posted by LKWorking at 7:49 AM on March 15, 2017

Killer Koalas from Outer Space by Andy Griffiths is a collection of cartoons, jokes, and very short stories. Some of it should be about at your son's reading level and some would be probably be a bit too difficult (but could motivate him to level up on reading.) I think most kids would love it; some parents would find it too crude. Lots of poo jokes and silly deaths. My kids (who were a bit older when they discovered it) thought it was hilarious.

You could also draw your own cartoons. I used to do that when my kids were beginning readers. Stick figures and crudely-drawn animals with speech bubble text at just the right level for my specific kid. You can make them funnier than most of what you can find at the library.
posted by Redstart at 8:04 AM on March 15, 2017

Since you mention superheroes, a number of years ago, DC put out a series of kids comics that were ridiculously charming: Batman Adventures, Superman Adventures, Justice League Adventures (Flash is in this one).
posted by praemunire at 8:24 AM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you approached your school librarian or local children's book librarian for suggestions? A lot of them are extremely on top of what's new and what's appealing to kids with different interests.

If your son likes visual stories full of action and humor, I recommend Sardine from Outer Space (a comics series) from First Second, a kids graphic novel imprint that will have loads of books for him as he gets older (they just launched a Science graphic novel series that looks like fun).

Mo Willems' books are A+++ comedy and entry to early reading.

There's also Dan Gutman's My Weird School series (grades 1-5) -they're funny and they've been pretty popular with boys. Not a GN, but illustrated.

HIGHLY recommending Luke Pearson's Hilda books. They're exciting and full of action and the pages are just gorgeous. They make you want to dive in. Netflix is turning it into a series at some point.

There's Koyama Press's A Cat Named Tim

Papercutz's Ariol comics series about a little boy (donkey, in a world of animals) who gets into funny trouble in school, at home, etc.

As he gets older, or now if you want to read them to him, definitely look at BONE (by Jeff Smith), out from Scholastic's Graphix collection. This is one of the first major kids GN's and is timelessly popular.

My brother and I were really into Tintin when we were younger. For adventure and excellent graphic storytelling, you really can't beat it. Probably when he's closer to 8 or 9? Look into which ones might be a good introduction.

Also when older, Paul Pope's Battling Boy series and the Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks.

Also when older (10ish), the illustrated chapter nonfiction books Horrible Histories are really fun.

Graphix (scholastic), like First Second, has a great line of GN's, and one of the bestselling comics out there right now is anything by Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama, Ghosts, the Babysitters Club GNs) - they're for kids a little older, but they're SO GOOD. Also always a good thing to get boys to read books about girl characters (battling the assumption that books about a girl are for girls, while girls can read books about boys and girls).

TOON books is an imprint of Candlewick's that specializes in kids comics (from early reader to middle school). Lead by Francoise Mouly, the New Yorker art director and the woman behind RAW magazine.

Finally - not sure how your son feels about these, but is he continuing to read picture books? While he's reading early chapter books and GNs and comics, it can't hurt to also be reading picture books too - they're full of gorgeous visuals, simple but sophisticated storytelling, understandable text, and they totally create that "continuously renewable love of reading" + confidence with reading books boost. Some suggestions: 1 and anything by Jon Scieszka, who's made it a personal goal to reach out to boy readers. VERY funny books: Battle Bunny, The stinky Cheese Man, The Time Warp Trio, My Teacher is a Monster (No I am Not), The Day the Crayons Quit (but your librarian would know more).

Hm, and Calvin + Hobbes!
Collections of comics strips = excellent books, too. Lots of my fellow illustrators and cartoonists talk about coming across their parents' collections of Mad Magazine, New Yorker strips, Calvin and Hobbes, the Far Side, Little Lulu, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Tintin, etc and just diving in. Lots of afternoons spent pulling these out of the shelf and reading these on the carpet.
posted by Geameade at 8:32 AM on March 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Tiny Titans were a big hit for my kids around that age.

And consider a subscription to a kids magazine. It's so exciting at that age to get something in the mail and can build some good feelings around reading. (Make sure it's addressed to him and not you!)
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:55 AM on March 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

If he's willing to look at picture books to build his visual sophistication and his general enjoyment of having a book in front of him, the Owly books are lovely.
posted by praemunire at 9:10 AM on March 15, 2017

Calvin + Hobbes!

