“Mom, do you think the goblins stole the flag?” my daughter said one night as we read the (kazillionth) book in the Rainbow Magic Fairies series. (Or thereabouts.)
If you haven’t read these books, let me explain something quickly– the goblins ALWAYS, in every book, are the bad guys.
I tried to act surprised, “Hmm, I don’t know. What do you think? What clues made you think it might be the goblins?”
Book series like this one, as mind-numbing as they might be for us adults, benefit kids. What kind of books do I mean? Books in a series where every book is set up in a similar way with the same main characters and a predictable plot. These are NOT book series with connecting plots. (No cliffhangers in these books.) Sure, there are a few books, like The Magic Tree House books, that do build upon a larger story yet ultimately can be read in any order and still be understood.
There are many important benefits when kids, especially beginning readers, read series books; books series like the ones I’ll list below.
But first, let’s first look at the reading benefits and how these books can give kids important boosts in reading skills…
Benefits of Reading Books in a Series
When young children reread (and reread and reread) familiar books like Brown, Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle many things are happening. One of those things is that kids know what to expect from the story. They’ve heard it so many times.
Reading predictable chapter books is akin to my favorite cop shows on television like Blue Bloods or NCIS. Every show is set up the same. Viewers know there will be a mystery which will be solved by the same favorite characters who are in every episode.
In a predictable chapter book, we have familiar characters and a familiar plot with only the conflict and the setting changing. Sort of like my cop shows. 🙂
Once readers get familiar with the structure of the Magic Tree House books, they will be very accurately able to predict what might happen: that Jack and Annie will travel somewhere in the past to fix a problem.
Reading more than one Magic Tree House book helps readers make and refine predictions of what will happen in the story. It’s easier than reading a completely new book because now kids already know several series givens — the main characters will always be the same and there will always be a problem back in time for them to solve. Will they predict what will happen? Hopefully, using the clues and background knowledge, like my daughter who predicted goblins, yes!
Children comprehend, or understand what they read, when they have support using thinking strategies including predicting, questioning, creating images, and seeking clarification. Reading books with the same characters and set-ups sets readers up for comprehension success. They’ll be better understand what’s happening in every subsequent book that they read. Each new book already fits into their background knowledge about the series. That helps comprehension.
The predictability takes away much of the plot sequence unknowns leading to improved fluency. Fluency is when kids are reading “quickly, accurately, and with proper expression” according to the National Reading Panel. Regie Routman adds to this definition that fluency must be paired with comprehension otherwise it’s just calling words. In Reading Essentials, she adds, “The best way to improve fluency is through repeated reading of familiar texts.” I agree and add predictable book series to her suggestion.
Who doesn’t want to feel like a good reader? Maybe even a great reader? I love watching this happen with children who devour a book series. Their confidence grows and grows. Because of the aforementioned reasons, they’re understanding, predicting, and gaining fluency in reading these books. Talk about growing in your feeling of competence!
Predictable (Beginning) Book Series to Consider
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
Rainbow Magic Fairies by Daisy Meadows
A to Z Mysteries by Rob Roy
Ranger in Time by Kate Messner
Amelia Bedelia (Young Amelia) by Herman Parish
Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
I Survived by Lauren Tarshis
Stink by Megan McDonald
Whatever After: Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
More Book Series Ideas:
And remember, it is all a phase — and it’s an important one. So if you’re like me and sick of reading a series that you think isn’t very well-written — let it go. It’s only a phase. And it’s an important one. But it will pass. And when it does, your child will have better literacy skills!
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