Lit Kid: getting the level right

There’s plenty more to say on anti-heroes and villains – and don’t let’s forget the genuine heroes either. But it’s time to give them a little break, and cut in on a different topic this time.

I have a little book-buying habit for Junior Reader. Actually, I have a large sized, well-developed book buying habit in general, but this is a particular strand of book-buying.

Each year, I buy a book series, and dole out a book per school holiday.

10 holiday weeks: 10 books. My maths goes as follows:

  • February week (1 book)
  • Easter weeks (2)
  • Summer (6)
  • October (1)

The Christmas holidays are usually accounted for by general excitement, reading Advent stories, and whatever book Father Christmas kindly includes in one’s stocking.

Yes, it is for me just as much, but it can be fun to build an expectation of what the next holiday will bring – including the next book.

For those who favour the sets of books you can buy in bulk (The Book People, for example), this can be pretty cost effective. Ten books often come in at about ten pounds, which is a good price for holiday entertainment in my mind.

It doesn’t always have to be new, though: second-hand book shops or school fairs can also be good sources for series of books.

I have been known to lay in book series supplies slightly in advance (ahem) but so far this has worked out OK.

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This year, I had the notion that we would have a couple of books per holiday: one a fiction book told cartoon style, that Junior Reader could tackle alone, and another that I would do as a read-aloud.

All sounding good. We picked up the cartoony books (Comix) at a church jumble sale a while back (10 books: £2 – thank you kindly). They are done in chapters, lots of pictures, and slightly harder text for emerging readers. You can have a look at one here.

We have been happily wading our way through Steve Cole’s offerings of dinosaurs in space and time-travelling cows (aka Astrosaurs and Cows in Action), so I packed a new Astrosaurs book for this holiday, and one of the Comix ones.

So far so good. Comix book handed over: three chapters knocked off between train stops (15 mins). Junior Reader then spots the Astrosaurs book I had been planning to do as a read-aloud, and commandeers it for solo use.

Now chapter book reading is doing well, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law picking out some pirate stories as a Christmas present for Junior Reader.

But the language level in the Steve Cole books is a step up again – lots of alliteration, lots of cow-related puns in Cows in Action books, and quite a lot of relatively Big Words.

Nothing daunted, Junior Reader knocked off the whole book in about two days, and recommended it to Dan: ‘It’s good! You should read it!’

I then enquired about the Comix books – any good for the next holiday? ‘No thanks.’

All of a sudden, my book-planning schemes are undone – Junior Reader has overshot the mark. What’s more, I might be out of a read-aloud job during the holidays, unless I can pick another set of books that I can keep as mine to read.

Luckily, there are generally more books laid in. (Rest assured.)

Maybe I’ll start reading some of the Horrible Histories books – or maybe Just William – or continue my way through the Mr Gum series.

I also quite fancy a bit of a ’round the world’ approach to stories from different countries
(if I can avoid making it too much like what Mummy wants to read).

Last week, we finished off a library book with tales from the Caribbean, so that counts. Junior Reader fancies finding out more about Finn McCool, so my luck may be in. (I’ll keep you posted.)

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Want to see our previous series choices?

2010: Meg and Mog books

2011: Charlie and Lola books

2012: The start of our forays into Astrosaurs territory (books 1-10)

2013: Cows in Action plus Jack Stalwart (I’ll write more about these another time)

2014: Comix books notwithstanding, a mixture of Astrosaurs, Cows in Action and Slime Squad (also by Steve Cole) is planned.

I wouldn’t say no to these either, if I had to choose again:

Beatrix Potter books (more than 10 to choose from)

Moomintroll books (9 in the series, so add in another of your own choosing)

Astrid Lindgren: Pippi Longstocking (three books), but there are others too. The Bullerby children books are lovely ones.

Got any favoured books series of your own? Add a comment, and help me plan my stocks.

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