There's just no stopping Captain Underpants – though many have tried.
In 1997 The Adventures of Captain Underpants, the first of the books in this series, was published, and controversy started just about immediately. Two years later the second book was published – Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (not just underwear, but toilets too!) and the lines were drawn.
There were those – librarians, reviewers, teachers, and parents who understood just what author Dav Pilkey was doing: using every tool he had to engage second through fourth grade kids – especially boys – in the ongoing epic saga of two pals – George Beard and Harold Hutchins. George and Harold, like many of the boys Pilkey wanted to attract, were not the most successful students; but they were creative, they were clever, and they were funny. And there were those – again, librarians, reviewers, teachers, and parents who objected to the potty humor, the bad grammar, the comic books, the pranks. Under the cloak of good intentions, they wanted to protect children from these "dangerous" books. And the good Captain has ended up on challenged and banned books lists ever since.
Through books with irresistible-to-kids titles like Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plight of Professor Poopyants and Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, the books thrived, the audience grew. The nay-sayers continue to say nay, but there are fewer of them and they don't raise the same kind of ruckus. A new adventure came out in August 2012: Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers. Fans will cheer to know that they won't have to wait long for another new novel: Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers will be released in January 2013.
Just as George and Harold continue to outwit and outlast the evil Mr. Krupp, their school principal, loyal readers of the books keep on reading. To find out why we asked Debra Marshall, Librarian at Wilson Elementary School in Coppell, Texas to gather some of her students together and talk about Captain Underpants.
Why do you love the books so much?
The unanimous response was, "They are funny and crazy! We like the flip-o-rama, and the comics."
Jacob – "There's a ton of humor in the stories, and since I have a good sense of humor, I really like the practical jokes."
Ethan – "Same here, they are just really funny and they are good books to read."
Roque – "I like all the comics throughout and the little kid drawings. Eat this! Makes me laugh."
Fernado – "The characters are funny."
Aiden – "Flip-o-rama, I just love to do that. Also the monsters aren't very scary, they are just funny."
Brett – "I like the flip-o-rama, too, and it's very funny and they spell the words wrong in the comics."
Dakota – "That talking toilet is just too hilarious, and I like Captain Underpants has a plunger that doesn't work. And the funny words like eat it or taste it."
Riya – "There are so many illustrations in the books, and they are interesting to look at over and over."
Webb-"You get to read and say the word, fart!"
Dakota – "It's really fun to collect all the books."
Talk about a favorite character and what makes him or her so appealing to you.
Dakota-"I like the toilets and the bad guys. My favorite is the Attack of the Talking Toilets, and especially when Captain Underpants has that plunger thing."
Webb –"The 2 little kids because they like to mix up the signs and make funny sayings."
Pedro – "Captain Underpants because he says Eat This, and then he tells everyone he is a hero, and he shoots underwear at people."
Brett – "Harold because on the 8th book at the end he got George into all this trouble by convincing him nothing bad would happen."
Riya – "Captain Underpants because he is always funny."
Alexandra – "Yes, Captain Underpants because he is very funny and fat, and because I like his underwear."
Andrea – "And he pulls his underwear really tight around him. It looks silly."
Aiden – "My favorite character is Captain Underpants because he makes being a hero fun."
Fernando-"I like him too because he is a superhero and he saves the world."
Roque – "Harold and George can hypnotize and make comix. It was awesome when they switched the National Fine Arts Academy sign to say National Fart Academy."
Ethan – "I like Professor Poopypants when he changes everyone's name to be funnier than before."
Jacob – "Tippy Tinkletrousers, and today's lunch is…"
Webb — "Nasty Toilet Peepee Sandwiches. It's so fun to say it!"
Do Harold and George remind you of any one you know?
Rousing response of "Yes, me!" from many in the group.
Dakota – "Yes, my baby cousin!"
Pedro – "I think they are basically good guys, they just get into trouble a lot."
What words in the stories do you think kids like to say?
What age should kids be to begin reading the series?
This question resulted in everyone talking at once. Most of the group first said First Grade because that is when they started reading the books. The thought was that first graders can read most of the words and understand what is happening in the different situations.
Brett, a second grader, said he started reading the books at the end of first grade and it took him a long time to finish a book, "but it was worth it!"
Jacob – "Anyone with a good sense of humor should read the books."
Pedro and Roque, brothers who moved to Texas from Spain, said they started reading the books in Spanish before they came here. Roque started reading them in third grade. Because of their experience, both thought the books translate well and are universally appealing to kids all over the world. Pedro said he started reading the books in English because "Webb taught me the words and talked me into trying it. I read them now in both languages."
Fernando, a native Spanish speaker, started reading the books in first grade even before he read in English. He said he studied the words so he could understand the story.
When are you going to stop reading the books? When will you be too old for them? Can kids get too old for them?
All in unison – "NEVER!!!"
Webb – "It's just hilarious. College kids could read it very fast, like in a day or two. They should."
Brett – "Not me, I'm going to read them forever."
Pedro – "I will read all of the books, however many there will ever be."
Riya – "They should go on forever!"
I remember buying Captain Underpants when it first came out for my school library. Some librarians wouldn't buy it because of the potty humor. What would you say to those librarians who might not want to buy the books?
Fernando-"Oh, come on. They belong in a school, and if I went to a new school and they weren't there I would call my parents and ask them to let me go back to my old school."
Andrea-"If you like people that wear underpants and are superheros, you just better read this book."
Dakota – "Well, Captain Underpants isn't real.
Webb – "It's just fiction."
Roque – "It's only a book. And, it brings out your imagination."
Alexandra-"It's a book and it makes me want to read."
Boy book, girl book, or everybody book?
All in unison – EVERYBODY!
What other books are you reading or do you like to read?
Fernando – "Captain Underpants, that's all."
Aiden – "I want to recommend Ninth Ward. And I'm reading the Ricky Riccotta series."
Andrea – "Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Junie B. Jones."
Alexandra – "Nothing else much."
Riya – "Big Nate."
Brett – "Super Diaper Baby."
Pedro – "Super Diaper Baby and Stink."
Jacob – "Alex Rider series and the Guardians of G'Hoole."
Ethan – "Harry Potter and Big Nate."
Roque – "Amulet and Wings of Fire."
Dakota – "What about 39 Clues?"
All – "Yeah!"
Ok, you have one more chance to say what you want kids all across America to hear. What would you like to say?
Brett – "Captain Underpants is awesome. Everyone should read it."
Webb – "Yeah, it's for everybody, even cannibals."
Everyone – "Yeah, just do it and read!"
ReadKiddoRead thanks everyone at The Wilson School, especially Debra Marshall, and
Brett – 2nd grade, Dakota – 3rd, Webb – 3rd, Andrea – 3rd, Alexandra – 3rd, Pedro – 3rd,
Riya – 3rd, Fernando – 4th, Aiden – 4th, Roque – 5th, Jacob – 5th, and Ethan – 5th
When you give a child or a teen a book, you are creating a memory that will last a lifetime.
What's more, books offer so many options. Are you trying to find a book for an early reader? Choose a picture book or a Great Beginner Read. Does your grandchild love non-fiction? Take a look at the Great Family Reads section. Has your niece read every book known to man? There are some brand new books on this list that she may not have seen yet.
Do you struggle to find just the right book to entice your child to read? These selections are sure kid-pleasers that will meet any interest. The ReadKiddoRead holiday gift list has something for everyone: realistic fiction, science fiction, and non-fiction; animal stories, mythology and adventures; sad stories and stories that will make your kids laugh out loud.
So browse our list. We promise that each book is one that children and teens will want to read and then share with their friends. And then read again. These are keepers! A remote-control car may break and a child is sure to outgrow a sweater, but a book stays.
Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Texas
Great Family Reads
National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry
200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
Compiled by J. Patrick Lewis
Stunning photographs combine with wonderful poems to create a family treasure for all to share. Travel around the world and learn about all kinds of animals in the process.
100 People Who Made History
Meet the People Who Shaped the Modern World
By Ben Gilliland
Take a look at scientists, athletes, and artists among others whose actions shaped the world we know. From Aristotle to Pele. From Elvis to Einstein, these brief biographies entertain and inorm at the same time. Fun to use as a reference or to pick up and browse.
