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“Other” Kinds of Books

One of my colleagues is as in to great novels and epic tales as I am. Guess what her eldest son enjoys reading? Instruction manuals for building skyscrapers and airplanes! It took her a long time to realize that he wasn’t that interested in reading because their tastes were so different that he disliked just about everything she suggested!

Often, teachers make this same mistake—assuming that all students will like a great book, or all students like fiction more than nonfiction, or that short stories are more appealing, or…the list is endless. While your child’s reading tastes may not always be honored in the classroom (and in fact educational requirements dictate that students read all kinds of genres), at home you can help your children sample fiction, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, humor, magazines, biographies, fantasies, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and more. Here are a few other types of book that some children find especially appealing:

Episodic fiction. Many children enjoy books where each chapter stands as a story on its own. They feel a sense of completion and accomplishment after each chapter. Many novels are written this way, from easy readers to adult prize-winning literary fiction. This contrasts with “page-turner” format, with each chapter ending with a character in danger, a mysterious question or other device that makes the reader want to turn the page. Think Frog and Toad, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, A Long Way From Chicago and the adult book The #1 Ladies’ Detective Club.

White space novels, formatted with less text per page, often appeal to “emerging” readers, as Donalyn Miller calls them in her great book The Book Whisperer. These books may have very short chapters, be written in blank verse, use a movie script format, or otherwise break up text in interesting ways. Again, these books can fuel a sense of accomplishment as students add up the number of pages they’ve read. Examples include (in order by reading level):  Love that Dog, Choose Your Own Adventure series, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Monster. 

Nonfiction is often another favorite for kids who like connecting with real life, not “Stupid made-up stuff” as one 3rd grader described fiction. If your child played “house,” “school,” or “firefighter” rather than “dragon keeper” or “space traveler,” they may also prefer nonfiction. They enjoy details, not the overviews found in textbooks. And, relax if they hunt down every book ever written about bugs. Eventually they’ll find a new subject!

Series books. While these may never attain literary quality as far as character development or plot, type in a page of a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew book and you’ll find they’re written at about a 5th grade level. Eventually the student will exhaust a series and turn to something new.

Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is