Otter is a reluctant reader. It’s not that he doesn’t like books. He loves books. He just has a difficult time retaining details in longer chapter books or anything he is unfamiliar with. He is very literal and so he often does better with non-fiction. It also helps to have books that contain pictures to help him “imagine” specific details. That’s made a challenge for me to find lots of books that capture his attention and hold his interest to keep him reading to the end. Even though he isn’t reading a lot of “typical” chapter books, he is reading a LOT of material – just in smaller chunks.
One series I found that Otter absolutely LOVES are books by Mike Venezia. Otter has a few things he has always been very interested in: presidents, space, science, coins, composers and history dates (specifically when people were born). When I choose books for him, I try to keep these interests in mind as a motivator. Recently he was the lucky recipient of every single one of the Venezia president books.
He’s already devoured a bunch of them. Here are just a couple of the titles:
The books are about 32 pages long with large, easy to read text. There is a mixture of photographs, art and humorous, memorable cartoons. Each books gives some information about the featured president’s childhood and talks about some major events in their lives and term(s) as president. Even though they are designed for elementary aged children, my high schoolers have enjoyed them as well when we were doing Tapestry of Grace’s 20th Century study.
Otter also has all of Venezia’s composer books. Venezia also has a series on artists and some new books about inventors and scientists.
Another series that has recently captured Otter’s attention are the Saddleback American graphic history books. These books are like comic books with lots of visual interest and bite size chunks of history that are easy to retain. Your mind associates the bits of historical fact with pictures and so it’s easier to recall specific events. Otter said if there were only 5 stars to give this series, he would give it 6. I found him curled up on the couch this morning with one “just because” and so I think I have to agree with his rating.
You can preview one of the books, America Becomes a World Power: 1890-1930 online at Google books.
You can also look at quite a few free samples of different Saddleback series at the official website.
Here are some other books I’ve found that work very well for Otter:
24/7: Science Behind the Scenes Series
This series of books has several different themes: spies, forensics, medical files and mystery files. We don’t own any of the mystery files books since they cover some issues that go against our personal beliefs like UFO’s, etc. The reading level is supposed to be grades 5-7 with the subject matter appealing to even high schoolers.
“Each title focuses on the science and technology used to solve real-life crimes and heart-stopping mysteries. From killer wallpaper to deadly pets, from parasites to mosquitoes, these high-interest books build vocabulary, foster scientific knowledge, and develop inquiry skills through the use of charts, timelines, briefing notes, case files, primary sources, and captivating storytelling. Watch your inquisitive students become scientific sleuths as they read actual cases, study clues, and take a shot at crime scene investigations – all while sharpening their critical thinking and analytical skills.”
quoted from the scholastic website
These books appeal to Otter on a number of different levels. They are colorful with lots of great photographs, pictures and sidebars and appeal to his love of science.
Another series that has been a hit the Usborne young reading series 3. These are beautiful hard bound books – each with a satin book mark and wonderfully illustrated. They are 64 pages long and broken up into manageable chapters.
Yet another great series is DK Eyewitness Classics. These books take abridged versions of classic stories and help them come alive with a multitude of illustrations, explanations, background information in colorful sidebars and more to help add depth and understanding to what your student is reading.
I’ll post some more titles that have worked for Otter in the future, including some more traditional chapter books.