Treasury of Greek Mythology
Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters
By Donna Jo Napoli
The past five years have brought us a variety of stories based in mythology, from Percy Jackson and The Olympians to The Chronus Chronicles. This gorgeous volume retells the classic stories that have inspired these tales.
Dragons Love Tacos
By Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri
For ages 3-5
Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love parties, too. A dragon's absolute favorite thing is a taco party. But don't include any spicy salsa, or the fireworks will begin! Full of deadpan illustrations and lots of humor, this is a book parents will be happy to read over and over again.
This is Not My Hat
By Jon Klassen
For ages 4 – 8
"This hat is not mine. I just stole it," proclaims the minnow as he swims away with a charming grey bowler hat. He's certain the large, sluggish fish who owns the hat will not miss it. Boy, is he mistaken! The large fish notices and speedily pursues his hat, with entertainingly predictable results. Children will enjoy reading this independently or with an adult and picking out their favorite characters along the way.
Bink & Gollie: Two for One,
By Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile
For ages 6-8
Bink and Gollie are headed to the state fair. Bink would love to win the World's Largest Donut at the Whack-a-Duck game and Gollie tries her hand at the talent show. Not all goes well, but readers are sure to agree that sometimes, a friend is all you need.
Jack Stalwart series
By Elizabeth Singer Hunt
For ages 7-9
Meet Jack Stalwart. He's your average nine year old boy, except he's also a secret agent, trying to find his missing brother. In each book, he travels to a different country, protecting a different national treasure. Kids will love the action-packed adventures and, without even noticing, they'll pick up the facts and foreign languages cleverly slipped into each book.
The One and Only Ivan
By Katherine Applegate
For ages 8-12
This is the story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives in a tiny zoo in a strip mall. One day, Ruby, a baby elephant arrives, and Ivan promises to take care of her. He gradually realizes that life in this cramped, dirty zoo is no place for Ruby, and he schemes for her release.
By Lee Bacon
For ages 8-12
Joshua Dread is having a rough year in middle school. Bullies pick on him, and he seems to be causing pencils to explode, leaving burning handprints in his wake. To top it off? The supervillains – The Dread Duo – are his parents, and they're trying to destroy the world. Fast-paced action and a very clever storyline will appeal to both boys and girls.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
By James Patterson
For ages 8 and up
Rafe Khatchadorian has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix. Luckily, he's got an ace plan for the best year ever, if only he can pull it off: With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school's oppressive Code of Conduct.
Three Times Lucky
By Sheila Turnage
For ages 9 and up
Mo (short for Moses) LeBeau washed into town during a hurricane, and for the past 11 years. One day, a detective comes to town, trying to solve a mysterious murder. Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, try to solve the mystery themselves, leading to hilarious situations and some tough realizations as well.
One for the Murphys
By Lynda Mullaly Hunt
For ages 10 and up
When she and her mother are severely beaten by her stepfather, Carley Connors is put into foster care. She resents her foster family for their seemingly perfect life, but slowly she finds a connection with them, making plenty of mistakes along the way, but truly wanting to fit in. It's a simply lovely story.
The Mark of Athena
Heroes of Olympus, Book Three
By Rick Riordan
For ages 10 and up
The third book in the bestselling series continues the story as the demigods try to determine who will be The Prophecy of Seven.
By Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz
For ages 12 and up
The authors of the screenplays for Thor and X-Men: First Class tell the story of Colin Fischer, a high school freshman with Asperger's. When a gun goes off in the school cafeteria, Wayne Connelly, the school thug, is the prime suspect. Colin knows that Wayne is not to blame and sets out to prove his case.
Eve and Adam
By Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
For ages 13 and up
When a horrible accident severs her leg, Eve wakes up in the hospital to find her mom, the head of a biotech firm, checking her out and taking her back to the lab. There her leg heals suspiciously fast. Solo, an orderly at the lab who seems to know far more than someone in his position should, forces Eve to realize that all is not as it seems. A fast moving thriller, told in the alternating voices of Eve and Solo.
By S.J. Kincaid
For ages 13 and up
Tom Raines spends his days in a futuristic Las Vegas, conning people out of money at reality video games. His skill in video gaming leads to his recruitment to Pentagonal Spire, where he trains to defend the U.S. in space-based battles. The descriptions of Tom's training are completely engrossing, as is this riveting look into the future.
The problem: kids aren't reading!
What is RQ, and why is it important to track?
The impact of a low RQ
Frequency and Duration
Parents: take your children's future into your own hands
The RQ Quiz
The problem: kids aren't reading!
"Johnny Won't Read" (USA Today headline, 8 July 2004)
"My dad is still into the whole book thing. He has not realized that the Internet kind of took the place of that" (college student quoted in Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 2007)
"I Hate Reading" (Facebook page, with 550,783 "likes")
"Children think reading is 'uncool' and boring" (BBC reporting on a poll of teachers, 22 June 2012)
These are disturbing statements, but they echo everywhere with the same message: more and more kids don't like books. They pack leisure hours with TV, social media, cell phone calls, and texting, not time alone with a volume in hand, and they abhor the novels and textbooks their teachers assign.
For a growing portion of the young, the phrase "reading for fun" doesn't make sense.
The U.S. Department of Education documents this trend among teenagers, asking them three times over a 20-year period how often they "read for fun." In the chart below, note that the percentage of 17-year-olds who read "Never or hardly ever" more than doubled to nearly one in five, while those who read "Almost every day" dropped nine percentage points.
This is the wrong direction, and it dismays educators and advocacy groups that have insisted again and again on the power and benefits of books. That such a longstanding activity central to individual growth and a vibrant society should undergo so steep a decline in so short a time signals a genuine crisis.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics yielded the following meager amounts of leisure reading by teenagers in successive results of its American Time Use Survey. The Survey asks individuals to keep a diary of the time they spend on various activities, and reading comes up as a negligible pastime.
The consequences are vast and distressing. If the decline were simply a shift in tastes toward other diversions, we might accept it as but a normal change in the course of American society. But reading is different from TV, video games, athletics, socializing, the Internet, and other leisure activities—reading is vital to a child's success in life. The benefits of leisure reading are enormous:
- Readers do better in all subjects including science, math, history and civics
- Provides higher verbal ability and better college readiness and success
- School work is easier for readers–readers are more likely to stay in school
- Stronger civic and cultural engagement including volunteering and voting
- Leads to better workplace readiness and performance
- Reading is a deep source of joy and curiosity
- It increases our imagination, creativity, empathy and understanding
As Dana Gioia, former-Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, put it a few years ago, "If I could only know one number about a kid at 18 that would predict how successful he'd be in life, it would be his reading proficiency."
What is RQ, and why is it important to track?
The habit of leisure reading originates in the home, not in the classroom. Teachers focus on knowledge and skills, not on the personal habits and interests of each student. They know that out-of-school activities influence class performance, but they haven't the time or the authority to do much more than make recommendations. Most importantly, for children to become avid readers, they have to love what they read, and reading required for a class too often doesn't excite them. Parents create the home environment for reading, they take kids to libraries and bookstores, monitor media consumption, and serve as reading role models themselves. How well they do it determines their children's future more than any single teacher.
To help parents with it, James Patterson has joined with reading experts to develop a scalable measure of youth reading: Reading Quotient (RQ). It's a brief questionnaire that yields a precise score. To determine RQ, we follow an equation: frequency + duration + volume + challenge = RQ. Like IQ, it measures intellectual ability, but in a specific, two-fold way: first, the ability to comprehend works of greater and lesser complexity; and second, the disposition to read, to devote regular periods to reading at home without interruption, to do high-volume reading. It's an aptitude plus a tendency, and it evolves through practice. The more often youths read and the more books they absorb over time, the higher their RQ—and the higher their achievement and personal well-being.
The lower their RQ, the more limited their futures may be.
The following pages explain why RQ is so important, compiling research on pleasure reading and academic achievement, job prospects, and personal life. We outline, too, the rationale for the RQ Test, the questions and the scoring. The research complements Patterson's ReadKiddoRead initiative, providing empirical support for the claim that high-RQ is the most effective way to ensure that a child will fulfill their full potential in whatever field they chose as adults. As Patterson has stated, "We need a radical shift in our kids' reading habits. We're asking parents to pledge to put reading above all." His words are warranted by research from government offices, private foundations, and academics. Here we offer concise information useful to the real agents of improvement—not teachers and schools, employers, or public officials—but mothers and fathers.
