Literary crack for Elementary schoolers?
April 19, 2017 5:29 PM   Subscribe

My third-grade nephew reads below his grade level and just hasn't caught on to reading. His Dad says he will read comic books as long as they're reading it together, but wants him to read things solo. (Tried Harry Potter, proved to be too challenging.) Nephew enjoys video games, Pokemon, and break-dancing. We were considering giving him a magazine subscription focusing one of those topics. Any recc's for books 1st/2nd graders love, or kid-oriented magazines that might prove irresistible to this kid?
posted by egeanin to Education (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He is the audience that Captain Underpants was written for. Franny K. Stein is another series that is heavy on illustration and really appealing to exactly that level of reader.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:38 PM on April 19 [7 favorites]

Our younger son has the same challenge. He's in French Immersion and, while it sounds odd (we live in Canada), English is his second language... for convenience we speak Japanese at home. He loves to read Japanese manga, specifically Doraemon, simply because the stories are interesting, and Doraemon typically "spells out" how the Chinese characters should be read.

So, Japanese is taken care of (he also attends weekly Japanese school), but that leaves French and English.

At the moment we're focusing on French reading. He's in Grade 2, and there is a structured reading program for all students. They have little "home reading " books they have to get through each week. The books increase in complexity throughout the year, and the students go through them at their own pace. What works best is just sitting down and spending 5-10 minutes before school reading them, and 5-10 minutes after dinner reading them.

But parental participation is key.

Since it's easier to get him to read in comic book format I have gone to the library to find French-language Garfield books. He likes them. The stories are simple and the jokes are pretty easy to understand (Peanuts goes way over his head at this age).

So maybe a Garfield treasury, in English, might work. Or some English-language Pokemon books.

I don't think a magazine subscription is such a good idea. The magazines will never get read. There is too much competition from TV screens and mobile devices.
posted by My Dad at 5:40 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

Our older son liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid, too.
posted by My Dad at 5:40 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Magic Treehouse series, and the Black Lagoon Adventures series are all great fun for kids that age.

Audiobooks were a huge motivator in getting my kid reading novels. We started listening to Harry Potter together, and by book 2 she was reading ahead to find out what would happen next. We also listen to it on long car trips and it keeps her entertained for hours.
posted by gnutron at 5:48 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Bone was a big hit with my son in 3rd grade - it's a graphic novel.

We also got him a kindle and his reading level shot up that summer because we let him read in bed, and since anything was preferable to going to sleep, he would read. Stick Dog was one of the first books he read solo.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:54 PM on April 19

Even my 3rd grader that loves to read won't dive into Harry Potter. I think that huge book is just too daunting looking.
My son likes to read encyclopedia type things. Does he have the pokemon guides? My son also loves to read video game wiki. We played minecraft and don't starve together as a family and he was the go to on person.
I would chose very small chapter books so he has a sense of accomplishment. Also the newer books that have lots of illustrations thrown in to keep it interesting (like the 13 story tree house series). Check out the branches series - Eerie elementary, notebook of doom. My son loved those.
posted by beccaj at 5:58 PM on April 19

My son is a fan of the Bunnicula series. They're pretty fun to read (I loved them when I was around the third grade, too).
posted by Happydaz at 5:58 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Jedi Academy was the book that my kid started out reading together and then loved so much he went ahead.

He also really liked Poptropica and Hilo, though they are cliffhanger series and not as satisfying.
posted by xo at 6:04 PM on April 19

My kids have aged out of them a long time ago, but the Cricket family of magazines were fantastic. There are different magazines based on reading level or subjects of interest, but they all seemed reliably good 8-10 years ago.
posted by LizardBreath at 6:11 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]

Maybe try an Encyclopedia Brown, a bit older but if it grabs him there's a trove.
posted by sammyo at 6:12 PM on April 19

Lunch lady graphic novel series is about 2nd grade reading level.
posted by aetg at 6:25 PM on April 19

Big Nate or the Middle School series. Diary of an 8bit cube warrior.

My boy is exactly the same. He's in Grade 4 now. He was reluctant reader but loved listening to audio books.

There's a graphic novel called "Red's Planet" which is what finally caught him. I regularly get library books and last summer I brought it home. He devoured it. And hasn't stopped. He isn't an super enthusiastic reader like his brother but he's already finished the two books the Easter Bunny brought.

Other things that help:
I made a mandatory 30 minute read every day. I always have 10-20 books out from library just for the kids.
Bookstores are too much pressure too pick one book to buy. Libraries are as many as you want and what kid can resist. "you can have any and as many as you want".

