Books Your Kids Will Like More Than Television

Catherine Crawford

I remember the exact moment I became aware that my kid was a reader. We were driving down the California coast over this past summer, and my sister gave my 6-year-old a Magic Tree House book. For nearly two hours I didn’t hear a peep out of my daughter, until she happily announced, “I finished it! Can I have another?”

Since then, she’s been going through the series solo in light speed. In fact, recently she finished one and I wasn’t prepared with the next installment on hand. My girl was jonesing so hard for the next book that I downloaded it onto my Kindle (who knew?). My husband was horrified that our baby was reading from a screen, but I was a bit proud. There are many things that my kids beg for and I laugh them out of the room, but when they plead for chapter books, I usually acquiesce.

Now that my daughter is done with the first Magic Tree House series, they’ve just launched She’s reliving the glory (again on a computer, much to my husband’s dismay), and I am happy to report that the site is pretty spiffy.

Still, memories of Jack and Annie certainly aren’t enough to satisfy this little bookworm, and we’ve tried many other chapter books for her. It’s a tricky business finding the middle ground between books that aren’t not too young (“babyish” my daughter might say with a sneer), and those that go over her head, have inappropriate themes for a 1st grader, or contain complicated language that only frustrates the budding apprentice.

So I did some research and here are my five favorite series books for new voracious readers.

1. Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne

The truth is, before I knew my daughter could read these books on her own, I read one or two of them to her -- and, well, I kind of got a little bored. Still, I LOVE these books. They are harmless, fueled by history, and they are what got my child hooked on reading. Also, they are big enough to feel like a chapter book, but short enough that a 6-year-old can get through them. Perfect for little, growing self-esteems.

2. Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Written in the 1940s, these books seem to have everything kids love, with the added bonus that kids who love to read can handle them. They are funny, weird, and completely imaginative.

3. Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen

At first glance, these books might appear to be of the regular ol’ picture book variety, but there’s much more to them. The books are about science and they feature the wacky and wonderful elementary school teacher, Ms. Frizzle. Filled with accessible information, they are still kind of a bear if your kid asks you to read them aloud, but they are great for any little scholar to get lost in.

4. Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary

I was a little sad when my daughter opted to read Ramona the Pest to herself rather than have me read it in installments at bedtime. I heart Ramona. Word of warning, though -- keep an eye on Ramona and Her Father. My daughter had a lot of questions about unemployment and nicotine addiction after that one.

5. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Okay, so this one is a bit of a wild card. As you may guess with a name like Captain Underpants, these books rely on a big pile of potty humor. They are silly and stupid, but I find them benign and my daughter thinks they are the funniest things ever printed. She’d much rather read Captain Underpants than watch television, which is saying a lot in my house.

A couple of honorable mentions that I want to put on the list, but at this point they don’t belong. My girl had been reading a lot of Roald Dahl, but she’s announced that, after BFG, she wants to shelve the rest. For her, the thought of a gaggle of giants who steal children while they are sleeping and eat them was a bit much to take. Fair enough. Similarly, we tried to dig into Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but as it turns out, my kid isn’t ready for long descriptions of curing meat. Maybe when she’s in second grade. Live and learn. 

What books are your young readers reading?

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