Kids and parents alike love a good series because it is good fun. We look forward to our favorite character’s next escapade and wonder what new twists and turn a story may take. But parents have other reasons to value stories told in the form of a series.
As you read to your little one, night after night (or, indeed, morning, noon and night!), she is learning many things. Among them, crucially, she is beginning to understand the nature of stories—also known, in education-speak, as “reading comprehension.” Yes, this very important life and academic skill begins to develop in the earliest years. Children who are read to regularly can, in fact, acquire rather sophisticated reading (or listening) comprehension skills long before they can recognize letters or sound out words. You may not realize how much your child is learning just by listening to stories and talking about them, but it’s a great deal. And (brace yourselves) reading comprehension is something that all kindergarten aptitude tests focus on.
An excellent series can facilitate early reading comprehension in ways that other books can’t, or at least not to the same degree. All of the continuities and changes from book to book encourage young children to think back to previous volumes while reading a new one. In so doing, kiddos develop their powers of retention and comparison. They see character development between books, they grasp the roles of different players as they come and go in different stories, and they watch as the story’s setting is described in greater and greater detail. The best series provoke children to think about what has changed from book to book, and what has stayed the same.
The baseline of a familiar world such as, for example, Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood, also allows children to plunge more easily into complex story-lines. They already understand that Eeyore is gloomy, Pooh is kind and silly, and Owl is perhaps not as wise as he seems. So when they hear a story about Eeyore losing his tail, and Pooh finding it in use as Owl’s bell-pull, well, they get the joke! The same goes for vocabulary. If young listeners are already at ease with the basics of the story, a few new words, even tough ones, will be all the easier to grasp.
Another thing children can get from a series much more easily than from other books is a sense of authorship. Every guide to reading aloud instructs parents to say the name of the author before starting the book. We dutifully obey, but to little effect. Kids are just not generally all that interested. But if they start hearing the same name over and over, associated with the same beloved illustrations and characters and style, the concept of authorship may begin to sink in. And this is an important step as our kids begin to think of themselves as storytellers and writers.
Finally, love of a great picture book series can help young children develop the attention span and concentration needed to move on to the next step: chapter books.
Of course, all of these wonderful benefits of reading book series are maximized when we talk with our children about what we’re reading. And with an interesting series to talk about, that’s a pleasure indeed.
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