Yes, it's time for We Recommend, in which we attempt to find the perfect book based on whatever you send us. So go ahead and e-mail us with your reader's likes, dislikes, favorite books, etc, and we'll see if we can find something inspiring.
Somehow I always want to start this like Metropolitan Diary in the Times with "A friend writes…." But now that I've said that, I can't quite bring myself to do it (maybe next time). At any rate, here's the deal:
Brynna (my five, almost six year old daughter) is reading
on her own, a bit shakily, though. She has the skills, but lacks the
confidence. I'm trying hard but not helping because I can't quite seem
to pin down a book written on the right level. Either it's too simple
and she flies through it, but is bored to death, or it's too hard and
she ends up losing her nerve and looking to me for every other word.
Her teacher has benchmarked her at a "B", whatever that means, but I
don't think that was especially accurate, since she is very shy about
reading to new people and this was done the first week of school. I want
books that are easy enough that she doesn't get frustrated, but
challenging enough that she's making progress.
I've tried those leveled "Early Reader" books and they seem really
hit or miss. She's fine with nonfiction. We've got these phonics
readers about animals from all over the world and she does fairly well
with them. But if it's not informative or story driven she isn't
interested. Silly books without much of a plot just don't tickle her
Titles would be great, but also some advice on how to find the right
kind of thing would be great. It's more of a struggle for her than I
thought it would be, and I just don't want her to lose hope.
Lose hope? Dear lady, no no no! There is more than hope ahead: joy, frustration, elation, thrill. Here's what I think:
Bear in mind that all this comes with a HUGE caveat: I am not a reading specialist. I am only speaking from 1) my gut and 2) my two very different readers, ages 9 and 11. So a real reading person will know more.
But for what it's worth, here is what I think: there's all sorts of crazy pressure to read in this country. And she is 5. 5! She is doing AMAZINGLY WELL. She's way ahead of herself, in my book. The real question, I think, is whether she wants to read books on her own, or no. If the answer is no, I would STRONGLY suggest just letting her read whatever it is she is wanting to read in school with her teachers. If she is home schooled, I would blow it off until she is 7 or 8.
Either way, I think the best thing to do is just read aloud to her (however tedious it can be sometimes—interspersed with joyful, of course). She will get everything she needs from listening to you read, and from trying to make out the labels on cans and the words on signs. Then, when she's a little father along, when it's easy and she's super-interested, bring yourself home some Poppleton. God, I love Poppleton. Or maybe some little bear. Or Frog & Toad. All those beginning readers series are pretty great. Go to the EZ reader section of the library and have a ball. But not yet.
If, however, she is obsessed and wants to try and try and try, and you want to get her something she can succeed with, and she isn't into the whole Dr. Seuss oeuvre (Hop on Pop is truly awesome, but my guess is this is what you mean by not plot-driven and silly?) then here's my pick:
This is Biscuit. Biscuit is yellow. Biscuit is fuzzy. Biscuit is…you get my drift.
But really truly seriously: she is starting to read. That is fine. She is not able to read real interesting books on her own yet. That is also fine. Let her read what her teachers want at school, read her every fun thing you can think of, and when she is ready to explore, watch her fly.
But we all know that the real information comes out in the comments. What do you guys think?