We thought our five-year-old boy would enjoy Calvin & Hobbes, but upon reading it with him, we realized that the humor is way more complex than we remembered. We think we'll try again in a few years, or just leave them in his room in case he gets bored and wants to pick them up again. For now, it's a lot of explaining jokes, which kills the humor, when he gets it.

Could you go to a library or bookstore with him and let him pick out the books? Our son is getting to be a voracious reader, helped by his collection of dinosaur books (his favorite topic) and the books he gets at library time in kindergarten, where he picks the book he wants for the week.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:10 AM on March 15, 2017

Phonics comics?
posted by k8t at 10:00 AM on March 15, 2017

If your son is not enjoying reading the fun to difficult ratio is not high enough.

Your very best bet is to write stories for you kid to practice on. One thing I found very effective was to take the book that my kid was supposed to be learning to read and make a vocabulary list from the book and then write a story based on that vocabulary but around the things the kid found interesting, with words he/she was already familiar with or likely to enjoy learning.

So rather than try to keep him interested in "Biff goes to the Dentist" write a practice story "Batman goes to the Dentist" which involves dentist chairs going flying and Batman howling Ow! Ow! Ow! "This won't hurt," said the dentist. "Ow! Ow! Ow!" said Batman. "This is the dentist's chair" said the Dentist. "Ow! Ow! Ow!" said Batman. "Don't be scared," said the Dentist. "Ow! Ow! Ow!" said Batman. "Please sit in the chair," said the Dentist. "Ow! Ow! Ow!" said Batman. etc. Make it end with Batman still saying "Ow! Ow! Ow!" after the check up, both in response to being given a sticker, and putting his bat cape on when it is time to leave. Illustrate it, if you can't draw, with pictures of Batman and stock Dentist pictures taken from the internet. Story number two with almost the same vocabulary would be Superman Goes to the Dentist and story number three would be < your son's name here > Goes to the Dentist.

Shamelessly pander to his immaturity. Reading exercises like, "Did Batman Fart?"* or "Mummy Goes to Bed, < your son's name here > Makes Dinner" - illustrated with a kitchen being totally trashed, your kid eating nothing but cookies, the dog eating the hamburger, and the fire department putting out the fire in the toaster - tend to amuse most kids. You want him to be giggling while he reads.

Creations like this will go along way to your son feeling that you are supporting him in developing reading, and that reading is fun, and give him the idea that writing stories is a fun thing too. But the main purpose of these stories are to drill your kid without being flash cards - boring! and no context clues - or rereading the same stupid story that he hates because it was too hard the first time.

The pokemon picture book early readers are ideal. They are horrible. But they work to get some kids interested in reading. Books that are full of stats are often popular. So books that tabulate the three stages of each pokemon's evolution may work better than stories do. They can also combine a kids interest and talent for math with reading, or encourage it.

Get your son to practice with you by reading books that are below his level. If he is struggling it generally means that he needs to read more easier stuff for practice before he can keep up with his class. So lots of easy, easy fun stuff is better than one good but difficult book.

Try him on reading on the computer or tablet. Some kids prefer that. The Biff and Kipper books are available as free e-readers.

What type of books does he pick when he goes to the library? If you can't answer that, finding out the answer will help you both. One thing you can do is take out ten books and get him to pick which four he wants to read. You may be appalled because he decides to go for one word baby books in order to avoid having to do something difficult. But in that case he needs to read books at that level until boredom drives him to more difficult books. So get him to read more books at that level, start with say three a day, and go up by one book a week until he decides he would rather read one difficult book with three word sentences instead of sixteen one word a page primers.

The attitude to get him into is, "Huh, I can do this. This is easy...." and regarding his reading time as quality play interaction time with you. I mean, in the long run that's exactly what reading is supposed to be, something he does to relax and amuse himself, even if by the age or thirty he might be reading graduate school level astronomy texts. If reading is something he does because he has to he will avoid it and that will deny him an incredible source of fun and information.