The impact of a low RQ
Low reading rates are linked to weaker performances in every school subject. Having a low RQ also contributes to a lack of engagement in later in life, including civic and volunteer opportunities, and a loss of career and income potential.
"Students who are on target in eighth and ninth grade to be ready for college-level reading," it stated, "are substantially more likely to be on target to be ready for college in English, mathematics, and science" (see The Forgotten Middle: Ensuring that All Students Are on Target for College and Career Readiness before High School). Of those students who met ACT's reading benchmark, 65 percent met the math benchmark and 31 percent met the science benchmark. If they didn't meet the reading benchmark, other scores plummeted: only 14 percent in math and a mere one percent in science.
Another set of data from U.S. Department of Education found firm correlations between NAEP scores in several subjects and the presence of books in a student's home. Presumably, the presence of books correlates to a home where reading is a central activity.
The impact of books in the home applies not only to academic tests. Readers also live better lives. Here is a breakdown of civic and cultural activities by reading and non-reading populations (using National Endowment for the Arts data):
Participation in Cultural and Social Activities
|Percentage of U.S. Adult Population|
|Literary Readers||Non-Literary Readers|
|Perform Volunteer and Charity Work||43.0||17.0|
|Visit Art Museums||44.0||12.0|
|Attend Performing Arts Events||49.0||17.0|
|Attend Sporting Events||45.0||27.0|
The impact spreads from cultural participation to employment as well. When we examine reading scores, it is important to include the correlation with job success also, for workplace readiness is for many high school students more important than college readiness. Here, too, the correlations are strong. When students earn low reading scores, they lose job opportunities and income potential. The U.S. Department of Education reported the following trends in reading ability and workplace results.
Those who don't are at risk for the rest of their lives. Indeed, when social scientists survey the most unsuccessful individuals in our society, they find low reading and low literacy every time. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that on literacy scales, individuals in prison scored significantly below individuals living in regular households (see Literacy Behind Bars).
The National Commission on Adult Literacy stated that of the 2.3 million adults in prison in 2006, "56 percent have very low literacy skills" (see Reach Higher, America: Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce, p. v).
Our conclusion must be: low reading rates are an academic problem for students; they become a workplace and productivity problem for employees and employers, and a civic and quality-of-life issue for the nation. The costs in human lives and social health are inestimable.
One aspect of these results seems counter-intuitive. How can hours spent reading books that don't bear upon course assignments not hinder academic performance? But this isn't the case. According to the 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement, an annual poll of 500,000 first-year and senior college students, heavy leisure readers tend to do more homework than light leisure readers.
- Nearly half of first-year students who read more than 20 books in the preceding year spent more than 15 hours per week on homework vs. only about a third of those who did not read
The fact that heavy leisure readers do more homework than light and non-readers overturns assumptions that fun reading competes with school reading. The evidence is that it complements school reading. We might explain the direct relationship by a basic similarity. Both actions involve focused attention, the inclination to sit alone with a single text without interruption. Here we find another basis for the value of leisure reading.
However diverting and un-academic it may appear, fun reading trains youths to concentrate, to plunge into another world of words and representations. As they read, they exercise their minds, arranging actions into plot, imagining the motives of characters, envisioning settings, processing information, and learning new terms.
Reading is a mental workout, toning the brain to more reading, deeper thinking, sharper concentration, and vaster reservoirs of words and knowledge.
Research proving the benefits of leisure reading improving mental cognition does not distinguish between popular fiction and arduous works such as Shakespeare's plays. Both activities involve considerable mental labor, and the correlations cited earlier suggest that reading for fun actually eases the labor of academic reading. It cultivates basic intellectual powers necessary for students to comprehend the kinds of texts they will encounter in school, the workplace, or daily life, everything from Supreme Court decisions to philosophical arguments, technical manuals and business reports.
This leads to another finding among reading researchers that echoes the NAEP results from 2011. It is that volume of leisure reading is a crucial factor in a student's success. As a report by the National Institute of Child Health affirmed, "Literally hundreds of correlational studies find that the best readers read the most and that poor readers read the least. These correlational studies suggest that the more children read, the better their fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension" (12).
Some researchers even attribute achievement gaps between high- and low-income students more to relative amounts of leisure reading than to any other factor, particularly given the effect of summer vacation on reading skills (see Allington and McGill-Franzen, and also Cunningham and Stanovich). They conclude that raising the amount of leisure reading over time has direct benefits such as gains in fluency (defined as the ability to read quickly and accurately, without stumbling, an ability that grows, precisely, with more reading).
Researchers Anne Cunningham and Keith Stanovich have maintained that high reading volume isn't a result of high reading ability. Instead, it is a source of high reading ability.
A few years after this study, researchers at Center for the Study of Reading at University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign examined vocabulary acquisition through independent reading and came up with similar conclusions about the enormous cumulative impact a few minutes of reading each day produces.
They found that for children who do a fair amount of independent reading, this could lead to the acquisition of 5,000 to 10,000 new words a year, and thus account for the bulk of their annual vocabulary growth (See Anderson and Nagy, p. 9). Leisure reading produces vastly more vocabulary gain than classroom instruction—once again, shifting some of the responsibility of a child's intellectual growth to the parents. Indeed, even "a moderate level of daily reading," they affirmed, "can lead to gains of several thousand words per year." Children who don't do it, fall farther and farther behind their peers.
Differences in reading ability between readers and non-readers widen over time. With regular leisure reading, "an upward spiral of causality" develops. The process is self-reinforcing: reading more allows children to read more.
Reading volume is important not only to verbal aptitude, but to study and work habits, too. High school and college courses often assign long novels, dense chapters in textbooks, and experiments reported in scientific literature. Workplaces ask employees to read dense technical guidebooks, business and government reports, client communications, and other, often lengthy texts. They require adequate comprehension skills, that is, the ability to read a text and summarize it accurately, but they also require a disposition to stick with them for hours at a time. It takes stamina and habit. One can't read a William Faulkner novel a few pages at a time in 10-minute snatches and keep track of the plot and characters. One can't break off in the middle of a chapter in a new software manual and return to it an hour later without starting from the beginning. In the Reading Between the Lines report cited earlier, ACT determined that one primary distinction between successful and unsuccessful college students is the ability to read "complex texts" such as Faulkner's novels.
The critical value of reading volume indicates why the "fun" element is so important, for enjoyment is what lengthens reading hours and increases material covered. If youths don't like the books in their hands, they regard leisure reading as a chore, not a pleasure, and it doesn't expand. They have other activities available—TV, texting, socializing—and unless reading is a prized option, it won't happen.
The importance of matching books to your child's age is underscored by the Common Core project, a National Governors Association initiative of standards for reading and math that have been adopted by 46 states. Appendix A of the project's English Language Arts section states:
- Once or twice a week [20 points]
- Two or three times a month [15 points]
- Never or hardly ever [0 points]
- 40-60 minutes [20 points]
- 20-39 minutes [15 points]
- 10-20 minutes [10 points]
- Less than 10 minutes [0 points]
- 9-12 [20 points]
- 5-8 [15 points]
- 1-4 [10 points]
- None [0 points]
- Most of them [20 points]
- Some of them [10 points]
- None of them [0 points]
Additionally, Common Core notes, at the same time that college texts have increased in difficulty, high school readings have decreased in difficulty. Once again, the burden falls on parents to discover books whose reading challenges will serve their children well after high school.
Parents: take your children's future into your own hands
The research proves the impact of a reading-oriented home. High-RQ ends in workplace and academic success, and it begins in a parent's guidance and example. From reading storybooks to a toddler to handing likable novels to a teenager, parents sustain reading as a family value and joyous interlude. It requires consistency and diligence, daily efforts to create and preserve it against a hundred duties and diversions that draw children and adults away from books.
Given the impact of RQ, frequent, sustained reading should have the same status as nutritious food and abundant sleep. A mother who feeds her kids fruits and vegetables and milk, but who neglects a copious reading diet, forgets a decisive component of child rearing. Books must be a practice and a presence, a behavior as ordinary as bathing and a fixture as abiding as the kitchen room table.
