Challenging Young Readers

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Sometimes children get bored with reading. It’s like they don’t like to read anymore. They like to read. They enjoy it, yet they push aside their books in disinterest. What is gong on? It’s not normal! It’s not right! What are you dealing with? You might have an issue of an under-challenged reader.

When a child likes to read but is not interested in reading, they might be bored with the material they are handed. The books are received with disinterest. The reading is slow to begin and takes much longer to complete. The desire to get to the end of the book is missing, and the love of reading seems to be dead. That might not really be the case.

Too often, we look at third grade reading lists and think our children should only be reading those books. If they are in third grade, those are the books they should read, right? Not necessarily. Those lists are guidelines of where a child should be at a minimum, but all children are different. The ones who are struggling with reading might need to look to a lower level list. The ones who are bored might need to look at higher grade levels. This later group might be the ones who are bored. They just might need to be challenged.

A typical third grade book is The Courage of Sarah Noble. Your child might find this too easy of a read. Vocabulary is basic, and the story is not a complicated plot. Though they like the story, they crave something more. Their mind wants to be stretched. Give them The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Little House On The Prairie. These are other books on the list that some consider slightly more advanced. If these still produce boredom, move up to the fourth grade reading list. Move up a notch every time they get bored. Do not let the chance to challenge them go to waste.

What if the next level book you choose is too high? Choose another book in that list. Not all books in a reading level are of the exact same challenge to every child. Make finding the right books and adventure. Have fun exploring books. If the book is too far advanced, don’t push it to the side. Make it a book you read aloud. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer might be too much for an advanced third grader, but a fifth grader might just gobble it up. The third grader might enjoy hearing it read out loud especially since the writing using dialects which can be hard for a young reader.

Experiment. Check out the different book lists that are available. Remember that these are just suggestions and considered the minimum a child should be reading at that level. Don’t try to restrict yourself with these books.

Remember that a few hundred years ago, it was not uncommon for children to know two or three languages and be reading the works of Plato and Aristotle by the age of twelve. Holy scriptures were used as the basic book of teaching reading as it was a large part of their everyday lives and covered moral and ethical teachings as well. They were challenged and pushed to go a little further. The number of books were limited. Few were created just for children. Therefore, they were challenged from the beginning as they learned to read.

Just because society says that your eight year old is in third grade does not mean their minds should be locked there. A book could be the gateway to adventures that are far beyond the mold of a third grader.

I cannot stress enough how you should not look at these lists as etched in stone. Use them only as guidelines. In the following, I have pulled from a number of reading lists. I don’t even agree with some of them. Fro example, To Kill a Mockingbird is suggested as a standard 11th grade book. I read it in 7th grade. You have to use your own judgement.

Parents and teachers, please read these books before you give them to your children. This is for a couple of reasons. The first is that you should know what it is about in case the reader has trouble with it or comes across a subject matter that disturbs them. For example, in Night by Elie Wiesel the Holocaust is described from a prisoner’s personal experience. This might be disturbing for many, and the parent/teacher needs to be ready to discuss the atrocities. Second, by reading the book first, you can get a clearer picture of what level your child is at. When they struggle, you are familiar with the text enough to navigate to better books for them. Just because it is on the third grade reading list doesn’t mean your third grader can handle it.

The lists below are used to help you narrow down the level your child is currently at. Find the grade they are in. Pick one of the books listed to see how well they are challenged by it. If you need more challenging material, choose something from the advanced section or the next grade up. Don’t be scared to skip around and read the books to find ones better suited. Remember my argument about To Kill a Mockingbird. Also, check with the local bookstore on what books your child’s age is reading. That can be your starting point in finding the right books to challenge your child.

  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
  • Madeline (Series) by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
  • Amelia Bedelia and others by Peggy Parish
  • Trojan Horse, or How the Greeks Won the War by Emily Little
  • Horse in Harry’s Room and others by Syd Hoff

Frog & Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Gift for Tia Rosa by Karen T. Taha

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Box-Car Children and others by Gertrude Warner (the first 19 in the series)

Twenty Elephant Restaurant by Russell Hoban

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Go Free or Die, A Story About Harriet Tubman by Jeri Ferris

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater, Florence Atwater

Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J. R. R. Tolkein

Rocking Horse Secret by Rumer Godden

Mouse on the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

Stuart Little by E. B. White

Arabian Nights translated by Edward Lane

Call of the Wild by Jack London

Eagle of the Ninth and other historical fiction by Rosemary Sutcliff

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

King of the Wind and others by Marguerite Henry

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Maze by Will Hobbs

Night by Elie Wiesel

Anne of Green Gables and others by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Time Machine and others by H. G. Wells

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

White Fang by Jack London

Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Ben Hur and others by Lew Wallace

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende,

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Middle Passage by Charles Johnson

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Advanced Grade 11

Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime By Mark Haddon

Atonement By Ian McEwan

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Written by

Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman.

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