5 top book series to read with your kids

Feb 16, 2010 at 1:25 a.m. ET

Reading to your kids is a wonderful activity that can bring you closer together while also helping your children expand their imaginations and vocabulary. Ready for a new reading adventure? Series books can be a great way to introduce kids to characters, plot and more. Which ones are the best?

Mom reading book with daughter

Reading to your children just before bedtime can be a great parent-child activity. Together, you can explore new worlds, discover new facts and get immersed in interesting and engaging stories. "Reading to kids is important because it teaches children new vocabulary in interesting contexts. It also teaches young people about the world," says education expert Jamie Levato.

But the simple truth is that it can get tiring reading Green Eggs and Ham, Goodnight, Moon and The Very, Hungry Caterpillar night after night. So don't! Instead, start introducing your kids to chapter books by reading a chapter a night from a great book. And with series books, your kids can develop an interest in characters as they carry from one book to the next.

Why series chapter books?

Chapter books build important learning skills for your child. "Reading chapter books specifically (only one or two chapters a night) creates a sense of wonder and curiosity or expectancy of what will happen next in the story and allows children to develop the storyline in their own minds. They begin to make predictions, and they also begin to problem solve, which are both important skills and strategies for children to develop and employ," says former school teacher Melissa Cotton, who is writing a series of children's books.

Series books allow kids to meet characters and carry their knowledge from one book to the next. It helps them build retention skills as well.

How to do it

Start with a book that you know your child is going to enjoy. "It is important to choose a subject matter that interests your child. Without illustrations, or an exciting plot, young children may become bored. Language and subject matter of books should be carefully considered for the age of the intended audience as well," says Julie Rebboah, President and Educational Consultant from Lightning Bug Learning.

Allowing your child to choose the book can also help them invest in the reading a little more, generating interest. Read a chapter or two each night, using a special bookmark to mark your place. Be sure that you explain why you use a bookmark so that your child doesn't take it out and lose your place.

"If you begin each reading session by talking together about what happened in the last session, you help kids recall the sequence of events. You can also model going back and skimming the passage you read in order to find a detail that neither of you can remember clearly," suggests Kathleen Hayes, editor of Highlights High Five magazine.

So, what series chapter books are good for nightly reading?

Magic Tree House

The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne follows a brother and sister pair, Jack and Annie, as they travel back in time to save important stories. The books immerse the reader in history and fantasy, sometimes taking you to the first Olympic games and other times having you swim with mermaids. This is a great series to start with because it's simple and short enough to read over a few bedtimes while interesting enough to keep both the parent and child engaged.

Anne of Green Gables

The Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery follows Anne Shirley, an orphan adopted by a unmarried brother and sister pair, as she has adventures and evenly becomes a teacher in Avonlea. With a vivid imagination, and a quaint Canadian setting, this is a wonderful turn-of-the-century series that will have your daughter dreaming of sweet, wonderful things.

Harry Potter

TheHarry Potter series by J.K. Rowling follows young Harry Potter, who was orphaned in his infancy and lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin. Harry learns that he belongs to the magical class of people in England and heads off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He and his friends have amazing adventures and prove just how brave a young person can be. This is a great series to read to your school age children. Follow it up by watching the movies and discussing how each film is different than the book. Before you read this series, just be sure that your child is ready for the more intense suspense and scary scenes.

The Baby-Sitter's Club

The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin is about a group of friends who band together to start their own baby-sitting service. The books are filled with down-to-earth plotlines that explore the challenges of being young and growing up. These mature girls are sure to inspire your daughter too.

The Boxcar Children

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner tells the story of four siblings who are forced to fend for themselves when their parents die. Though they have a grandfather, they run rather than live with him since he's regarded as mean. The siblings find an abandoned boxcar and create their own home in it, eating berries, bread and whatever they can buy. This is a great series about survival and the power of sibling bonds.

Do you have an older tween or teen? Check out our picks of read-aloud books for teens and tweens.

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