The obvious first step is to stock the home with books. RQ needs a supportive environment, and it won't thrive unless books are common and available at all times. With books in every room in the house, children and teenagers experience them as part of the comforts and routines of the family, of bedtime, of privacy. Parents bolster the permanent place of books with magazines and newspaper subscriptions. Each issue comes and goes, but they send the message that reading isn't only a ticket to an imaginary world, but the primary means of following events in the real world, too.
If parents involve children in collecting books, making the public library and local bookstore a regular destination, it becomes an activity with a value all its own. RQ gets an instant boost when a 10-year-old is set loose in the children's section free to choose as many books as he or she wants.
With the tremendous growth in TV, computer, and video games, there is also the decline in print consumption. The American Time Use Survey reveals the same rates of media consumption by older teenagers (15-19 years old), along with miniscule reading minutes.
In spite of all the encounters with words other than through printed matter, NAEP reading scores for 12th-graders in 2009 were four points lower than scores in 1992, before the Digital Age revolutionized teenage leisure time. So, although youths have more access to media and information, the decline of reading print also declines reading scores.
The kind of reading children and teenagers typically do on screens doesn't foster critical reading and writing abilities. Books provide a richer and deeper experience than the Twitter tweet or the Facebook comment. Young people need longer texts requiring lengthier engagement, with more characters, varied settings, complicated plots, and three hundred pages of words.
Neuroscientist and reading researcher Dan Gustafson puts it this way: "The human brain resembles a muscle that strengthens through effort, and just as a person only becomes a stronger weightlifter by lifting more weight, the same ultimately is true of a successful reader." Greater length produces a tougher mental workout.
This breakdown of media consumption among teens, and its effect on these teens' reading levels, is disturbing. But parents have the power to reverse these trends. And they can take the first step towards fostering a high RQ in their children by taking the simple RQ Quiz.
The RQ Quiz
Once parents have established the conditions for high-RQ, they must inculcate the habit, encouraging, coercing, tempting, and leading their children to read voluntarily at home and elsewhere. As their children grow up, they need to monitor how effectively it produces the habit. The question to ask is: How often and how long and how much?—and they need a clear and simple standard of measurement in order to gauge how they are doing.
The first question is:
- How often does your child read a book at home that is not one required for school?
- Every day or almost every day [25 points]
How frequently is your child leisure reading at home? NAEP scores indicate a substantial difference between daily readers and once or twice a week readers, a difference that the scoring should reflect. Also, we divide NAEP's single category "Almost every day" into two categories, "Every day" and "Almost every day" in order to distinguish more sharply the optimum frequency.
Question 2 is:
- When your child reads a book outside of school for pleasure, how long does he or she spend reading in one setting?
- More than 1 hour [25points]
It is important also to measure your child's reading duration. We set the bar at 60 minutes for two reasons. One, it is a reasonable expectation to apportion one hour to reading out of the five hours of leisure time that the average teenager enjoys (according to the American Time Use Survey). Two, we consider a 60-minute amount of time the minimum necessary for youths both to make reading a distinct, habitual activity and to acquire the disposition to handle homework assignments and complex texts.
Question 3 is:
- How many books does your child read per year for pleasure, not homework?
- More than 12 [25 points]
This is the volume question. Parents can monitor frequency and duration, the subjects of Questions 1 and 2, simply by checking each day and recording number of minutes. Volume is more complicated and more diagnostic, too, for it measures how competent and avid a youth reader happens to be. A 13-year-old who reads every day for one hour but covers only as many pages as a 13-year-old who reads daily but only for 30 minutes might indicate a problem. To assess it, a parent would have to examine the reading materials. Is the low-volume reader choosing overly difficult or insufficiently engaging books? Are there factors to consider pertaining to the mingling of readings—for instance, novels, comic books, and informational texts in jumbled combination?
Question 4 is:
How many of the books your child reads are age-appropriate or above?
- All of them [25 points]
This is the challenge question. A Harry Potter book for a five-year-old is too hard, while a Magic Tree House book for a 13-year-old is too easy. A high school student who flies through a Pokémon comic book every week reaches high volume but the material is too simple to build much knowledge and reading skill.
RQ depends upon much more than reading more than 12 books per year, of course, and we expect youths to add other items such as youth-oriented magazines, informational texts, and the sports page into their daily mix. But to determine a child's fluency and interest, the age-level book measure serves well. To find engaging books of the right certain length and density, vocabulary, and background-knowledge demand, parents have two helpful sources. One is their children's English teachers and local and school librarians. Also, they may consult ReadKiddoRead.com. In it parents may find hundreds of exemplary texts matched to age levels from Kindergarten to 12th Grade, including fiction, poetry, drama, biography, essay, history, and science. Parents will be well-equipped to select books for their children to exceed the "More than 12" threshold.
These questions produce an RQ score for parents. Anything less than 100 points is a call for change. If Question 2 earns only 20 points, the strategy is clear: add 20 minutes to every reading session. The tactics may range from increasing library visits to allowing kids more choice of reading to discussing books with kids to hard-line stands ("you can't watch TV unless you do another 20 minutes of reading")—anything that works. If Question 3 earns 20 points, parents and kids find a couple more books of the right complexity level, testing one after another until the child sticks with it and raises the yearly rate.
RQ is not a final grade. It's a diagnosis, isolating areas for improvement. The tactics will vary but the goal is simple: more leisure reading. Would you describe your child as an avid reader of books? Has reading become one of his/her favorite pastimes? The RQ score is a quantitative measure, but the ultimate goal is to instill an attitude in your child. How to make it happen, though, is complicated, especially when children and teenagers have so many other duties and diversions, both homework assignments and peer pressure, drawing their attention. But all parents should agree that it is worth the effort since all children will benefit in substantial measure, by becoming avid, life-long readers.
List of sources
ACT, "Reading Between the Lines: What the ACT Reveals About College Readiness in Reading" (2006)
—–"The Condition of College and Career Readiness, 2011"
Allington, Richard L., and Anne McGill-Franzen, "The Impact of Summer Setback on the Reading Achievement Gap," Phi Delta Kappan 85 (2003): 68-75.
Anderson, Richard C., and William E. Nagy, "The Vocabulary Conundrum," Technical report No. 570 (March 1993), Center for the Study of Reading.
Center for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University, National Survey of Student Engagement.
Cunningham, Anne, and Keith Stanovich, "Reading Can Make You Smarter!" Principal (Nov/Dec 2003): 34-39
Conference Board et al, Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers' Perspectives on the Basic
Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce (2006—
Chiong, Cynthia, Jinny Ree, Lori Takeuchi, and Ingrid Erickson, "Print Books vs. E-books: Comparing Parent-Child Co-Reading on Print, Basic, and Enhanced E-book Platforms," Joan Ganz Cooney Center (http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/upload_kits/jgcc_ebooks_quickreport.pdf)
Dehaene, Stanislas. Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention (2009)
Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, Boiling Point: The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing—http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/~/media/A07730B2A798437D98501E798C2E13AA.ashx)
Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA, American Freshman Survey.
Johnson, Jeffrey G., Patricia Cohen, Stephanie Kasen, and Judith S. Brook, "Extensive Television Viewing and the Development of Attention and Learning Difficulties During Adolescence," Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 161 (2007): 480-86.
Keller, Timothy A. and Marcel Adam Just, "Altering Cortical Connectivity: Remediation-Induced Changes in the White Matter of Poor Readers," Neuron 64 (2009), 624-631
Lacey, S., R. Stilla and K. Sathian. "Metaphorically Feeling: Comprehending Textural Metaphors Activates Somatosensory Cortex," Brain & Language (2012).
