A funny thing about the reading habits of the elementary set: like teenagers, they like what their friends like. We have over 10,000 books in our library (And I got to scan by hand over half of those books last year doing inventory. Joy!) but the books that get checked out the most seem to be the same ones over and over. Kids just like to read books that they’ve seen their friends reading.
We get new books a few different ways. We subscribe to a book vendor’s monthly service which sends several brand-new books every month from age categories that we select; we get a discount on books from the Scholastic Book Fair which visits twice a year; and last year we received some surprise stimulus money to buy new books for our two new grade levels that were added to our school this year.
But despite adding new books to the shelves on a regular basis, the books that are most checked-out seem to remain the same. So what’s the most popular with the K-5th graders?
In order of preference, here you go:
1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
Part comic book and part diary, I admit I haven’t actually read these books but they are very popular. There’s 4 so far, and a movie was made last summer. We always make sure we get a few of these when the Book Fair arrives!
2. Captain Underpants series
These have been around for a few years now. A favorite of all boys, including my brother, this series is about two mischief-makers who hypnotize their principal into becoming the superhero Captain Underpants. Can you tell I’ve read them? They’re fun and goofy, the highlight of each book being the comic books created by the main characters and the Flip-o-Rama pages. Unfortunately, these books fall apart very easily so we are always having to buy replacement copies.
3. Junie B. Jones series
Another bad-kid-as-hero(ine) series of books. I’ve read a few, and I see the appeal, but I can’t say I’m a huge fan. Junie gets in scrapes, acts like a brat, and uses bad grammar. But the kids love her!
4. Berenstain Bear series
I love the originals, and there’s certainly a book for every thought under the sun. The more recent books can be a trifle didactic, but sometimes an outright moral can be a good thing. I have to say, I have a soft spot for the Berenstains.
5. The Magic Treehouse series
I haven’t read these books, but there are a million of them and involve a brother-sister pair traveling to different places and times. The series is full of fun titles like Afternoon on the Amazon and Mummies in the Morning.
The trend seems to be series. I think kids enjoy reading about the same characters over and over. Some of these are better written than others, but they are all popular. And as long as they’re reading, I can’t say I’m too concerned with the quality. Maybe that’s blasphemous to say, coming from a librarian, but I think it’s more important to get in the door, to discover that reading can be enjoyable, first. Quality can come later. And I certainly can’t say that I only read highbrow literature in my personal reading. I read a lot of books that run the gamut of what literature has to offer, from “good” to “bad” to “intellectual” to “trashy” books. No judgment here!
So, these are the books that are cool in my school. I’ll keep you updated as their tastes change.