If there is one outstanding aspect about being connected on social media to a strong Professional Learning Network (#PLN) it is this: you sound the alarm, the virtual S.O.S., in the form of a tweet asking for advise, tag a few of those in your #PLN and you receive responses in minutes! I have been on both ends of this situation, and I can attest that it is so.

In May, a #PLN member, shared the collective joy, she and her student were feeling due to the “looks” of the book this reader was able to read cover to cover.  The book was Brian Selznick’s & David Serlin’s recently released title, Baby Monkey Private Eye.  This book shares the physical dimensions and page volume of what this reader’s classmates were reading; middle grade chapter books.

The quest then was, finding “thick books” that looked like a middle grade chapter book but was accessible to a reader with 1st grade reading skills.  Many of us jumped into hot pursuit; educators, reading specialists, librarians and, even an author!, began to offer suggestions.  Here are the recommendations we came up with:








Image result for three ring rascals series





A blog with further possibilities for this reader was also suggested: Kid Lit Frenzy blog where the blogger has a Roads2Reading Challenge with books that may appeal to this reader.

Looking back at all the tweets and recommendations for this reader, what caught my attention the most was the importance this student placed on the size of the book, it wasn’t big like picture books tend to be, it looked like a novel the kids her age were reading and one that she actually was able to read independently, understand, and enjoy.    This is what had made her proud, had motivated her to stand up in front of others and Book Talk.  She wanted a book that “looked” like the books that her fellow readers, in her same class, were reading.  This prompted me to look into the stats for Selznick’s & Serlin’s confidence-building-joy-inspiring-reader-esteem-building book in order to hopefully find some recommendations that would create the same effect and help this reader continue to read, build confidence, make her feel pride in her reading choices, and later, when she is ready, take risks with other books that might challenge her further.

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING CAREFULLY: This reader is not an isolated case.  I have witnessed many 3rd & 4th graders check out 2, even 3 books, from the  Brian Jaques Redwall Series at the same time,  because it felt good, it made them proud, when they carried around those 350+ page books, which they weren’t ready to read yet, just so others who were reading more compact chapter books, but chapter books, nonetheless,  would look at them with admiration. Had anyone made them feel insecure about their truer-to-their-reading-identity choices?  I can guarantee that neither this librarian, nor their current teachers had, but the need to be reading a thick chapter book was there regardless. So I went where I had never gone before… I looked into possible books for this particular “tweeted” reader that would help all readers like her, by noticing physical book dimensions, page number, word count, suggested grade level, and Lexile, that were comparable to the book that had made this reader feel all grown up in the reading world.  Here’s what I came up with:

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Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 1.40.16 AMI had to screenshot the GoogleDoc because it would not keep its formatting.  Here is the link to the document if you’d like a copy: Titles Similar in Dimensions and Page Number to a MG Novel.

REMEMBER! This reader needs the feel of a novel, with the comprehension skills of first grade readers.  This is not as easy to find as I thought it would be, but while accompanying my husband to a Fine Scale Modeling Competition, that happened to be across from the well stocked library in Grapevine, TX, I spent some time searching their collection and was fortunate to find these.

Here are some comparison photos to further help you visualize:



I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  When you are trying to reach every possible reader that you are fortunate to embark on a reading journey with, no stone can be left unturned to help their reading identity develop.


7 thoughts on “When Looks Matter… How being able to read a book that “looks” right for your age can boost a reader’s self-esteem

  1. As an elementary librarian, I’d love your thoughts on where such books should be located – E or FIC? Some librarians also create special sections for such “transitional reads”. Any thoughts on best practices to support the best outcome?


    1. Julie this is a question I have been pondering because although I call the Es Everybody Books, Books we all can enjoy, many before me called them Easy and that stuck and creates stigma for some readers. Margie Culver, veteran librarian, once told me all of the fiction in her library, picture books and E books, were under the classification of F. I like that idea a lot, it would require many spine label and catalog changes, and in my particular situation, approval from my school district’s Library Department. I think what I and maybe you could do short term is to put all the books on this list, and the ones viewed as “transitional”, into the Fiction section. This just occurred to me thanks to your question!!! I appreciate your insight! I am going to pose the question to Margie on Twitter and tag you to see what she can help us with. Thanks again for stretching my thinking!


  2. I appreciate your book list because I know my elementary readers will check out fat books just to look like their peers. When I read Selznick’s new book, I immediately knew we would need multiple copies for so many kids who need fewer words to be successful.


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