Ramona, Peter and Fudge, Laura Ingalls, Encyclopedia Brown
These were some of the friends of my elementary years found waiting on the shelves of my school library.
Jessica and Elizabeth, Heaven, the Dollanganger children
My middle school compatriots found in the books borrowed from my best friend Wendy who lived just down the street.
Stephanie Plum, Becky Bloomwood, Bridget Jones, Alex Cross
Some of the fun reading I enjoy these days when I put aside my more “respectable” grown up reading.
As I reflect upon my own reading life as a younger reader I am struck by how series books helped to shape me both as the person and the reader that I still am today. I remember laughing and crying along with Ramona, being frustrated with Fudge, worried about Laura, and being in awe of Encyclopedia Brown’s smarts. I got to know Elizabeth as a kind and loyal sister. I realized that while Jessica may be fun and popular, she was not the kind of friend I could rely upon in own life. Heaven’s life read like a soap opera and I mourned the loss of her family and the death of beloved brother right alongside her. From the Dollanger children I understood that sometimes you were your own best resource when dealing with the unfairness and vagaries of life. (And that you will be shocked and surprised by the things that some people say and do behind closed doors. Am I right?)
But, I guess that is the point, isn’t it?
” A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen.
The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R.R. Martin
While I did have a few close and cherished friends, as a young person I was a shy and introverted girl, not so very different from now, actually. Books with familiar characters were exciting; my passport into new adventures, relationships, and dreams as well as lots (and lots) of drama. These stories took me beyond my own little house, in my little town, located within a great big metropolis that I didn’t even realize existed a mere twenty miles away.
I became a Reader in spite of being surrounded by the mostly apathetic readers who make up my immediate family. Through the eyes of these characters I traveled to far off places like New York and the harsh, unforgiving frontier. I lived lives of poverty and opulence. I solved mysteries, had a big family, negotiated complicated relationships, and experienced what it might be like to have an identical twin sister. I overcame great obstacles, learned perseverance, found humor in the absurd, and learned to appreciate the beauty and peace of quiet evenings spent reading.
Series book reading led me to favorite authors and genres. I find that I am still much the same kind of reader today. I tend to read within certain genres for pleasure and am thrilled when a favored author pops up as a brand new book suggestion on my Kindle list. For professional reading, I find that I usually study the work of educators I have come to respect and know well through their writing or within certain topics as I grow my own knowledge and craft.
This leads me to wonder and reflect, how do and how can series books support our own youngsters as they grow into life-long readers?
Junie B. Jones, Henry and Mudge, Jack and Annie, Biscuit, Amber Brown, Clifford, Harry Potter, The Babysitter’s Club, Horrible Harry, Time Warp Trio, Frog and Toad, Corduroy, Peter, George and Harold, Poppleton, Cam Jansen, Arthur, Alexander, Franklin, the Berenstain Bears, Trixie and her beloved Knuffle Bunny
These are the newest companions scavenged for, bartered, bought, inherited, and shared with my own students in my years as a second, then third, then first grade teacher. Stars of their own series of books, these were often the most squabbled over by the children who were making a few new friends of their own between those pages. Discovery of new series titles in our library often led to some of the most engaged and sustained reading that would happen all year long.
So, as we are helping readers to build their own reading lives, I find this is a bit of wisdom still rings true…
“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make
reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”
… and series books are one great way to help kids fall in love with reading!
What were some of your good (or bad) experiences that helped to shape your life as a reader? What were some of your most favorite books, characters, and authors? What lessons have you learned from those experiences and applied as you guide children along their own journeys as lifelong readers? What grown up reading do you enjoy, whether for professional growth or for fun?
Please comment below to add your thinking and help to continue the conversation.