Another exercise that can be helpful is co-reading. So with the example story above about Batman goes to the dentist, you get him to read Batman's part and you to read the Dentist's part. Sure Batman's part is dead easy and doesn't vary an iota, but it still means that your son will be looking at the other printing to make sure that it is not his turn yet, helping him get familiar with finding a place in text, and the cues from punctuation. But where he doesn't have to read it there is a lot less stress. You want him being able to figure out that one part is Batman's speech, and the other part is not Batman's speech. So when you do this he should not get special cues to his part, like his text being highlighted.

"The Monster At the End of This Book" is an example of a good book to practice early reading. There is a lot of repetition, there is a lot of tension, the book is incredibly silly, you can use different voices while reading it which makes it fun (hysteria/I-am-trying-to-be-calm/tearful blubbering, etc.)

It is always a good idea to read him the story the first time before he is asked to read it. He will be using memory as an aid to meaning and that is exactly what you are trying to train him to do. It does not hurt that he is using short term memory rather than long term memory. Learning to read involves a lot of memory work - symbol recognition and word recognition and pattern recognition.

If he is having trouble sounding words out, he is dealing with material he is not ready for. So prompts before he reads, such as telling him that last time you worked with this story the three new words he didn't know were, "school" "sugar" and "beautiful" will help him use sight recognition when he gets to those words rather than doing what is natural, getting lost in pronouncing them. Notice that "school" lures the early reading into pronouncing it as "s-Chool" and "sugar" SUG-ar and "beautiful" beh-ah-uh-tye-ful" Those three words are examples of irregular pronounciation which means he has to either work with the phonics word family or learn them through sight recognition. In this instance sight recognition works best. I think you will have your work cut out for you to find five other words with the sequence S-U-G in them where it is pronounced Shoog. So you have to tell him however often is necessary not to follow the pronunciation rules that he has already learned because they are irregular words and that they have special rules.

Remember to enjoy this. You love words and reading and meaning. You are sharing something wonderful with him.

*Superhero trivia! Batman farts black clouds with bats flying out of them!
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:31 AM on March 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

Lots of good suggestions so far. I recommend looking into beginning reader books that have characters from his favorite cartoon shows (Paw Patrol, Rescue Bots, Pokemon, etc. -- whatever he likes). These types of books are normally pretty insipid, but they should get him interested in the written word.

Also seek-and-find books might be good. Try Look a Book and Look Another Book by Bob Staake.

Are you availing yourself to your local library? Mine lets you take out 30 titles at a time on a single card. Check a dozen or two out at once. Why not? Try a whole bunch to help him find what he likes. Get him his own library card too.
posted by Leontine at 12:58 PM on March 15, 2017

We did this thing called "buddy reading" where you read out loud together and that got one of my sons into reading. We read the first Stick Dog book and I read all of the words except "dog." So whenever the word "dog" appeared I paused and let him read it. He may have been able to read more of the words but it was more fun for him if I did most of the reading. Eventually he started doing more of the words on his own and took off from there. We also got some old Garfield collections and read those. If you are reading them with a kid, they are so much better than you remember.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:57 PM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

A tangent that might be helpful - a uni lecturer told us at teacher training that her bright, well behaved son was refusing to read, and she couldn't figure out the sudden stubborn refusal- it turns out he was worried that once he learned to read he would lose his special reading time where his parents would read to him. Once they cleared up this misconception he happily did his reading exercises.
Might apply to your son or not, but thought I'd mention it.
posted by freethefeet at 11:30 PM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with the earlier commenter who said play to his immaturity. Here are 2 books that were extremely successful for our kids at that age:
Poo Bum by Stephanie Blake
Mixed up fairy tales by Nick Sharratt (in which you create scrambled fairy tales by combining the various pages of the spiral-bound book).

Actually, any of Nick Sharratt's books are perfect for reluctant readers at that age. Irreverent, easy and funny.

Data point on Calvin & Hobbes mentioned by an earlier commenter -- I obviously introduced my kids to it early on, but my daughter has only now, at 9, started loving it.
posted by snarfois at 3:40 AM on March 16, 2017

I don't know if these books are too difficult but:
Captain Underpants
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
posted by jeenmal112 at 12:13 AM on March 25, 2017

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