If you recognize names such as Jack and Annie or Patrick and Beth, know that mysteries can be ordered A to Z, or believe in Rainbow Fairies, then you likely have a child in second-fourth grade/aged 6-10. Series fiction exists for nearly every reading level, but it certainly reaches its peak during these significant elementary years.
Series fiction can be subdivided, like all genres; the type of series fiction I’m interested in is not the fantasy 3-volume epic sort. Rather, I’m interested in the series that might contain upwards of 20 volumes, each of which is similar to the others. Each volume is large on plot, features the same main characters, contains a similar number of chapters, and follows a predictable path. Contemporary examples include A to Z Mysteries, the Rainbow Fairies, the I Survived books, the Magic Treehouse books, the Imagination Station books, and their ilk.
The number 1 question I get from fellow parents is, “what should my child be reading?” If their child is in middle elementary, the question is often followed by, “She keeps bringing those Rainbow Fairies books home!” or “He only wants to read Lego Ninjago books.” Presumably, these are abominable reading choices that will stunt their child’s intellectual growth irreparably.
I say, “squelch not the series!” It is no accident that so many series beckon to students at this reading level. Teachers and librarians talk about the fourth grade slump: lots of kids suddenly hit a brick wall in their reading. There’s a shift from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn in third-fourth grade, and if a child isn’t comfortable reading yet, this shift can put the brakes on educational progress.
Series fiction like the titles mentioned above keep kids coming back precisely because the books are predictable, they’re not hard to read (to “decode”–the words themselves aren’t challenging), the plots are engaging, and readers are invested in the characters. And, at this stage of reading development, any practice is practice.
Think of your child’s diet when he or she was a toddler or preschooler. Didn’t it seem like there were days when she existed primarily on cheese, crackers, and grapes? Or the teenager who suddenly is never full? After a while, you throw that big hulking bottomless pit whatever calories he’s craving because salad just isn’t cutting it and you can only afford so much steak.
Reading is like that: at various stages of reading development, certain reading appetites are ravenous. Embrace it and know that this too shall pass. Should your child exist only on Tin Tin graphic novels or Encyclopedia Brown mysteries? Probably not. But think longterm: your child is still developing valuable reading fluency and learning to delight in reading for the sheer pleasure of it.
Read aloud great books, choose good chapter book friends, and talk about what you read. Don’t sweat a summer of series fiction. After all, chances are good that you once traveled in a swell car along with super sleuth Nancy Drew, hung out with the Hardy Boys, grew up with the Babysitters Club, or chose your own adventure once or twice.
For some series suggestions for elementary ages, see our Series Fiction List.
cover images from amazon