Lenhart, Amanda, Rich Ling, Scott Campbell, and Kristen Purcell, "Teens and Mobile Phones," A report of Pew Internet and American Life Project (http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Teens-and-Mobile-Phones.aspx)
Mol, Suzanne E., and Adriana G. Bus, "To Read or Not to Read: A Meta-Analysis of Print Exposure from Infancy to Early Adulthood," Psychological Bulletin 137 (March 2011): 267-96 National Commission on Adult Literacy, Reach Higher, America: Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce (June 2008, http://www.nationalcommissiononadultliteracy.org/ReachHigherAmerica/ReachHigher.pdf)
National Endowment for the Arts, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America (2004)
—–To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence (2007)
—–Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy (2008)
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction (2000)
Nielsen Company, "New Mobile Obsession: U.S. Teens Triple Data Usage (15 Dec 2011—see http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/new-mobile-obsession-u-s-teens-triple-data-usage/)
Peter D. Hart Research Associates, "Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared for College and Work?: A Study of Recent High School Graduates, College Instructors, and Employers" (FEBRUARY 2005, http://www.achieve.org/files/pollreport_0.pdf)
Project Tomorrow, "Mapping a Personal Learning Journey—K-12 Students and Parents Connect the Dots with Digital Learning," Results of Speak Up 2011 (http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/SU11_PersonalizedLearning_Students.pdf)
Rideout, Victoria J., Ulla G. Foehr, and Donald F. Roberts, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds (2010)
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey (http://www.bls.gov/tus/)
U.S. Department of Education, United States. NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress: Three Decades of Performance in Reading and Mathematics (2005)
—–Literacy Behind Bars: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy Prison Survey (2007)
—–"Findings in Brief: Reading and Mathematics 2011" (2012)
Wolf, Maryanne. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (2007)
Dear Moms and Dads, Dear Coaches, Dear Friends Who Gather to Watch the Game,
Are you ready for some football… basketball … hockey …soccer? It's a sure thing your kids are! You can be an ALL-STAR parent and not even miss one of the season's big games! And we don't just mean you'll be playing and watching and cheering, but you'll be reading the best books about sports out there. ReadKiddoRead wants to get you and your kids talking about some great sports books with the TAILGATE BOOK CLUB. Follow these three steps to make the most of pre-game time, half-time, and all the days in between time.
Step 1: Pick a book each week based on the ReadKiddoRead TAILGATE BOOK CLUB BOOKLIST, and have all your friends and their kids read it before game day.
Step 2: Gather everyone together for the game. During half-time, put the TV on mute and dive into your TAILGATE BOOK CLUB by filling-in-the-blanks on our get-talking sheets–you can find these here. Print out copies for everyone!
Step 3: Don't forget the salsa.
TAILGATE BOOKCLUB BOOKLIST
Great Picture Books
For ages 2-6SPOT LOVES SPORTSBy Eric Hill
For ages 1-4
The youngest kids in the family can participate in your Half-Time book club. Spot, an enduring favorite character of kids who crawl and toddle, goes to the park to race, play soccer, and have an altogether thirsty-making and fun-filled day in his latest board-book adventure.
TYRANNOSAURUS DADBy Liz Rosenberg; illustrated by Matthew Myers
For ages 4-6
Tobias's dad, like so many dads, is always busy, always working. (Unlike most dads though, Tobias's father happens to be a Tyrannosaurus.) Tobias tries everything he can think of to get his father to come to his school's Field Day. Dad finally shows up and steps in as the umpire in a baseball dispute. Now who's going to argue with a dinosaur?
Great Beginner Reads
For ages 6-9TEAMMATESBy Peter Golenbock; illustrated by Paul Bacon
For ages 6-9
It took a kind of courage that few of today's kids can imagine for Jackie Robinson to step onto the baseball field as a Brooklyn Dodger in 1947. It also took courage for one of his teammates, Pee Wee Reese, to step up, put his arm around Robinson and talk – right there, in front of the crowd. This event is captured in the simple words, drawings and old photos of this picture book.
You Never Heard of Willie Mays?By Jonah Winter; illustrated by Terry Widener
For ages 7-9
Not only does this non-fiction picture book tell all about Willie Mays and his astonishing baseball career, it's as much fun to read as watching a game. As a boy, Willie idolized Joe DiMaggio; as a teen, he copied Joe's style, and as a young man he brought that style and his talent to the New York Giants, which had just been integrated. With play-by-play descriptions and action-filled illustrations, this biography gives new independent readers lots to contribute to Halt-Time Sports Book talk.
And check out:You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!By Jonah Winter; illustrated by Andrew Carriho
For ages 7-10
There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever LivedBy Matt Tavares
For ages 7-11
We know that baseball is more than a game. It is the stuff of legend. This biography focuses on Ted's childhood and his early dedication to practice, practice, practice. And it paid off in his record-breaking career. He is a sports hero we can continue to admire, and with this engaging picture book, a new generation will know his story and profit from his example.
And check out:HENRY AARON'S DREAMBy Matt Tavares
For ages 7-10
For ages 9-12BASEBALL SAVED USBy Ken Mochizuki; illustrated by Dom Lee
For ages 8 and up
Shorty and his father build a baseball field and create teams while they are in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. The games do more than help pass the time; they lift spirits and self-respect and offer reasons for hope.
Hey Batta Batta Swing!: The Wild Old Days of BaseballBy James Charlton and Sally Cook, Illustrated by Ross MacDonald
For ages 8 and up
What was the game of baseball like when it began more than a century ago? First off, back then, you could get a runner out by soaking him. Soaking? It was "a very early rule that allowed a runner who was off base to be put out by hitting him with a ball." Ouch. This entertaining array of baseball facts will surprise even the biggest baseball fans.
Hope Solo: My StoryBy Hope Solo
For ages 8 and up
She's a soccer sensation; the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. women's national soccer team; an Olympic gold medalist. And with this book, adapted from her adult Memoir of Hope, she will be an inspiration for young athletes.
THE UNDERDOGSBy Mike Lupica
For ages 8-12
From the title and vivid cover readers may guess that this is a book about a determined team of middle school football players struggling to beat odds stacked high against them. Of course, they're right, but there's a lot more to this story. It is also about their hometown facing a serious recession when the local sneaker factory closes under the pressure of bigger companies. How Will Tyler, captain of the Bulldogs, helps his team, his out-of-work father, and the whole town makes for a novel that is a touchdown!
And check out:Game ChangersBy Mike Lupica
For ages 8-12
For ages 12 and upTrue Legendby Mike Lupica
For ages 11-14
Fifteen-year-old high school basketball star Drew Robinson faces a tough decision: should he take an opportunity to switch schools and play for a ritzy private school (where he's sure to get all sorts of special treatment)? Drew makes the switch and begins to enjoy his new status, but soon his game begins to suffer. Told with the clear voice and honesty of sportswriter Mike Lupica, this novel has plenty of sports choices along with a hard-earned lesson.
The Final FourBy Paul Volponi
For ages 12 up
Teens get right inside a game in the semifinal round of the NCAA men's basketball championship, as they get to know two players on each of the competing teams: The Michigan Spartans and the Troy Trojans. Newspaper articles, interviews, journals, and flashbacks interspersed with game action, reveal Michael, Malcolm, Roko and Crispin's backstories, motivations and aspirations and show how their different backgrounds and their individual problems shape them. The characters are real, multi-faceted, and set on winning.
And check out:Crossing LinesBy Paul Volponi
For ages 12 up
The Moves Make the ManBy Bruce Brooks
For ages 12 and up
The basketball story, with game scenes wonderfully described, is wrapped around a story of friendship and coming of age. Jerome Foxworthy's got the moves – on the court and off. And he's cool, despite some tough breaks – he's sure of that. Still, for some reason he doesn't quite understand, he's decided to teach Bix Rivers, a mentally-ill kid at school, how to play the basketball. Maybe it will help Bix cope with all the troubles he's got. Basketball has always been good for what ails Jerome.
Game ChangerBy Margaret Peterson Haddix
For ages 12 up
In a novel that combines sports story, mystery, and fantasy, KT, a softball star, blacks out during a game and wakes up in a different world. In KT's new reality only academic success is admired – not athletic or other talents. As she struggles to understand this world, KT questions everything, especially the values in the life she led, where kids had to define themselves by predetermined categories: good student? jock? gamer? The lines were clear – and now KT sees, limiting. There is much to think about and talk about in this involving take on sports.
The ContenderBy Robert Lipsyte
For ages 13 and up
This long-lived classic young adult novel, about a seventeen-year-old high-school dropout from Harlem, is as powerful today as it was when it was first published. Alfred Brooks's dead-end job, the gang of kids who are after him, and his friend's spiral down the road of drug addiction leaves Albert in need of hope. He finds it at a gym where he discovers not just his talent for boxing, but also lessons about hard work and determination.
