A great book series for older kids to get into are the “Secret Series” by Pseudonymous Bosch. This series has everything from action/adventure, friendship, mystery, and even a little magic! Currently, there are 5 books in this series, starting with “The Name of this Book is Secret.” I read this book out loud to my 5th grade students in North Carolina and they loved it! Every day, they would beg me to read more than one chapter and were actively engaged with asking questions, sharing thoughts and opinions, and making connections. This book starts off by stating that the author changed the names of the people and places in the story in order to protect the characters. The villains names in this series are Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais and my students were absolutely conviced by the character descriptions that their teacher, Ms. Mound, and their gym teacher, Mr. W, were in fact the villains in the story. They would constantly hunt for clues like little detectives to prove that their thoughts were true. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about my students thinking that their gym teacher and I were “villains”, however, it was great to see them so involved in our classroom reading and applying it to the outside world!
In the classroom, I utilized an interactive sticky note chart with specific questions for each chapter that I wanted students to focus on. One day, the question might be on character motivation such as, “Why does Cass want to go into the dead magician’s house? Why would Max Earnest follow her?” or character point of view such as, “If Max Earnest had gone to the Midnight Sun Spa before Cass, how might he react?” to more simple questions such as, “What do you think will happen next in the story?” or “What questions do you still have that you want the author to answer?”
One thing that I learned while teaching was that kids love sticky notes and they are a great instructional and learning tool! You can easily make an interactive sticky note chart in your house for your child and display it where your child does most of his/her reading (should be a specific, comfortable place in the house.) You could either get an easel with a pad of chart paper attached or there is Post-It chart paper that will stick directly to the wall. Be sure to allow your child to choose some fun sticky notes to add to the chart each day!
Next, you could either talk to your child’s teacher about what questioning skills he/she needs to work on, or, you can read the book with your child and decide what questions would be important and appropriate to ask! If you read with your child, not only can you keep better track of his/her comprehension, but he/she will be more actively engaged with the text since you are reading it with him/her and holding him/her accountable! It’s also great family time that you can spend together! So far, I’ve read 3 out of 5 of the stories with the 6th grader, Amaya, who I tutor. I find the books a quick and enjoyable read myself and we just got the 4th book to start reading. I usually read a chapter out loud to her and then she reads a chapter out loud to me. Finally, we each read a chapter independently and discuss what has happened in the plot, with the character development, and any additional questioning skills we are focusing on.
This book series touches on most of the standards for reading literature in the new Common Core Standards (focusing on grades 4-6.) One standard that this book would work on throughout the entire book would be: Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact). You could even make a sticky note chart for this standard every day, such as, “Compare and contrast our two main characters, Cass and Max Earnest.” Or, “How are the feelings you have reading the section about the magicians house similar to the feelings you have while reading about Cass’ stay at the Midnight Sun Spa?”
A few other activities you could have your child complete with this book would be:
1) Make a survivalist backpack! Throughout the story, Cass (the main character), refers to herself as a survivalist; she is up for any challenging situation that she needs to face. Therefore, she carries a backpack full of necessities from a space blanket, map, flashlight and even her special peanut butter chip trail mix. Have your child pack a back pack full of supplies that they would need to be a survivalist. Be creative!
2) The Bergamo brothers were from Italy, “Born in a small town between the wars.” Encourage your child to learn more. “What were those 2 wars? What was Italy’s involvement in each? What was everyday life like in Italy during this time period? What are some customs and beliefs that are different in Italy than in the United State?” Your child could make a poster or even a power point presentation to show off to the entire family! Encourage your child to use both the internet and books as resources and not only would you be integrating social studies into your child’s reading, but also research papers (writing) and non-fiction text (reading)!
3) In the back of each book, there is an appendix that offers a wide variety of “extras” for these books. There are card tricks, decoding secret codes and “Max-Earnests book of Unfunny jokes,” to keep your child engaged in the book even after he/she has finished reading.
4) An interactive website will further engage your child: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/secretwebsite/index.html
Encourage your child to keep reading the entire series! Once they are hooked, they will have every kid in the neighborhood reading along with them!
Are there any specific books that your child can’t put down? If so, please share!