So read to your kid, make them read (absolutely anything... Just read), and actively keep a lot of choices in the house. Also I read.. Seeing parents read is really important
posted by Ftsqg at 6:26 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

Danny Dragonbreath. The 13-Story Treehouse. Both are comic-bookie while being actual books. And the 13-story treehouse is really funny.
posted by kerf at 6:28 PM on April 19

Your nephew sounds a lot like my nephew at that age. Seconding the Diary of a Wimpy Kid rec as well as suggesting the many Pokemon books out there -- my nephew got into the cataloging type books. If he's able to go online, perhaps he'd like to read about his favorite video games, find cheat codes, etc. That really motivated my nephew -- reading to find out information he was then going to use was a big deal for him.
posted by not that mimi at 6:46 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

These are a little old school, but my brother was a reluctant reader and loved the Great Brain books.
posted by Miko at 7:03 PM on April 19

So he reads at a 1st/2nd grade level? If so, a lot of the books suggested here are going to be too difficult for him. Captain Underpants books, for instance, are mostly 3rd-4th grade level. But some other books by the same author (Dav Pilkey) are a little easier. Try The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future, The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, or Dog Man.

I also highly recommend Killer Koalas from Outer Space by Andy Griffiths. It's a collection of short comics, stories and jokes with lots of pictures. I'd say it's pretty much the perfect choice for a reluctant 3rd grade reader.
posted by Redstart at 7:41 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

My younger daughter was also a slow reader, and much prefers non-fiction to fiction. She suggests the Garfield comic collections.

Also, one of the things that helped her to be a better reader was getting glasses. The story the eye doctor told was that she was a little far-sighted, so her eyes had to work really hard to resolve the letters, which made reading overly challenging. He gave her glasses that took the edge off the far-sightedness, and she's gotten a lot better at reading.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:29 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

I volunteer in a K-2 library, and the (new) librarian and I have been chatting for the last month or so about what the kids are actually reading.

HP is far too advanced for a new reader -- my kids read well above grade level, and didn't start reading HP until they were 10 or so (it's not even in the library). Captain Underpants is pretty much ignored by all but the most advanced 2nd graders.

Danny Dragonbreath is popular, and looks a lot like a comic book.
Tedd Arnold's Fly Guy is also pretty popular, especially with the boys.
DK Readers has an extensive catalog of books for new/expanding readers -- Star Wars, Superheroes, LEGO, etc; sorted by reading level (it's hard to browse the site - use the search bar and search"DK Readers L[x]", where x is 1-4).
The previous librarian bought a set of Minecraft books that were quite popular.
Many kids like The Magic Tree House books, but some don't.
He might like Geronimo Stilton, he might not. One kid liked him, the other bounced off.
Stink Moody is another kid's series.
posted by jlkr at 9:01 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]

Stick Dog. Notebook of Doom. The Littles. Early Magic Treehouse (the books get more challenging as the series goes along).
posted by ChristineSings at 11:35 PM on April 19

So he reads at a 1st/2nd grade level? If so, a lot of the books suggested here are going to be too difficult for him. Captain Underpants books, for instance, are mostly 3rd-4th grade level. But some other books by the same author (Dav Pilkey) are a little easier. Try The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future, The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, or Dog Man.

Yes! Listen to redstartman. Any reluctant reader.threads end up eith some wildly high level chapter books.

Also seconding Notebook of Doom, it is a Scholastic Branches series which ecplicitly designed for reluctant 2/3 readers.
posted by aetg at 3:47 AM on April 20

A lot of kids that age are not really going to read fiction from the middle-grade category. Things that are in the 5-8 year old range-- the "Chapter Books" section at a Barnes & Noble-- are probably more appropriate in terms of the number of words on the page and so forth. It is a bit of a challenge though to pick something that's the right reading level but does not appear babyish. There's an Inspector Flytrap series by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell; The Notebooks of Doom; Bad Kitty and My Weird School. Having a good amount of space on the page, and having some pictures, really seems to help more than having lower-level vocabulary.

I sell books to kids, and they are just as picky as adults. At a library or bookstore, an employee will often set them up with a stack of books to choose from.
posted by BibiRose at 5:38 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]

There's also a set of Pokemon Chapter Books which I think are awful, but I also think the Minecraft novels for kids are awful, and lots of kids devour them.
posted by BibiRose at 5:41 AM on April 20

nthng Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
posted by Elsie at 6:05 AM on April 20

Try non-fiction too. There are a lot of gross-out facts and fun facts books, sports facts...whatever his interests are. Put them in the car or bathroom. Also get him involved in the reading/writing work of the house...have him read the cook the instructions from a recipe or the side of a box, directions, flyers, etc. that way you increase their comfort zone and sometimes it takes off from there.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:40 AM on April 20

*The Fly Guy series by Todd Arnold
*Magic Treehouse
*Captain Underpants
*The Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel
*And if you can find them, though most likely you would have to buy these used, the Choose Your Own Adventure series.
posted by Crystal Fox at 7:21 AM on April 20

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