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April 19, 2013 A Book for Every Reader By Meghan Everette
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    I felt a great connection to the first set of 4th graders I ever worked with. I was not even a true “student teacher” and was only there to observe the class of thirty 9-year-olds. In retrospect, I probably didn’t do much or matter to the teacher too terribly, but I did observe. There was a boy I wanted to adopt, a brilliant and well-rounded little girl, a class clown, and all the usual suspects you see each year.

    I wanted to show them I knew them as individuals and so I scoured the thrift stores and library sales to get a book for each child — something I thought they would be interested in and around their reading level. I wrote each student a personal note about why I picked the book for them. When they got the books, they got out of their seats and bear-hugged me. A couple of the students even wrote me letters over the summer to tell me about their books. It was one of the best teaching experiences I’ve ever had.

    Each year, I try to guide students to picking books they will love. It can be a challenge to get some students to read outside of their comfort zone, while others hear they should read something tougher and jump way above the right level for them. As a springtime treat, I go back to that first observation and match students to books. Some of my students have never received a book as a gift, or never had someone pick something special for their interests. So this ritual is fun for me and for them.

    Books don’t have to cost a ton. Look out for Scholastic Warehouse Sales, where some titles can be had for a dollar. Our public library holds sales and has a little store for selling donated books for as little as a dime each.

    Even if you don’t purchase books for them, knowing your kids can help you guide them in making successful library choices instead of picking the same old thing each time.

    Here is a quick look at who is in my classroom and the books that suit each of my kids. I’m sure you’ll see some familiar personalities.

      The Student The Books

    Magic Tree House Nonfiction

    The Almanac
    This kid can be seen pouring over the Guinness Book of World Records or Sports Facts any free moment. She likes knowing random trivia and being the “smart one.”

    Try some nonfiction books that have more of a literary feel than straight facts. The nonfiction companions to the Magic Tree House series are at higher reading levels and packed with information.  Also try the history-rich Time Warp Trio or A Wicked History series for your top readers.


    Steady and Silent
    This is my consistent reader. This kid is not my best student, nor my worst. He is an average reader with no real excitement. I never have to worry about behavior, but sometimes I wonder if he is in there!

    Action and adventure might get this reader’s blood pumping. Try Hatchet or Holes for relatable kids in interesting situations. Number the Stars might spark an interest, even among the boys.

    Hugo Cabret

    Big Book Wannabe
    This reader is pretty good, but he wants to be great. He gets the fattest book he can find, but doesn’t always have the stamina or attention to reach the end.

    Hugo Cabret might be the largest novel with the most pictures out there. A great story, but having a good number of pictures helps this reader. Wonderstruck is written in the same fashion, while Big Nate has a fun and large look.

    Junie B. Jones

    Girly Girl,  Part 1
    Into bells, bows, and anything pink, this girly girl reads at a lower level.

    Once Pinkalicious or Eloise have been done, move into short girls' books like Junie B. Jones. If you can’t stand her slang, introduce Ramona to a new generation, dive into American Girls, or tackle Sally Jean Bicycle Queen.


    Dear Dumb Diary

    Girly Girl, Part 2
    Gossip and boy troubles, Girly Girl 2 is more mature and a stronger reader.

    The Dear Dumb Diary series and the Dork Diaries keep girls interested without being too mature for 10-year-olds. The fun covers make them interesting and defiantly girly. Take it up a notch with Not All Princesses Dress in Pink.


    A Year Down Yonder

    Not-So-Girly Girl
    This reader is in it for the story, not the pearls and tiaras. She needs more of a novel than what shorter, cutesy books provide.

    A Year Down Yonder offers a female main character and love interest without being too old for young girls. How to be Popular and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. are classics and Down the Rabbit Hole puts a new spin on an old classic.


    The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

    Super Creative
    This boy is all about the arts. His paintings are likely to be worth millions and the opportunity to be creative is the one thing that drives him.

    Engage the creative mind with a story about a world lacking creativity: The Giver. Too tough? Use stories that feature artists in unique ways, such as Caldecott winner The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Depending on their interests, Getting to Know the World’s Great Artists series might get creative juices flowing.


