My five year old is obsessed with big books. I don’t mean chunky books like these. I mean Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia…
Let me be clear. I did NOT quiz him with reading flashcards as an infant or enroll him in a Teach-Your-Toddler-to-Read-Chapter-Books program at any point during his five years. He knows some sight words, loves books, and is a pretty standard emergent reader. So why the big books? Well, he has big brothers, so in an effort to be “big” like them, he now thinks big chapter book series are the the only books worth his time.
He sits for long stretches of time, “reading” the books. Word by word, page by page. The first day he did it, I thought it was cute. After a few weeks it started to drive me nuts. What about the MANY wonderful just-right-for-him books sitting on our shelves? How can books with few pictures and complex words that he can’t yet decode truly capture his reading attention? Shouldn’t he be reading books better suited to his reading level so he can grow as a reader? I admit I actually started to worry about this new reading habit, even though I know better.
The thing is, as a teacher and now as a parent of elementary-aged kids, I’ve seen kids “outgrow” picture books way too fast. One minute we’re laughing at Elephant and Piggie, and the next minute –if it doesn’t have chapters it isn’t cool. I’ve never been a fan of pushing advanced readers away from picture books. Picture books are awesome! They can be very complex. Advanced readers can learn and practice advanced reading and writing skills from picture books. And did I mention, picture books are just plain awesome, no matter your reading level? Anyway, when my little one started to refuse to read picture books I started to panic. But it’s all good. Here’s why:
Kids go through phases and this is almost certainly a phase.
My son is practicing real reading skills. (Left to right reading, noticing text features, looking for words he DOES recognize.)
He is exploring what it’s like to be an independent reader.
My big kids actually still like picture books, so when we find a new favorite, my little one will follow them back to picture book land. Whew!
And best of all, he is motivated to read, and he’s feeling confident. He’s not focused on what he can’t do, only what he can do. (Look, I’ve read 7 chapters! Hey, I recognize the word “cat”!)
He is also inspired! He’s now decided he’ll become a famous author like Jeff Kinney. His first project is a new series (appropriately titled) Jeff and Kenny. He asked for tips from a professional author (his favorite YA writer/aunt), and used his birthday money to self-publish his first book!
So, while I do think kids need to read books that are developmentally right for them, and I’ll probably never be truly ready for my little one to move into big books, I’ve decided to chillax. It’s ok to mix it up now and then, and readers need freedom to choose their own books so they’ll actually want to read them. Motivation is a BIG deal for beginning readers!
Do you ever stress out about your kids’ reading choices?