Every fan loves to know stats and talk about them. These books will get you started.
NFL Record and Fact Book 2012By Editors at the NFL
Great Baseball Feats, Facts and FirstsBy David Nemec, et. al.
Sports Illustrated Almanac 2012By Editors of Sports Illustrated.
NHL Official Guide and Record Book 2012By the National Hockey League
The moody blue cover of this first book in a series features a die-cut look through the door of a most unwelcoming house. But Fernie What (yes, that's her name) is undaunted as she follows her cat right in and meets its only human resident, Gustav Gloom. Their search for Harrington takes them into every room and every corner of the house — the haunt of the terrible People Taker. The author weaves elements from the scary tales kids tell on camping trips and on stormy autumn evenings and gives us a tour of one spooky mansion that readers will want to return to again and again.
All of us – adults, teens, and children – enjoy a scary chill: the anticipation of a creaking door opening in slow motion, waiting for someone – or something – to walk through, and then a wind gust slamming that door shut. BANG! What better time of year to indulge in stories that make our spines tingle than Halloween? So bring them on – ghosts and ghouls, wizards and witches, haunted houses and black magic.
for ages 2-6
Youngest children love the fun of Halloween: costumes, trick-or-treating, and gentle tales of ghosts and goblins.
GHOSTS IN THE HOUSE
By Kazumo Kohara
For ages 1-6
There are fuzzy pumpkin costumes in sizes as small as six months, so why not a Halloween board book for toddlers? This one tells the tale of a little girl who moves into a new house only to discover it is haunted. No worries. Turns out she's a witch, and she knows exactly what to do. In a twist of the sheet-as-ghost-costume tradition, our little witch gathers up the pesky ghosts, puts them in the washing machine, hangs them on the line, and makes bed sheets out of them. Stylishly illustrated in orange and black, this is the just right balance for very young children.
GO AWAY BIG GREEN MONSTER!
By Ed Emberley
For ages: 3-6
This big-faced monster has two yellow eyes, a long blue nose, sharp white teeth, two little squiggly ears, scraggly purple hair, and a scary green face.
THE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO WAS NOT AFRAID OF ANYTHING
By Linda Williams; Illustrated by Megan Lloyd.
For ages: 3-7
In this cumulative story that will have everyone chiming in on the telling, we watch an unflappable little old lady encounter two clomping shoes, a wiggling pair of pants, a shaking shirt, two clapping gloves, a nodding hat, and one scary pumpkin head that says, "BOO, BOO!"
THE MONSTER RETURNS
By Peter McCarty
For ages 3-7
When the phone rings and Jeremy's blue monster announces that he is bored and coming back, Jeremy invites his friends over to draw their own monsters. Then, when Jeremy's monster arrives, he is greeted by a roomful of friends. And friends are just what the monster and Jeremy need!
for ages 6-9
New readers are ready for some scary stuff, mixed with humor, handled with a light touch, and happily resolved.
NIGHT OF THE PUMPKINHEADS
By Michael J. Rosen; illustrated by Hugh McMahon
For ages 5-8
All those pumpkins sitting on the porch want their turn to put on costumes and go trick-or-treating. And this year, they do! Illustrated with photographs of carved pumpkins, this Halloween treat also includes instructions for making your own pumpkin heads.
LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN
By Marisa Montes; Illustrated by Yuyi Morales.
For ages: 6-9
In a spooky graveyard on Halloween night, los gatos (cats) slink, las calabazas (pumpkins) burn bright, las brujas (witches) glide on their escobas (broomsticks), and los esqueletos (skeletons) rattle bones.
By Diana Wynne Jones; Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
For ages 7-10
Earwig was left in a basket on the doorstep of St Morwald's Home for Children with a note suggesting she had been left there by a witch. Earwig is happy at St Morwald's. Why not? She uses her "strange abilities" to get whatever she wants — from her favorite lunch to a new red sweater — until she meets her match in Bella Yaga and the Mandrake who adopt her. Her new home is strange to be sure: rooms change boundaries, smells and sights appear and disappear, and Thomas, the black cat, can talk. But Earwig is determined to take control, and she and Thomas begin to work some magic of their own.
DRAGONBREATH: CURSE OF THE WERE-WIENER
And other titles in the Dragonbreath series
By Ursula Vernon
For ages 8-10
Just as Danny's best friend Wendell the Iguana is about to bite into a hotdog-the hotdog bites back! By the next day, Wendell's finger has turned red, his back is growing hair, and Danny discovers this weiner was manufactured in (where else?) Transylvania. With witty one-liners, black and green-toned illustrations and balloon dialogue, this graphic-style novel will keep readers howling.
for ages 9-12
There's a bit of an "I dare you to scare me" attitude as kids in the middle grades and in middle school approach spooky stories. You can meet that challenge with some of these books
HOCUS POCUS HOTEL
(Volumes 1 and 2)
By Michael Dahl
For ages 8-11
When Tyler Yu (a bully) asks Charlie Hitchcock (a geek) to meet him after school, Charlie fears the worst. But Ty just needs his help solving a mystery at the Abracadabra Hotel, a retirement home for magicians, where his Dad is the manager. As the two join forces and discover the hotel is haunted, an unlikely friendship develops. A delightful spirited new series filled with riddles, magic tricks and secret.
By Naomi Zucker
For ages 9-11
Eleven-year-old Callie takes on the establishment to try and save Halloween when the Town Council votes to ban trick-or-treating and all scary costumes.
GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE PEOPLE TAKER
By Adam-Troy Castro; Illustrated by Kristen Margiotta
For ages 9-12
The moody blue cover of this first book in a series features a die-cut look through the door of a most unwelcoming house. But Fernie What (yes, that's her name) is undaunted as she follows her cat right in where she meets its only human resident, Gustav Gloom. Their search for Harrington takes them into every room and every corner of the house occupied by shadows and the haunt of the terrible People Taker. The author weaves elements from the scary tales kids tell on camping trips and on stormy autumn evenings and gives us a tour of one spooky mansion that readers will want to return to again and again. .
THE EMERALD ATLAS
(The Books of Beginning Series)
By John Stephanes
For ages 9-12
Siblings Michael, Kate and Emma, sent away by their parents years ago, live in a creepy orphanage run by a wizard, Dr. Pym. When they find a green leather-bound book, it transports them to the past and an evil Countess who will stop at nothing to get the ancient Atlas of Time back. In page-turning action, the children confront wolves, witchery, fearsome creatures, magic, and their own self-doubts in a race against time as they search for their parents.
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
and MORE SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
By Alvin Schwartz;; Illustrated by Brett Helquist
For ages 9 and 12
Don't forget your flashlight when you read or tell the spine-tingling tales in these funny/scary collections, based on American folklore. Genuine classics filled with all the delicious dark-side details kids love: blood, gore, murder, murderers, ghosts, horror, revenge, and of course, a couple of graveyards.
THE POISONED HOUSE
By Michael Ford
For ages 9-12
From the cover (a hand reaching up from a crypt) to the pulse-pounding crescendo ending, a haunting tale of a young woman in Victorian England who becomes convinced that her late mother was poisoned. Why else would she keep appearing in Abigail's dreams, if not to warn her daughter about the dangers that lurk within? Abigail doesn't know whom to trust. A haunting, atmospheric tale of love, betrayal, murder, greed and madness.
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
By Neil Gaiman; Illustrated by Dave McKean.
For ages: 10 and up
Escaping a murderous intruder, a toddler finds his way to an old graveyard where he is taken in to be raised and kept safe by Mistress Owens and her husband—ghosts, both of them—and renamed Nobody Owens, or Bod for short.
WITCHES: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem
By Rosalyn Schanzer
For ages 10 up
A riveting, real-life horror story of what happened in Massachusetts in 1692 when two young girls began twitching and contorting their bodies into strange shapes and mumbling odd things. As the "virus" spread to other villages, people began to distrust their friends and neighbors, believing they were witches in cahoots with the devil. Mass hysteria reigned, reputations were ruined and lives were lost. A terrifying historical event, vividly brought to life.
for ages 12 and up
Books for teens mix the fantasy elements of scary tales with just enough reality to ramp up the fear factor.
