Summertime is the perfect time to read for fun. And as die hard followers of Game of Thrones, 21, Parenthood, (and maybe even MLP: Friendship Is Magic) know, nothing is more fun – and addictive – than a series!
Summer is a great time to introduce a new series of books to your child. It’s so great to throw a few books into the suitcase or beach bag for travel times and “I’m bored” moments, knowing that your kids will like them. It’s even better to hear your child’s feet come pounding down the stairs as he shouts “Mom, can you take me to the book store? I’m done with number five and I HAVE to get number 6!”
Maybe it’s time to pick a series to read together as a family – long summer evenings are a great time to hang out by the fire pit or on the front porch swing, working your way through chapter after chapter of stories together.
When choosing a series for your child to read alone, think about a few things
- what kind of stories does he enjoy? action/adventure? friendship? humor?
- what format is most comfortable and fun for your child: graphic novels? illustrated chapter books? traditional format? e-books?
- what activities does your child enjoy/enjoy learning about? animals? sports? art?
- how many books are in the series? If your child is a quick reader, but the author has only 2 books out so far, will she be disappointed? If your child reads slowly and infrequently, will completing a long series seem too daunting?
Now, let’s get down to choosing. I won’t talk about the super-well-known series like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Magic TreeHouse here – there’s plenty to be found about these elsewhere. Here’s some great series you may not know as well.
The Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant is perfect for kids just finishing kindergarten or 1st grade and looking for books with short (3-4 page) chapters, lots of colorful illustrations and plenty of white space on every page. Henry’s big dog Mudge is slobbery, friendly, and fun – and their adventures are homey and relatable.
Perfect as a read-aloud series for kids 4 and up, or for kids entering 1st-3rd grade to read independently, the Mercy Watson series by popular author Kate DiCamillo features the adventures of the eponymous pet pig Mercy and her family. The books are beautifully and colorfully illustrated, laugh-inducing, and full of characters that kids will love.
For second to 4th grade girls, There is no end of magical princess-y fairy-filled series, like Magic Puppy, Rescue Princesses, and the Rainbow Fairies. My girls read all of these, and their glittery covers really draw kids in. They are good, fun series. For a step away from the glitter, though, nothing can beat the Clementine series by Marla Frazee.
Clementine herself is an imaginative, artistic, and precocious 9-year-old. The series is funny, heart-warming, and fast-moving. My daughters love the scrapes Clementine gets into – and the energetic black-and-white illustrations. I am touched by the picture the books draw of a family that is unconditionally loving and that constantly encourages Clementine to be her best self. Clementine may just be the Ramona Quimby of the new generation.
While boys in 2nd-4th grade will also like Clementine, they may prefer to carry a book that looks tougher when heading to the park or the beach. Or maybe just more disgusting. Or both, if possible.
The Rotten School series by R.L. Stine (yes, the Goosebumps author!) fits the bill perfectly. With titles like The Great Blueberry Barf-Off and The Smelling Bee, fans of Captain Underpants will be hooked in a minute. For something parents won’t roll their eyes at, try Mike Lupica’s Comeback Kids series, featuring main characters playing a variety of sports and handling the pressures of sports and life.
Kids entering 4th-6th grade have a lot of series options to choose from these days. But be wary, some books that look perfect for these age groups contain topics that they may not be ready for – from violence to sexy stuff, to topics that can be confusing and frightening like homelessness, divorce and death. Be sure to talk with your kids about what they are reading, and take some time to know about the content of their favorite books. Some great series for kids at this age include:
The 39 Clues: beyond a series and becoming a phenomenon, these books are fast-paced, exciting, and well-written. If I had time, I’d be addicted to them myself! Kids who love adventure, mysteries, conspiracies, and quirky characters will not be able to put these down.
The My Very UnFairyTale Life series by Anna Staniszewski features a feisty, funny, and adventurous heroine who – despite many misadventures – usually comes out on top. Girls are going to love following Jenny and her sort-of-helpful gnome guide as they travel from world to world, helping the unlucky, the mistreated, and even the kind-of-dumb.
You may think The Origami Yoda series is more style than substance – but you’d be wrong. This series is great for kids of either gender. The books have great tween voices and plot lines that really resonate with 5th and 6th graders. It is fun, funny, and insightful – and of course, teaches you to do some origami.
Now, if you are looking for a series to hook your middle-schooler on reading, I’ll be the first to tell you to take them to the bookstore with you. (If they can stand to be in your presence for more than 5 minutes.) I’m sure that everything you suggest will be wrong – so bring one of their friends along and go enjoy a latte while they roll their eyes but secretly get excited about these awesome series.
The Clique series is 10-books strong and full of all the popularity, fitting-in, standing out and back-stabbing drama a middle school girl can dream of. If she’s too young for Gossip Girl, she’s probably ready for The Clique.
If you can’t stand the fashion and the in-fighting, try a different kind of school drama. The Gallagher Girls series follows the girls of Gallagher Academy – which claims to be a school for geniuses -but is actually training spies! Lots of adventure and strong female characters make this series spectacular!
Short-attention spans are no problem for the Guys Read series – collections of short stories from classic to contemporary chosen to appeal to middle school boys.
I admit it. I read this review on goodreads and had to run out to get The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver. “Six thousand years ago. Evil stalks the land. Only twelve-year-old Torak and his wolf-cub companion can defeat it. Their journey together takes them through deep forests, across giant glaciers, and into dangers they never imagined. In this page-turning, original, and spectacularly told adventure story, Torak and Wolf are joined by an incredible cast of characters as they battle to save their world.”
This is one of those series you will find your kids reading with a flashlight well into the night all summer long.
Tell me, what series are your kids (or you) excited about this summer? I can’t wait to hear from you!