Some children jump quickly from the beginning stage of reading to where they can read more challenging books. Most of mine made the leap fairly quickly within a short space of time but a couple needed a longer period to transition. One of them took a few years to get to this stage.
During this stage children can be inspired to read more if they connect with characters in a story and know that there are more books with those same characters. Books in a series are really helpful for any child who has got the idea of reading but isn’t yet reading fluently and confidently.
Books for Younger Children
Billy & Blaze by C.W.Anderson (1891-1971)
There are at least eight books in this series in print and Billy & Blaze is the first one. Sensitive stories about the adventures of a boy and his beloved horse and written by someone who knew a good deal about horses and how to care for them. Blaze Shows the Way is a sweet story where Billy & Blaze get alongside Tommy & Dusty and teach them the teamwork needed for jumping. Approximate age of interest – 8 years and under.
The Spindles books by Barry Chant
These have an Australian setting and suit readers aged about 8 to 10 years. I’ve written about them here.
The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner (1890-1979)
This is the first book in a series of nineteen and is available online at Project Gutenberg.
The books contain about 150 pages in good size print and they are great for younger readers. There’s a list of the books and dates written here but it’s best to read this book first and (I prefer to) stick to the books that were published during the author’s lifetime:
When the fluency stage is taking a while…
I wanted to also mention books for older children who are not reading confidently yet.
One of our children was a late reader and it took a few years for him to read fluently. He needed books appropriate for his age. Books such as Billy & Blaze just weren’t suitable, but he was inspired to keep reading when we gave him books in a series that were complex enough to interest him, but had characters that were familiar to him. The familiarity, knowing a little of what was to be expected, removed the barrier of starting a new book because he had already ‘made friends’ with its inhabitants.
The other day I asked my son, Hoggy, who spent the longest time gaining reading fluency, what books had helped him the most during this time. Dare I say his answer was the Tintin series??
Tintin by Hergé started out in 1929 and the author continued to write about Tintin and his adventures for over 50 years. His work portrays a great variety of geographical locations, political content and cultural situations.
All my children loved these books (which I don’t think are in the same category as comics) but for Hoggy they weren’t just entertainment. The illustrations made him curious enough to want to put an effort in to try to read the text, plus the stories were adventurous and interesting enough in their own right to keep him persistent in his reading.
Some of the Tintin books are better than others & here is a list from someone at Amazon because my children can’t agree on their favourites. Hoggy reckons The Adventures of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, the first in the series was his favourite, which was placed second last on the link above. Moozle said she likes them all but mentioned the one above. Adults enjoy Tintin but are quick to point out the author’s political incorrectness. Children just read them and enjoy the stories without taking on the views and prejudices of a different generation – that’s been our experience, at least.
These hardback copies have three books in one volume.
Some other books in a series that have enough substance for slightly older readers who are still working on fluency:
The Sugar Creek Gang series by Paul Hutchens
These books have been around for many years and my boys loved them around the ages of 8 to 10 years but they would be suitable even up to around age 12 or even older for a later reader. The first book was published in 1940 and the last in 1970 and there are 36 books in the series (see here for a list of them). Each book features the ‘gang’ and my boys became familiar with the characters and they each had their favourites.
The books were re-printed around 1995 and some changes were made to make them more ‘acceptable’ to the present day (I think some references to ‘getting a licking’ etc were taken out). We have some of the books from the pre-politically correct days but the later versions still have some merit, I think, although the older books would be my preference.
Just be aware that there’s a series called ‘The New Sugar Creek Gang’ which are not by Paul Hutchens.
Sugar Creek is a real location in Indiana, USA.
The books below are Moody Press editions published in 1967 & 1973:
The Indian Cemetry below is one of the revised editions published in 1998 with changes (‘minor’ according to the website I linked to above) made by the author’s daughter, Pauline Hutchens.
Childhood of Famous Americans are a series of books by various authors about different people but the series is consistent in the way the subjects are approached and in the level of writing, which is targetted to ages 8 to 12 years of age.
These fictionalised biographies are about the childhoods of famous Americans or people who eventually identified with America. Albert Einstein, for instance, who fled Hitler’s Germany as an adult and later became an American citizen. There’s a legion of books in this series, and although some of them would be more interesting for children in America, there are many individuals who have universal appeal. The books are around 190 pages in length and are printed in a largish font which makes for easy on the eyes reading. Black & white illustrations throughout.
Some of my children’s favourites in this series are:
Thomas A. Edison, Neil Armstrong, Clara Barton, Henry Ford, Buffalo Bill, Daniel Boone, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Wilbur and Orville Wright and Albert Einstein.
Viking Quest series by Lois Walfrid Johnson – exciting stories of Viking times by a Christian author. These books are recommended for readers up to about 12 years of age but reluctant older readers would enjoy them also. There are five that I am aware of.
The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
Warning! These books are highly addictive. “Wot,wot!’ I just couldn’t read them aloud but Dad read one to the boys when they were younger (he also had a good laugh over a couple he read on his own) and Hoggy liked them so much he got stuck into them all. Even though they are quite challenging for children who are not yet fluent readers they were a wonderful incentive for our son to be drawn into a higher level of reading. Filled with all the stuff boys like – food, feasting, songs, more food, quirky language, humour, fights and adventure.