GHOSTS I HAVE BEEN
By Richard Peck
Ages 11 and up
The time: 1914. Quirky, fun-loving Blossom Culp would do anything not to feel like a social outcast. So she conjures up a story about being able to see the future.( Since her mother is a fortune-teller, It's not as far-fetched as it seems.) And sure enough, her gullible schoolmates begin to believe it. But when some of Blossom's predictions come true, and she begins to have visions… flash-forwards… and a particularly vivid deja-vu about a young boy on the Titanic, Blossom realizes that her new paranormal "normal" has its own set of problems.
SPLENDORS AND GLOOM
By Laura Amy Schlitz
For ages 11 and up
Part fable, part fairy tale, this highly-original mix of gothic horror and fantasy tells of Parsefall and Lizzie Rose, two orphans in a Dickensian London who live with a puppeteer named Grisini who make a dreadful discovery: Grisini has kidnapped a wealthy young girl named Clara, and turned her into a puppet. Terrified that the same thing will happen to them, the brother and sister confront him. That's when they find a mysterious letter from a woman named Madama, promising them great riches if they join her in Italy. The two set out on the journey, taking the Clara-puppet with them, only to learn that Madama is an evil witch with a powerful secret, unveiled in the surprising climax. A vivid, powerful period drama about children caught in a world of magic and misdeeds — with much to teach about human nature at its best and worst.
WITCH AND WIZARD
and other books in the Witch and Wizard Series
By James Patterson
For ages 11 and up
A dystopian fantasy of what happens when two typical teenagers, Whit and Wisty Allgood have their lives uprooted by a sudden totalitarian takeover. The New Order, headed by The One Who Is The One, immediately abolishes what it considers subversive behaviors — in particular, the creative and dark arts. One night, hundreds of commandos storm their house and arrest the teens, accusing them of being a witch and a wizard. The siblings protest their innocence, but are suddenly aware of superpowers they never knew they possessed. Ignoring their pleas, the solders toss them into a dank prison overrun with sadistic guards, and filled with other young people who possess magical powers. A faced-paced thriller filled with dazzling special effects, sorcery and surprises.
Season One of the 3:15 Series
By Patrick Carman
For ages 11 and up
The ten short stories in this collection, each with a touch of Twiight Zone, are told, first in an audio recording that readers access on their computers; then on the pages of the book; and finally in a video ending, again accessed on the computer. The stories are genuinely chilling: a hermit woodsman with a golden hook for and arm; a teen discovering an enchanted mirror at the antique shop where she works; two fearless snow-boarding pals who ought to be a bit more cautious… Each story takes 15 minutes to listen, read, and watch – but they are sure to linger in readers' thoughts long after.
FRIENDS WITH BOYS
By Faith Erin Hicks
For ages 12 and up
A starkly beautiful graphic novel. Maggie has always had it easy…sort of. Her devoted Mom home-schooled her, so she never had to deal with the real world. All that changed the day Maggie's mother disappeared. Suddenly, life — or, more specifically, high school — loomed before her. Haunted by her mother's departure, Maggie finds herself haunted by something else as well: a real ghost hovering around her – the widow of a sea captain. And for some reason, the ghost won't leave Maggie's side. A story with great emotional intensity that will resonate with raw teens everywhere.
By Vera Brosgol
For ages 12-18
Fitting in is always tough. But what if you're an immigrant, ashamed of your Russian parents, trying desperately to look and sound like all the other kids at your posh school? That's the angst of Anya in this magical coming-of-age graphic novel. When Anya falls down a well, she meets Emily, a hundred-year-old ghost her own age. Anya believes she's found a real kindred spirit and BFF…until, slowly, the ghost takes on a sinister life of its own.
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
By Ransom Riggs
For ages 13 and up
A creepy, scary, touching book about a young man's journey to discover the life his grandfather lived as a boy…only to discover a world of unexpected terror.
As Jacob stumbles into a time loop – part paradise and part nightmare –he finds himself trying to unlock the mysteries of Miss Peregrine's Home, and the peculiar children it housed who may all still be alive and hell-bent on ridding the world of monsters. Mesmerizing vintage photos give the story an added dimension and make the characters starkly real.
How can you make telling stories out loud really, well, SCARY? Starr LaTronica, Youth Services Manager at the Four County Library System in New York, gives some tips.
Now–huddle around with your kids and watch some creepy scary stories together!
For parents of middle schoolers looking for a great new book–read a sneak preview of DARK LORD: THE EARLY YEARS.
All of Grandpa Portman's stories were true, Jacob finds, as he travels to a small island off of Wales to discover the abandoned ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the children were not just peculiar. They were downright dangerous—and perhaps even still alive.
The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus series) by Rick Riordan
Three teens – Jason, his girlfriend Piper, and his best friend Leo – in a fantastic and fast-paced sequence of events, discover that they are demigods. Now, they must learn how to use their unique talents and extraordinary powers to accomplish a mighty mission: save Hera before evil forces destroy Olympus.
Matched by Ally Condie
In Cassia's world everything is perfect; The Society provides her with everything, even a perfect Match. At the Matching Ceremony, Ky's face flickers on the screen for an instant, but it is an error and his face is quickly replaced with Xander's. The mistake has planted a seed of doubt for Cassia–a seed that grows as she learns more.
Witch & Wizard (Witch & Wizard series) by James Patterson
Fifteen-year-old Wisteria Allgood and her older brother, Whitney, are about to be hanged for the crime of having magical powers. In alternating voices, the two cheeky and resourceful sibs look back on their growing resistance to the New Order.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to hot, desolate Camp Green Lake in Texas, a detention center for bad boys. Meanwhile, trouble abounds with various plots involving the famous 19th century outlaw Kissing Kate Barlow, poisonous yellow-spotted lizards, the tragic story of Sam the onion man, and a frantic search for buried treasure.
Masterpiece by Elise Broach, Illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Marvin, a beetle spies an open bottle of ink on James's desk, dips his two front legs in, and begins drawing a meticulous nightscape for James. James takes credit for the remarkable drawing, which his dad thinks is as detailed as a painting by Albrecht Dürer, the German Renaissance artist.
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
In this graphic novel, Anya's Ghost is a girl named Emily Riley, murdered ninety years before. At first Emily is the BFF Anya's longed for, but slowly, suspensefully, Anya's sinister purpose is revealed.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Eleven-year-old Delphine Gaither shepherds her two younger sisters from New York to visit their mother, Cecile, in Oakland, during the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. A real mother would cook them dinner; Cecile sends them to get take-out at Ming's, tells them they are not allowed in her kitchen, and sends them to The People's Center, run by the Black Panthers, for breakfast every day.
When You Reach Me By Rebecca Stead
Sixth grader Miranda reveals the story of her past year in her Manhattan neighborhood and school to an unidentified and mysterious someone who has sent her notes that have correctly predicted some of those events.
To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee
When Atticus Finch courageously takes on the defense of Tom Robinson, a young black man, it becomes clear that Tom cannot get a fair trial in spite of clear evidence of his innocence. Atticus' seven-year-old daughter Scout's idyllic story gives way to ugly realities in the racially divided town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the late 1930's.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Sixteen-year-old Miles leaves Florida for a boarding school in Birmingham, Alabama, where he meets his roommate, Chip, and Chip's best friend Alaska, who every guy at school is in love with. The chapters are hinged on Alaska's tragic suicide.
Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon By Catherine Thimmesh
In a large-format scrapbook of dramatic black and white and color photographs and white text set against a glossy black background, we read the gripping story firsthand from the (mostly) men who reveal the many challenges and problems they faced getting ready for the Apollo 11 flight and in the mission itself.
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg
Readers with a taste for the gross and grotesque will find How They Croaked, a consistently disgusting, gleefully ghoulish chronicle of the gruesome deaths of nineteen famous people, irresistible.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusack
Liesel's experiences in Germany with World War II have left deep emotional scars. Her foster father teaches her to read, which becomes her means of escape. The question that no one seems to be able to answer, though, is how can humans be so beautiful and glorious… and so ugly and destructive?
