Most of us have memories of a series that we loved. When I was a child, I was hooked on Nancy Drew mysteries. My grandmother had every one of the mysteries in her attic. Each Sunday when we visited my grandmother, I would go up to the attic to pick up a new Nancy Drew book for the week.
The thrill of finding a series that hooks you is addicting. When I go to our local bookstore, I am always amazed at the number of series for adult readers. The new book in a favorite series is always welcome, no matter the age of the reader. Reading about characters we love in familiar settings, with plots that we can predict, is comforting at any age.
As teachers, early series books are often difficult for us to appreciate. These books are written specifically for young children, and the humor does not always match our own. We might want to rush kids beyond series books so that they can get to the books we love. But we also know that becoming "hooked" on a series in the middle elementary grades can be the thing that turns a child into a lifelong reader. We cannot negate the value of these books.
As I moved from a 5th grade classroom to a classroom of 3rd and 4th graders years ago, I knew that I would have more transitional readers in my classroom. Several students in my class were excited that they could now read chapter books, but needed support.
If our kids read books that are too complex, they start assuming that reading is always a challenge. As my students began to move into reading chapter books as part of their independent reading, I was always on the lookout for new series and books for reader who are new to chapter books. Here are some of my favorite finds for transitional readers:
Babymouse by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
This is a terrific series of graphic novels featuring a female character. It is full of humor and the graphic effects make it a hit with boys and girls. This series was the first to hook me into graphic novels.
Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows
This is a series about two girls who become best friends. They are very different from each other but are always getting into some kind of trouble.
Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Boy by Megan McDonald
Stink is Judy Moody's brother. If you like Judy Moody, you will also enjoy Stink. The text is a bit easier than the Judy Moody books, and it is a perfect length for transitional readers.
Shredderman by Wendelin Van Draanen
Shredderman is a series that is loved by readers new to chapter books as well as more independent readers. You can't help but love the character in this series who creates a new identity for himself on the Internet-one to combat bullying.
Geronimo Stilton by Geronimo Stilton
Although these books have sophisticated humor, the text is easy to read. It is almost a rhebus in form so it is good for readers who are intimidated by too much text on a page. The pictures and the variety of fonts break up the text in creative ways — it's a colorful and engaging read.
Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
I like these books, and not necessarily for students new to chapter books. Each book in the series is big and fat BUT they have large print. For readers who are dying to read a fat book like Harry Potter, this is a much better choice. The publisher has done a fine job of creating a series that is accessible to readers wanting to move to longer chapter books.
Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite authors. This series is about a feisty pig and his adventures. The humor is fun and there are lots of colorful pictures for readers new to chapter books.
Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
This is a favorite among chapter book readers of all ages. This series is about a group of siblings who moves to a home with fairies, goblins and more. It is a terrific series for beginning fantasy readers. There is a companion book to this series that is quite enjoyable — Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You which gives information about all of the creatures in the books.
Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler
Henry Winkler ("The Fonz") has done a fantastic job with these books. He has created a character to love and put him in situations that kids can relate to easily. This is a series that is especially popular with boy readers.