I was very interested to read the author’s background and his introduction to classic poetry at the age of fourteen. As a child growing up under the shadow of the second World War in Great Britain, he went through the food shortages and nightly air raids and his stories remedied those concerns he had as a young lad. Filled with elaborate feasting and song, the triumph of good over evil is a strong element running through his books.
According to my resident Redwall experts, the following six books lay a foundation for the Redwall series. You can then read the other books to fill in all the details as they all branch off from the these.
1) Martin the Warrior
6) The Long Patrol
We have The Redwall Cookbook also and the recipes are not too bad and it actually got our less interested boys into the kitchen experimenting.
Some suggestions to those who have older reluctant or struggling readers:
* Let them hear beautiful language from various types of literature – classic books, poetry, Bible. I’ve always made a point of reading aloud books that would be a challenge for my children to read independently, books they probably wouldn’t have chosen themselves, or those which are high quality but need a little editing here and there.
* Play board games such as Articulate, Boggle and others that connect to language.
* This is just something I’ve thought about in regards to my son when I think back. It may not be applicable to your child but if they are embarrassed about reading aloud & there are younger siblings who read more fluently than they do, their reading aloud will probably not be a true reflection of their reading ability.
Coming up soon…books for the insatiable book gobblers 10 years and under.
24 thoughts on “Books in a Series for Early and Late Beginning Readers”
This is SUCH a fantastic post, so helpful, Carol! We used some of your nature early reader suggestions… and my 8yo is really enjoying them. This is so funny, because I recently ordered the first Boxcar to do with him also! And my 10yo who struggles with reading LOVES Tintin…great suggestion!!! Thank you!
EXCELLENT post! We've had one child really struggle with reading but now he's doing splendid- praise God! You mention several family favorites- esp Billy & Blaze, as well as the Redwall series! :)IEW's Primary Language Arts helped him so much. It was a very hands on program with lots of activities- the kind of thing I had NEVER done to teach writing! But he needed those activities & he needed to learn rules to make connections with reading. And, I feel like I can better teach phonics now. 🙂
Blistering barnacles!! Good to know there are others out there who appreciate Tintin.
Yes, the rules really helped in our situation also, whereas some of my others just seemed to be more intuitative in this area. It's such a relief & pleasure to get to the point where reading clicks for them.
This is fantastic and sure to be a helpful post! Thank you for sharing it. I don't have any struggling or reluctant readers, but they love a number of these series and I'll be on the lookout or Sugar Creek for my kiddos. Thanks!
Oh, and we read the first Boxcar Children aloud as our first dinner-time readaloud. It was a hit and we continue the practice as often as we can.
My children have only read the first one. I wondered about the quality of the others but I'll look into the ones the author actually wrote.
Oh, yes!!! And you hit the nail on the head with your advice to read aloud as much as possible with struggling readers! So key!
I sure wish I could find those Spindles books somewhere–they look great!–Ivy Mae
If I would have made a list, it would have had all the same books! Those books are treasures in our home too! Tintin and Billy and Blaze made a book lover out of my most reluctant son! Blessings from Betty!
I thought they could only be found secondhand but apparently they must still be in print:https://www.koorong.com/search/product/spindles-of-the-dusty-range-barry-chant/0949330124.jhtmlPostage is quite reasonable too.
I didn't think Tintin would be very popular in the U.S. The Billy & Blaze books are not as well known here.
We love TIntin in our home! Love those books..from age 6 to 13. And for Sugar Creek Gang, they have an audio collection of them you can get as well. They are SO well done, and my boys listen to them multiple times!
Hi Julie, it's not often a book serves such a wide age range but Tintin does it so well.
I love many of these books! I can't tell you how many times the kids or I have curled up with Billy and Blaze, the Boxcar Kids, Tintin, or Redwall. The other series are new to me though. I'm going to have to look them up. Thanks! 🙂
Thanks for the recommendations! We've read some of those, but others are new to me…I'll have to check for them at the library!
This was such an encouraging post. Thanks Carol. It's wonderful to read this and feel that what I've done with my struggling reader is exactly what you suggest and even the same books – Tintin was his Dad's favourite from childhood so it was quite a major occasion when Dad allow him to read his precious collection. We haven't discovered Redwall though. The other books my son is enjoying at the moment is My Side of the Mountian by Jean Craighead George (and the following two books).
Corinna, if your son enjoys My Side of the Mountain he would probably love the Redwall books. I read somewhere that Redwall was like 'Lord of the Rings for kids' – don't know about that, but the general theme would be similar. It is so good to find a decent book for a struggling reader and even better to find books that have a series of others to follow.
Well, I just recommended Billy and Blaze to someone this morning, and we have enjoyed most of the ones you recommend except Redwall and the Sugar Creek Gang. One of my kids is slow to reach fluency, so I'll check those out. Thanks!
It's always surprised me how different children in the same family can be in in these things. I've had children at the extreme ends of reading aquisition & fluency and everything else in between.
Thank you this is really helpful. Annie Kate tagged me on G+ to tell me about this post. I have a child who has taken a while to get to fluency and needs plenty of practice with this type of book. I think Redwall is probably still too difficult and the books daunting in size but I must pull out our Tintin collection for her as this would be ideal. I'm wondering about the Boxcar Children too. Must look these out.
Hi Sarah, there might be a couple of books here that would be suitable http://journey-and-destination.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/books-for-beginning-readers-nature.html
We have the Viking Quest series. Redwall also has a safe home on the shelves as well.
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