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
Three men groom the unlikely racehorse Seabiscuit towards victory in this story about the modernization of the United States in the late 1930′s.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
This fantastical yet true story of ex-Olympic runner during World War II follows Louis Zamperini's quest for survival after crashing into the Pacific Ocean.
FAVORITE PAGETURNERS (for kids 8-12)
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
"I used my name," the author writes in this wildly entertaining blend of biography and invention. No doubt readers will wonder what else is fact and what is fiction in this story about a transformative summer in 12-year-old Jackie Gantos's life.
Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald
Charlie Joe shares the tactics that have gotten him all the way to Middle School without EVER reading a whole book. Reluctant readers ready to learn his secrets will find instead that they have just finished (and enjoyed!) an entire book.
Big Nate in a Class by Himself (Big Nate series) by Lincoln Peirce
Sixth-grader Nate Wright's fortune cookie reads: "Today you will surpass all others," but the only thing he seems to be excelling at is getting detention.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
Tommy begins the first entry in his case file with this: "The big question: Is Origami Yoda real?… Does he really know things? Can he see the future?… Or is he just a hoax that fooled a whole bunch of us at McQuarrie Middle School?"
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (Middle School series) by James Patterson
Middle School doesn't begin well for Rafe Khatchadorian. So it's totally understandable when his best friend, Leonardo, suggests that Rafe set out to break every rule in the book—and he does just that.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Wimpy Kid series) by Jeff Kinney
Writing and drawing his stick-figure pictures in his new journal helps Greg deal with middle school, overbearing parents, and two brothers.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
It's 1936, and with the Great Depression in full swing, times are tough, especially for Bud, a homeless African American child who fled his foster home in search of the legendary Herman Calloway. His resilient spirit and a knack for organizing his life into "Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things to Have a Funner Life and Make a Better Liar Out of Yourself" keep him moving.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret By Brian Selznick
This 500+ page story about an orphan trying to survive alone in a Paris train station is a magical combination of words and pictures.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Jeffrey Magee, orphaned at three years old, runs away from his aunt and uncle's house once he hits eleven. And literally runs—he runs for days and finally slows down when he gets to the town of Two Mills, Pennsylvania, a town split down the middle with whites living on one end and blacks on the other. Like the exploits of Paul Bunyan, tales of Maniac's legendary feats spread through both sides of town, and through his example, began to heal the rift between two races.
Wonder By R.J. Palacio
August Pullman, now 10, was born with a deformed face. Now his parents have decided that it's time for Auggie to meet the wider world, enrolling him in school. His father worries that sending his gentle son to school is like leading a lamb to slaughter.
Eragon (Inheritance Cycle series) by Christopher Paolini
Eragon comes across a mysterious polished blue stone, which soon hatches–and Eragon finds himself in charge of training a baby dragon he names Saphira. King Galbatorix, the feared and hated ruler of all Alagaësia, murders Eragon's uncle, and Eragon and Saphira flee, vowing vengeance.
Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles series) by Suzanne Collins
"Be small human, be?" "All right, okay, I'm talking to a giant cockroach," Gregor tells himself, stunned. Gregor has landed far below Manhattan in the Underland, a place where people ride on giant bats, monstrous rats threaten their lives, and there's no way home.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone By J.K. Rowling
For ten miserable years, Harry has been raised by his dreadful aunt and uncle, the Dursleys. On Harry's tenth birthday, a giant named Hagrid bursts through the Dursley's door and tells him the truth: Harry's parents were great wizards, killed by an evil wizard named Voldemort. And now Harry's being summoned to attend the prestigious Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as he has inherited his parents' marvelous powers.
The Westing Game By Ellen Raskin
Sixteen confused people with little in common arrive at Sunset Towers, a sleek apartment building overlooking Lake Michigan, to hear the will of Sam Westing, a wealthy paper magnate. And one of them killed Sam Westing.
A Wrinkle in Time By Madeline L'engle
Meg and Charles Wallace, along with their friend Calvin, travel through space by a wrinkle in time to find their lost scientist father.
Guinness: World Records 2012 by Guinness World Records
National Geographic Kids Almanac 2013 by National Geographic Kids
Ripley's Believe It Or Not: Special Edition 2012 By Ripley's Inc.
TERRIFIC TRANSITIONAL BOOKS (for ages 6-9)
Pirate vs. Pirate: The Terrific Tale of a Big, Blustery Maritime Match by Mary Quattlebaum
Two pirate captains set sail, each one determined to prove that s/he is the best in the world. Riding the wave of pop-culture, these pirate characters are wholly original and irresistible.
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath (Bad Kitty series) by Nick Bruel
This companion book to picture books Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy is a zany little graphic novel. Bad Kitty needs a bath? Uh, oh. Don't you know CATS HATE BATHS?
Amelia Bedelia By Peggy Parish; illustrated by Fritz Siebel
Mr. and Mrs. Rogers can't be there for Amelia Bedelia's first day as their housekeeper, but leave her with a long list of things to do. She takes each task literally, from drawing the drapes on a sketchpad, to putting the lights out… out in the yard.
Grin and Bear It by Leo Landry
All Bear wants is to be a stand-up comedian. But the poor guy's got stage-fright. The solution to Bear's dilemma will please newly-independent readers almost as much as his jokes will.
The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick
Ten-year-old Victor is in awe when by chance he comes face to face with the famous escape artist Harry Houdini. He is given a box after Houdini's death, but Victor assumes the box is not Houdini's, and vows never to think about him again—until he learns the truth.
Scooter in the Outside by Anne Bowen, illustrated by Abby Carter
One morning, Lucy forgets to close the door as she leaves for school, so Scooter decides to make his own foray into THE OUTSIDE.
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
Julian is a great story-teller, but also great at telling fibs. He and his friend Huey's curiosity often gets them into trouble.
The Talented Clementine (Clementine series) by Sara Pennypacker, Illustrated by Marla Frazee
Unlike her fourth grade friend Margaret, who has a whole alphabet of talents, Clementine can't think of anything she could do for the upcoming Talent-Palooza.
Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles into Comics by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost
A little, green-clad Magic Cartooning Elf gives an education in cartooning to a young princess who thinks she can't draw well enough to make an awesome comic.
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman
In the 1930′s, two high school students, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, came up with the idea for the comic strip superhero we still celebrate today.
THE BEST ILLUSTRATED BOOKS (preschoolers-age 7)
Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
The shark sneers, "I'M GOING TO CHOO-CHOO YOU UP AND SPIT YOU OUT," and the unintimidated train responds, "HA! I'M GOING TO FIN-ISH YOU, MACKEREL-BREATH." Who will win?
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
This frantic, insanely funny send-up of fairy tales presents nine little comic masterpieces, with a cast that includes "The Princess and the Bowling Ball," "The Other Frog Prince," "Little Red Running Shorts," and the malodorous title character, with a head made from a thick wheel of cheese, with bacon for a mouth and olives for eyes.
Blackout by John Rocco
In this plugged-in world we live in, can you imagine the panic one family feels when the lights go out in the city one hot summer night?
Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Bear is scared to jump down from a tall chair until Dog coaches him to slide down his long back; Dog wants bear to play with him, but Bear is busy reading a book about a dog and a stuffed bear; and Dog decides to change his boring name to something spiffier, like Spot.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
"Hey, can I drive the bus," the gimlet-eyed blue pigeon asks them straight out. "NO!" your children will yell. The persistent Pigeon tries every angle possible, from whining to temper spells.
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Annabelle's colorful yarn seems to be never-ending; she knits and knits and knits until her entire town and all the people in it are adorned with her colorful creations, and yet she still has extra yarn.
No, David! by David Shannon
"Be quiet!," "That's enough, David!," and "Go to your room!" are just some of the admonitions that David's mom yells at him while the round-headed dynamo barrels around the house making mischief. In spite of his unruly ways, his mother assures him, "Yes, David, I love you."
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Can a hat peddler outwit a band of mischievous, thieving monkeys?
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Doctor De Soto is a dentist, and he is a mouse. There is one rule in his office: he will treat any patient unless they are a dangerous animal. But how can he turn away this fox with a tooth infection, who is in so much pain?
Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
Mayzie the bird convinces Horton the elephant to sit on her egg so she can take a short break. Little does Horton know, Mayzie has moved to Palm Beach.