    Captain Underpants

    Short Attention Span
    A bright child, but this kid needs a seatbelt! He’d like to read the big, long books for the stories, but he just can’t focus that long!

    Books that jump around in the story might help keep bouncy readers satisfied. The Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid  series offer many side plots and brain breaks. The Choose Your Own Adventure series helps readers by encouraging them to be an active part of the story.


    Sideways Stories from Wayside School

    The Oddball
    No one wants to say a child is the odd man out, but sometimes the kid is truly quirky. This girl is goofy all day long, but a good reader.

    Draw in this reader with stories as wacky as she is. Sideways Stories from Wayside School has short and funny chapters. Weird Science books come with world oddities to delight your oddball. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark offers a darker side of strange.


    Franny K. Stein

    Easy Road
    His thinking is, as long as he is quiet, he can get by. This sweet struggler doesn’t want to push outside a low reading level.

    Short and fun chapter books are the way to increase reading levels while not being too threatening. Franny K. Stein, My Weird School, and the Flat Stanley series are all good choices. Short but funny chapter books like Freckle Juice are a fun way to get out of picture books.


    The Whipping Boy

    Picture Book King
    This child can probably read and understand almost anything, but he chooses not to. Math is more his subject and he doesn’t like to waste effort on reading.

    Able readers sometimes don’t like the challenge of a novel. Challenge their brains with shorter books that are still high levels. The Whipping Boy, at only about 100 pages long, is a good example. Stone Fox can be read in one sitting, but is an engaging novel.



    Biographies Only
    Reading nonfiction on an average level, this child is only interested in biographies. While nonfiction is great, you want to offer variety for that spice of life!

    Suggest historical fiction or novels with real people in fiction situations. Kickoff!, the Ronde and Tiki Barber story, is a great example. Books by Matthew Christopher can satisfy a sports nut, while Who Can Open Michelangelo’s Seven Seals? keeps readers looking forward to opening the next secret.


    The Black Lagoon

    Baby Books, Please
    These students are strugglers on grade level text, so they stay in the lower picture books where they feel secure. They can’t make a big jump, but need something to drive them at a slightly higher level

    A couple of my students stall out with familiar picture books and are not interested in going for a full-on novel. Sometimes introducing chapter books through recognized characters works well. The Black Lagoon series has early chapter books, as does the Magic School Bus. Students feel secure with the characters and can handle a little longer, tougher text.


    Artemis Fowl

    High Fiction
    She has read Harry Potter straight through, finished The Hunger Games books, and even tried a Twilight. Living in fantasy, this student could read anything, but sticks to broomsticks and vampires.

    Don’t you love these kids? Keep their imaginations soaring with classics like the Wizard of Oz series, which has 13 books for even the most prolific reader. Other great choices include Artemis Fowl, the Narnia series, and The Dark Is Rising.

    Percy Jackson

    Series, Series, Series
    This skilled reader picks just-right and higher-level chapter books, but prefers to read a series. He’s a great reader, but still wants a “kid” story.

    The Percy Jackson series is a perfect pick. City of Ember and even 39 Clues will give this guy plenty to read. Alex Rider is a popular, but slightly older, series, and the Sisters Grimm is one of the top checked-out series in my classroom, especially among kids just looking for really great young adult literature.


    Frog and Toad


    Don’t Call Me Dumb
    Willing to read, but just not quite there. These students want to be like everyone else, not reading “baby” books, but struggle to find interesting text on their low level.

    Transitional chapter books are perfect for this reader. Books like Mercy Watson and Frog and Toad don’t “look” like starter books from the cover, but are great for readers who have mastered sight words, but aren’t quite ready to battle higher level texts.

    Every class and every kid is different. Getting to know your students is critical to helping pick out the right book. Use helpful online resources, like Book Wizard, to find books similar to favorite titles at the right reading level. Organize your class library by theme or series. And most importantly, talk to your students about what they are reading independently.


    What personalities are in your classroom and what books solve their reading needs? What books did I miss?


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Susan Cheyney