With all the competition from TV, Netflix, YouTube, videogames, and social media, too many children no longer read for pleasure. Kids may learn to read well, and they may do their homework, but reading is not something that kids are doing for fun as much these days.
This is unfortunate. Research shows that children who learn to love to read (and read for fun) have an academic edge. Reading for pleasure is linked to all sorts of good outcomes for kids. In fact, studies show that reading enjoyment is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s income. Kids who read for pleasure perform better on reading tests, have a better command of grammar, and have more general knowledge.
Third grade is a particularly critical year when it comes to reading for pleasure. It’s the year kids get excited about chapter books. It’s also the year that many kids stop reading for fun. In a 2014 study, half of the children ages 6 to 8 looked at books for fun while less than a third of the kids ages 9 to 11 reported that they read for fun.
Perhaps not surprisingly given this drop-off in pleasure reading, third grade is the year that a lot more children begin to struggle to read at grade level.
What can you do to help your 3rd grader enjoy reading for fun
Two words: Introduce your child to a book series!
When your child finds a great book, they fall in love with a whole new world, with characters and places and situations. Kids enjoy reading so long as the book lasts. But when the book ends, it’s over. For a lot of kids, this is really sad. It’s also cognitively difficult to start the next book. They may or may not like the new book as much. There may be things they don’t understand. But when kids find a great book series, they get to pick right back up with the characters they know and love. They want to keep reading. With a great book series, children typically want to read more — and read more quickly. It helps to know that the next book is there, waiting for them.
Finding a book series which will ignite your child’s imagination can be tricky. In the beginning, try to find something accessible. It’s helpful if the book isn’t too difficult. You don’t want your child to associate the book with the tiring work of sounding out difficult words. It’s also important that the book series is something your child chooses. There may be a book series you think your child should read, but it may not be the right time. (This can backfire. I tried to get my daughter to read the Harry Potter series too early and she decided she didn’t like the books.) But if there’s a book series which isn’t educational, but that your child just thinks is hilarious, that’s definitely a good start.
3 book series for 3rd graders to read in English, in Spanish — or in both languages
- The Ramona series (Ramona the Pest, Beezus and Ramona, etc.) by Beverly Cleary
- Tía Lola series (How Tia Lola Came to Stay, How Tia Lola Saved the Summer, etc.) by Julia Alvarez
- The Captain Underpants series (The Adventures of Captain Underpants, Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, etc.) by Dav Pilkey
The right book series will have your child reading for fun for days and weeks, gradually drawing her into the fantastical world of the human imagination. And if that first series does its magic, your child will be a that-much-better reader when she goes in search of her next reading adventure.