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Book Series That Will Help Children To Become Lifelong Readers

Hooking children into reading a series of books is a great way to promote a love of literature that becomes a lifelong habit, says Rachel Clarke...

  • Book Series That Will Help Children To Become Lifelong Readers
  • Book Series That Will Help Children To Become Lifelong Readers

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As the final credits roll, we exhale deeply and turn to each other. “Oh my goodness! What are we going to do now?” It’s the end of another one of those late night box-set binges. You know the feeling: the final episode comedown and the search for a new serial-fix to fill the void left by a completed Netflix blockbuster.

I’ve watched most of the big ones, have waxed lyrical about the characterisation and narrative pace of several, and of course adopted the knowing superiority of ‘one who has read all of the books’ for that one with dragons and the high head count. I am a serial offender.

Like many people who consider themselves a reader, my addiction to stories told in series precedes the phenomenon that is the digital box-set. Since childhood I’ve committed myself to tales that run and run.

Not counting repeats, I made seven visits to Narnia and three to the Enchanted Wood. As an adult, I’ve followed the uplifting exploits of Precious Ramotswe (The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency) and the contrastingly dark Scandi-noir adventures of Harry Hole.

And I’m not the only adult who does it. Stacked on the shelves of my local bookshop are piles of Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels, Philippa Gregory’s historical serials, and the works of Victorian serialisation pioneer, Charles Dickens.

Who’d have thought you could create a chain from The Pickwick Papers to Breaking Bad?

Box-sets (or stories in series as we should properly call them) can be a great way to introduce children to reading, hopefully making them readers for life. So, when setting up a school library or class book corner, it’s always a good idea to include stories in series. Here are just a few reasons why…

Old familiar

Storybook characters are fictional friends and it’s rather comforting to check-in on them from time to time. What’s more, being in the company of friends is easy. You don’t need to work hard at building rapport, as you’ve already been through life’s adventures together.

Confidence stems from familiarity; meaning that books in series provide a safety net for reluctant readers. Pointing them in the direction of a good set of stories frequently gives these children the confidence to continue with the rest of the series.

A need to succeed

Whether it’s the boys, girls or both, there are very few classes without a competitive contingent. Foster this ‘need to succeed’ by getting them hooked on a box set. You only need to read the first instalment, point them in the direction of the rest of the serialisation and they will soon begin competing to see who can complete the set first.

Collector’s item

Children also like building collections. Publishers know this, which is why they produce series such as Beast Quest and The Rainbow Fairies. If you can hook your children into a great reading box-set, they’ll soon be saving their pocket money to add to their collection. So, if you run a school bookshop make sure it’s stocked with books in series at pocket-money prices.

Comic relief

We’re all different as readers: some of us struggle to find the time for reading and seek quick, easy-access texts. Bearing this in mind, not all children want to work their way through a reading box set, which is where comics can play a role.

Not so long ago my then 11-year-old daughter told me that Friday was her favourite day because it was when her Phoenix story comic arrived. She’d never been a reader of great stamina but she was fully committed to her weekly comic instalments.

She went on to achieve a Level 5 in her reading SAT, showing just how valuable comic-book stories can be to children who don’t choose to read longer texts.

Character study

While thinking about the merits of books in series, it is also worth thinking about stories featuring well-loved characters such as Kipper the dog, Percy the Park Keeper and Horrid Henry.

These don’t need to be read in order, but just like their sequential cousins they reward readers with familiar characters, settings and stories.

Read and write

The best writing comes from experience. So immersing children in several stories about the same characters supports their own narrative writing. Once children know the characters well, they can easily plan and write new adventures by changing the setting and events.

Some books in series

Many children struggle to choose books because they don’t know what they’ll like. This is another advantage of hooking them on a series, because once they’re in there, they’ll stay for a while. If you’re looking for ways to make your class serial offenders, here are some of my recommendations:

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

Written in 1908, this is children’s storytelling at its best. As older literature it provides sufficient linguistic challenge for the most able readers without straying into content that is unsuitable for Y5 and Y6 eyes. The girls will love these. Great for children who like history, strong female characters and romance.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Another set of stories aimed at the able readers in upper Key Stage 2. These are epic fantasy novels with talking animals, battles and monsters. Perfect for those who are desperate to read popular grown-up fantasy and it’s suitable for boys and girls alike. It’s also a natural progression from Beast Quest and a great stepping stone towards Middle Earth and Discworld.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Always popular with confident readers in KS2. These intelligent books appeal to children who enjoy a good story.

The Julian Stories by Ann Cameron

Short stories with great characters that are ideal for newly independent readers in lower KS2. I’ve used these many times for writing stories based in familiar settings.

Precious Ramotswe stories by Alexander McCall Smith

A set of tales about his famous detective when she was a girl. These are fabulous for using as models for writing mystery stories and great reads for newly independent readers in lower KS2. A good alternative to Enid Blyton for lovers of crime fiction and a strong female role model.

Little Nose by John Grant

These stories are experiencing a resurgence in popularity since the introduction of the new national curriculum. Not only are they great for writing stories set in the Stone Age but they are short, enjoyable and suitable for children gaining reading independence in lower Key Stage 2.

Percy the Park Keeper by Nick Butterworth

Gorgeous stories full of familiar characters which lend themselves well to writing in KS1.

Bob stories by Simon Bartram

Popular with children and teachers alike, these are particularly good stories for boys and for topics about space. Perfect in KS1.

Paddington by Michael Bond

The adventures of this bear from Peru have always been popular and have enjoyed a resurgence since the release of the Paddington movie. A really useful addition to the class library in KS1 and whenever you’re learning about London.

Ottoline stories by Chris Riddell

The children’s laureate has created a hugely entertaining and unconventional series featuring Ottoline. These books are a visual and linguistic treat giving them wide appeal to all types of reader in KS2. Particularly appealing to those children who love comics and graphic novels, Ottoline offers an alternative female role-model to those portrayed in the Rainbow Magic series.

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