taking off

My younger daughter is beginning to read.

Technically, she’s been able to read for a couple years now, but I don’t count a child as “reading” until they’re zipping through chapter books for fun. And actually, by my standards, my daughter is not quite there just yet. But she’s getting close!

I recently noticed that, for the first time ever, she was actually reading the picture books we lugged home from the library. And then, for her daily reading, I assigned her the book The One and Only Ivan and she sank into the story.

As luck would have it, Ivan was a perfect starter book. It’s thick, so it feels important, but the line spacing is wide and the chapters are short. There are simple drawings to help the story along, and the writing is nuanced and compelling. Each day she’d read a chapter or two out loud to me before reading to herself for another 20 minutes or so. At one point, she put the book down and refused to read anymore because the story was too sad. I was thrilled that the story was affecting her so deeply—nothing screams reading comprehension success louder than falling into a funk because of a book—so I sat with her while she read the rough spots. Once over the hump, she sailed through to the end.

She enjoys the American Girl series, but they’re not quite fast-paced enough for her. Harry Potter is a little too taxing yet. Magic Tree House books (which I hate) are a huge hit. I can’t keep enough on hand. Right now we’re reading Flora and Ulysses out loud together—I read one page and she reads the next—but the vocabulary (obfuscation! malfeasance! surreptitious! etc) is above her level. In retrospect, it was not the best choice.

By conventional standards, my younger daughter is a fairly late reader, but because her elementary skills are due to a lack of interest rather than a lack of ability (her older sister’s situation was reversed), and because her desire to read is steadily increasing, I am completely at ease with letting her learn at her own level. Her process feels natural and organic. The only thing I’m struggling with is finding entertaining and well-written books that take into account both her (older) age and lower skill level. Ideas, anyone?

P.S. My younger son (age 9) is also starting to take off. He’s a couple steps behind my younger daughter, but he’s in love with the Magic Treehouse series (gah). His main problem is zero patience to sound anything out.

This same time, years previous: Sally Fallon’s pancakes, out and about, the quotidian (4.23.12), cauliflower potato soup, me and you, and the radishes, the perils of homemade chicken broth, and shoofly pie.  


  • Anonymous

    The book that made me a lifelong reader was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle – I found it in a nyc bookstore a few years ago, and when I picked it up and looked through it I realized I remembered it verbatim!

  • Stephanie @ The Cozy Old Farmhouse

    Nancy Drew always kept me entertained around that age. Also, there's a series of books, I think maybe they're called "Dear America" and they are historically based and are written from the standpoint of a young girl's diary who lived in that time period. They go all the way from the 1500's up to the 1950's or so. My daughter LOVES them and they well written and provide historical information for that time period as well as an engaging story line that holds their interest. I have even read a couple of them and enjoyed them myself. 🙂

  • jennifer

    Well, I'm not sure the level of writing is what you are looking for, but author Dan Gutman has a couple of series that my 7 yo and even 11 yo going. They are the My Weird School Daze books. He does have books for a little older– in fact that is where my 11 yo usually reads. But in a pinch, she too will pick these up and laugh out loud. Oh, have your kids read about Hank the Cow Dog? That's another one…..can't recall the author. My son would read those and laugh out loud also. I love books. So many other good suggestions in comments above!

  • Rosanna

    What about the Moomin books? Slender chapter books with great illustrations & strange adventures, gently eerie and wise. I think the first one is "Finn Family Moomintroll."

  • Kate B

    My 8 year old son just read The One and Only Ivan and loved it. I read it too (separately) so we could sit down and talk about all the discussion questions in the back. He chose that book to do his first ever book report on (Grade 2) so he's deeply into it again.

    Has your daughter read Ivy and Bean? I like those much better than Magic Tree House (though our house is full of those too) and they're about the same easy chapter book level.

  • Amy in Oregon

    The boxcar childrehelped get my son reading on his own and they are better then magic tree house or a-z mystery.

  • Anonymous

    She might be a little too old, but the Katie John series by Mary Calhoun were interesting books intended for girls from about a 4th to 6th grade level.

  • katherine

    Try Half Magic by Edward Eager. I also love the British Swallows and Amazons series, but it may not be fast paced enough. Is your daughter ready for The Westing Game or From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler?

  • Hazel Brown

    Clementine is a newish series that's really good, easy, and pretty much a tribute to Cleary. Clementine is in 3rd grade and very ADHD, creative, artistic, good kid. Love htem!

  • katie

    Beverly Cleary was the first thing that came to my mind. Also E.B. White. Would she like non-fiction. I remember devouring books about early american "heroes" when I was her age — Annie Oakley, Molly Pitcher, Kit Carson, etc. Don't have any recollection what the series was called.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I loved Cleary books, but she balks at them. I don't know if it's because she's familiar with many of the story lines (since I read so many of them out loud) or because they're not glamorous/magical/dangerous enough. She's forever picking up her older sibs young adult lit and trying to read it….

  • CGrace

    (It's I, Rebecca, 'cause Google won't let me sign out my daughter's account.) My kids loved Gone Away Lake, Return to Gone Away Lake, and The Melendys series by Elizabeth Enright. The latter has been re-released in paperback and if your library isn't too heavy handed about pitching old books (they were all written in the late 40's, early 50s) you should be able to find the Gone Away Lake books, too. Enright is genius at writing that sort of plot that features kids doing exciting things in a world bounded by benevolent but invisible adults. The Gone Away duo is about kids who find a deserted summer colony of decaying mansions. What could possibly be better?

  • Anonymous

    Second Beverly Cleary, especially on audio. Also, Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck and Invention of Hugo Cabret might work along the same lines – thick books, but every other page is an illustration (and such illustrations!).

  • Margo

    Ben adores Magic Treehouse and I absolutely loathe them and I have struggled to explain that to the kids.

    Ben is devouring Beverly Cleary books. I'd recommend anything by Dick King-Smith because his writing is clear but the humor is a step above regular kids' books. _George Speaks_ is especially hilarious, even the adults think so.

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