Here’s a tip for motivating struggling readers to read more: Hook them on a series!
What is it about books in series that appeals to readers from preschool to adulthood? There’s comfort in the predictability of the plot, the recognizability of the settings, and the familiarity of the text structures. And because we come to know and appreciate the characters, we want to know what’s going to happen to them next and we can relate to how they react to their situations. Of course, it is this predictability (and, some would say, formualic structure) that critics condemn as not “literary.” And yet, these are the very features that make series reading ideal for struggling readers. Research tells us that reading book series not only gets struggling readers to read more, it makes them better readers. Now is the time to get our struggling readers hooked on a series!
FIVE REASONS TO GET STRUGGLING READERS HOOKED ON A SERIES
1. They read more. According to a 2005 study by Rosemary Hopper, when given a choice of what to read, adolescent and teen readers are more likely to choose – and to read – books that are part of a series. Interest and investment in what might happen next often motivates students to read the next book, and the next and the next.
2. They build confidence. Whereas proficient readers tend to select books that meet their interests, the priority for most struggling readers is, “Will it be too hard?” When they’re familiar with a series, they have the confidence to read another book in the series; and, it builds confidence to ultimately move on from the series. Katherine Ross (2009) asserts that reading these books allow students to “progress through developmental stages of learning the codes and rules” of reading, acting as “‟training wheels‟” for readers (p. 653).
3. They encourage text-to-text connections. Background knowledge is one of the most significant factors in comprehension. Reading books in a series provides background knowledge into the behavior of the character and the structure of the text that enable the reader to understand and anticipate plot directions.
4. They develop empathy for characters. If you’re hooked on a book series (just like a TV show), it’s probably because you are interested in, and care about, the characters. And one of the most important reasons to read fiction is that caring about fictional characters can lead to general empathy toward others in the real world.
5. They build better comprehension and fluency. We know that more reading makes students better readers. But research tells us that more series reading, in particular, helps enhance overall comprehension and fluency. Because they don’t have to work so hard to understand the characters or plot structure, readers have more energy to dedicate to higher-level comprehension. Also, series reading replicates the proven benefits of repeated reading. David Westbrook (2007) also found that the reading of popular series books leads to the acquisition of inference and deduction skills.
Kidsreads.com is a website that lists book series for all ages and a range of interests.
SERIES BOOKS FROM HIP
The HIP EDGE Series for senior high school readers reading well below grade level consists of ten stand-alone novels with recurring characters and a common setting in the fictional urban neighborhood of Edgmont. Characters deal with authentic, edgy situations like arson, teen pregnancy and gang fights.
The BATS MYSTERY Series for Grades 4-7 readers (Reading Level: Grades 2-3) follows two junior detectives through a year of exciting adventures, from rescuing endangered turtles to helping the police catch drug dealers to clearing their teacher’s name when he’s accused of theft.
The DRAGONSPEAKER Series is a trilogy for fantasy fans of all ages, reading at Grade 3-4 level. These books contain all the features fantasy readers love, including magic, evildoers, heroes, and the world’s last dragon.
The SKINWALKERS Series comprises three stand-alone novels for fantasy fans of any age, reading at Grade 3-4 level, all featuring characters who can transform themselves between human and animal forms. There’s a deeper theme here, however: appreciating those who are different from you.