In third grade, I met a new friend–a friend who would change my life! Her name was Nancy Drew. From the time I opened the first book in this series, I was swept up into Nancy’s world of adventure, mystery and even romance. Book after book, I happily journeyed with Nancy, her two best girlfriends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, along with Ned Nickerson, Nancy’s tall, handsome, boyfriend. This classic book series gave me my first taste of “losing myself in a book”. This series led me to explore many other popular book series of the day.
When I met Cherry Ames and Judy Barton, I learned about the world of medicine and often imagined myself wearing the crisp, white uniform of a nurse.
The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Lovelace Hart, took me to small town America at the turn of the century and helped me understand the value of close friends. The Ingalls family inspired me with their courage, independence and ingenuity as I traveled West right along with them in the series of Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.These were just a few of the book series that cast a spell and worked their magic, ultimately transforming me into a lifelong reader. My experience is not unique. Countless times in my teaching career, I saw reluctant readers transformed into avid readers once they discovered a series of books they enjoyed. At first, it does seem like magic, but when we peek behind the curtain, we can readily see the common factors which create that magical result…
The Familiarity Factor
By the second book in a series, the reader is familiar with the main characters, the setting and the author’s style of writing. Even if the books are not part of a sequential series of books, readers already understand how the books are structured and have a sense of what to expect.
This familiarity factor provides confidence, frees up a reader’s working memory and enables them to more easily read and comprehend the text. It’s like visiting someone’s home for the second or third time. You feel grounded, you’re more at ease, you know where things are and what to expect, so you can relax and enjoy the visit more each time.
Once hooked on a series, kids tend to readily pick up the next book, eliminating wasted time deciding on what to read next and providing the motivation to keep going. This equates to an increase in reading volume, which is a very big deal for youngsters who have trouble getting into a book. Research repeatedly proves the power of reading volume. The more kids read, the better their chances of academic success.
Reluctant readers of any age, need a boost of confidence. For the reluctant reader, the ability to read, enjoy, comprehend and complete several books in a timely manner, can be just the boost they need to spur them on. Encouraging kids to delve into a new series of books may provide the key that opens the door to reading and enables them to see themselves as “readers”.
Entrance into the Community of Readers
Typically, certain book series become popular among members of a class. When a youngster reads books in the series, he gains entrance into this community of readers. In addition to being a solitary experience, reading becomes a social experience. The characters and plot provide fodder for discussion, book swaps and even role play as kids join together to extend the reading experience. Enjoying a book series with family, friends or classmates can lure the most reluctant reader into a life of literacy.
Reading several or all books in a series creates a memorable experience. Over time, the reader becomes deeply engaged with the characters and genuinely interested in their lives. Several years ago, I happened upon a Betsy-Tacy book. Immediately, I was transported back to my childhood. I felt like I had run into an old friend and hurriedly purchased the book so I could become reconnected with my pals. I’m sure many of you understand exactly what I mean. I’m sure many of you would lke to recreate those pleasureable reading experiences for your own kids. What are you waiting for? Check out some book series suggestions that I’ll share on Wednesday and Friday, check back in your own mind for those special books you can now share with your kids, and check in here to share your own treasured series with others.