Historically, girls like to read more than boys and are 1 1/2 to 2 years ahead of them in reading skills. From my experience, the NUMBER ONE overall best series for girls that was read by my students from elementary to high school was the Jake Maddox sports series.
You will notice that these stories are about many different sports that your daughter may participate in or they might be sports she has been thinking about joining. Whatever the appeal, the girls loved, loved, loved these books. As I often say, be wary of Lexile levels (reading levels) of books within a series. You can check the Lexile number with the grade level to the right. However, these are suggested levels for the average good reader in that grade.
This book, Cheer Choice, is the one that “hooked” my struggling 9th grade girl, Eve, who became my success story – for our fledgling reading program and, personally for me, because she tried so hard and wanted so badly to become a better reader.
One of the biggest problems for struggling and reluctant readers is that most books that appeal to them are too long. Well meaning teachers may suggest shorter books but they are often too “babyish” for the kids. This puts them off even more and the cycle continues. In order to get better at anything – even reading – you need to practice and practice a lot. Our reading program allows weekly independent reading time. I make suggestions for titles that are in my classroom library that I think kids might like. And, believe me, I search long and hard for books, magazines, and stories of all sizes and on all topics to try to entice my students to give it a go.
I usually start the year off by hosting a “Book Tasting” session. I place piles of books of different genres and levels on five clusters of tables around the room. One table contains high-quality, high leveled picture books none of which are over 40 pages long. The kids fill out a “Menu” as they “taste” books on that table. They read a random page and look at the title, cover, words they don’t know, etc. and rate the book as to whether or not it might appeal to them. A bell rings every five minutes and the kids rotate around to the other tables. By the end of the period, the students have “tasted” 5-10 books and have a list of the ones they might like to try. We share our finds with the whole group at the end. Eve was on the Cheer squad so she chose Cheer Choice. She finished it and then chose Volleyball Victory and then she asked to take Softball Surprise home to read. I spoke with her English teacher so she would get credit for reading “lower” books for extra credit. Second quarter progress test, she improved. Of course, during this time, we had daily reading skill lessons and read together to practice skills from our program’s book.
I was very fortunate to be the recipient of a very large amount of money to spend on books through a grant the district was awarded. I let the kids help me choose some wonderful titles. Opening the boxes in January was like another Christmas present and the kids helped me sort, organize, and put them in baskets according to their Lexile levels. Which kids were the most excited – the kids in the high school!
Eve, as well as the other students, really liked the stories about hero dogs like the one above. It is hard to eliminate the stigma of reading a picture book but kids – at all levels – were drawn to them and were reading them in the privacy of my Reading Room. When Eve spotted a large book, Thunder, the hero guide dog of 9/11, she said her mother had that book at home and she wanted to borrow it. It was not rated for a Lexile level, but I would never tell a child they could not read a book they loved. I suggested she read it along with her mother and I e-mailed Mom who was thrilled.
Students entering the 9th grade should be able to read books with a Lexile level of about 1,000. Eve started with a 548. Quarter three, her reading test was up to the middle 900s. She was still reading the Jake Maddox books but was now reading this 256 page book with her mother – they even watched an interview with the man who was visually impaired and guided to safety by Thunder on 9/11.
The Jake Maddox stories are pretty easy to read and are only about 60 pages long, so the girls did not have to struggle to finish them. Some of my high school girls told me that this was the first time they actually finished a whole book on their own. WOW! The current thinking among reading experts is to “stretch” kids to read books a little harder than their reading level so they will be challenged and grow. I work with kids who can’t read and who have great difficulty reading and who don’t read. You’ve got to get them “hooked” and you will never do it by giving them books that are too hard to read. You have to take little steps.
These are wonderful picture books about women who made huge differences in the world and can be inspirations for our little girls. Actually, my high school girls couldn’t wait to read them after we watched the movie, Hidden Figures. Be cautious, however, as I always say about Lexile Levels. I Dessent! has a Lexile of 710 which translates to a reading level of a beginning 5th grade good reader but is advertised for kids P-3. And take a close look at Hidden Figures with a Lexile of 980 and advertised to P-3. A Lexile level of 980 is into 7th grade! Really? Some kids in the lower grades might be able to read the words in these books but they lack background knowledge and life experience to make the connections to really understand all the nuances in these stories. Read it to them and talk about the stories together.
The following is a list of series that girls generally like. Please check out those Lexile levels. Remember, that books in a series might have different Lexile levels. The levels stated here are for the titles shown. Many of these series are available in audio version:
- Judy Moody, Girl Detective (Lexile 570)
- Bailey School Kids, Vampires … (Lexile 600
- Harriet the Spy (Lexile 760
- Judy Blume, Superfudge (Lexile 560)
- Ramona (Lexile 860)
- Ivy & Bean (Lexile 580)
The above title of Junie B. Jones is advertised for children in grades 1-4. Using the Lexile to Grade chart on the right, you can see that a Lexile 490 is for kids who read at grade level at the end of grade 2. Depending on the reading ability of your daughter, beware of this level. Kids in grades 1 and beginning grade 2 might find this one challenging. If so, read it with her or to her.
Reading for pleasure was a big topic at a recent day-long conference I attended. In these days of electronic toys, it is important that we keep reading as a high priority. Let the kids read easy books to start. Read to and with your daughters. Let them see you reading newspapers, magazines, and books for your own pleasure.
Next time I am going to write about my favorite thing in the world – high quality picture books.. This genre of stories, in my opinion, is greatly misunderstood, undervalued, and wrongly used. These wonderful books are the key to helping your kids become smart-thinking readers. They will absolutely amaze you. “Happy Reading!”