Reading & Standards

Home Connections : Literature

Make time to read with your child, even if she is able to read on her own. Even advanced readers have trouble understanding complicated plots, difficult themes, and vocabulary.

Reading with your child shows her:

  • How to read with expression
  • What good readers do when they come to an unknown word or a confusing part of the story
  • How to use what you know to figure things out
  • That you value reading and want to spend time reading with her

Select a grade level to see a reading guide that you can print and use with your child. Explore the reading lists and head to the library!

Start by choosing your child’s grade level. Also, be sure to check the level above and below for ideas that may be appropriate for your child.
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Elephant and Piggie series, I Love My New Toy! (2008)
by Mo Willems

Book summary
Piggie has a new toy. He shares it with his friend Gerald. While Gerald is playing with it, he accidentally breaks it. Piggie gets really mad and their friendship is almost destroyed. Squirrel finds the broken toy and shows them that the toy isn't broken after all. They resolve their argument and continue to play together.

How to support your child
Kindergarteners read at all different levels. Some kindergarteners know their letter sounds, others can sound out words, and some can read. Support your child at his level.

  • Read the book with your child.
  • Have your child notice words that he doesn't know.
  • Let him try to sound out words.
  • Help your child with letter sounds or combinations when he is stuck.
  • Gently correct his mistakes.
  • Encourage him to keep going.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on his own.

Elephant and Piggie series, I Love My New Toy! (2008)
by Mo Willems

While reading Elephant and Piggie books with an adult's support, kindergartners should be able to answer questions about the main parts of the story. Here are some sample questions to ask as you read together.

  • "What just happened?"
  • "Who is this character?"
  • "What is he doing?"
  • "Where are they now?"
  • "Tell me what this book was about."

Elephant and Piggie series, I Love My New Toy! (2008)
by Mo Willems

Examine the picture book together. Kindergarteners should be able to show you how to hold the book, turn the pages correctly, and explain the roles of an author and an illustrator.

As you read with your child, point to the illustrations or pictures that go along with the words and talk about them, making connections. Here are some ways to connect the illustrations and words.

  • "Piggie and Gerald are having a lot of fun together. I can tell because they are both smiling in this picture."
  • "This looks like a fun toy to play with. It looks like it shoots up in the air."
  • "Piggie looks mad here. Oh, I think he's mad because the toy broke!"

Elephant and Piggie series, I Love My New Toy! (2008)
by Mo Willems

Make connections with other books
Discuss how this book is like another book your child has read. You can make connections between this book and another Elephant and Piggie book. Or you can make connections between this book and a different book. The more connections the better!

  • "We've read other Elephant and Piggie books, and sometimes Piggie gets mad in those too."
  • "Piggy loves his toy a lot. It reminds me of Harold in the book, Harold and the Purple Crayon. Harold loves his purple crayon a lot too."

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character or the plot of the book. Help your child make connections of his own.

  • "I know how Piggie feels. Something like that happened to me once..."
  • "I've been mad at my friends before, but I was able to work it out. Have you ever been really mad at your friends?"

Elephant and Piggie series, I Love My New Toy! (2008)
by Mo Willems

Book summary
Piggie has a new toy. He shares it with his friend Gerald. While Gerald is playing with it, he accidentally breaks it. Piggie gets really mad and their friendship is almost destroyed. Squirrel finds the broken toy and shows them that the toy isn't broken after all. They resolve their argument and continue to play together.

How to support your child
By the middle of the year most students are able to read simple books with pictures and a few sentences on a page. Support your child at her reading level.

  • Let her try to sound out words. Point out the first few letters of each word.
  • Help your child with letter sounds or combinations when she is stuck.
  • Gently correct her mistakes. Point out letters that were overlooked or read incorrectly.
  • Have your child re-read favorites to boost her confidence and improve her fluency.

In addition to the Elephant and Piggie series, try the Biscuit or Robin Hill School series.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on her own.

Elephant and Piggie series, I Love My New Toy! (2008)
by Mo Willems

While reading Elephant and Piggie books, first graders should be able to answer questions or ask their own questions about the main parts of the story. They should also be able to discuss the lessons that the characters are learning. Here are some sample questions to ask your child.

  • "What just happened?"
  • "What is he doing?"
  • "How is Piggie feeling right now?"
  • "How does Gerald feel?"
  • "What lessons did Piggie and Gerald learn?"

Elephant and Piggie series, I Love My New Toy! (2008)
by Mo Willems

Examine the picture book together. First graders should be able to explain the general differences between a book that tells stories (like Elephant and Piggie) and a non-fiction book (like Elephants from the Seedlings series).

As you read with your child, use the words and pictures to discover more details about the story. Find specific words or pictures that describe how a character is feeling. Words and pictures can also describe what something looks like or sounds like.

  • "On this page, Piggie says, 'I am mad and sad!'"
  • "Look here. The toy goes, 'zip!' and 'zoom!'"
  • "Gerald was feeling sad. He is crying a lot in this picture."

Elephant and Piggie series, I Love My New Toy! (2008)
by Mo Willems

Make connections with other books
Think about other book series that you've read. Talk about how characters in different books are similar or different.

  • "Piggie tries to figure things out a lot, just like Curious George."
  • "Piggie and Biscuit both like to make new friends."

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character or the plot of the book. Help your child make connections of her own.

  • "I know how Piggie feels. Something like that happened to me once…"
  • "I've been mad at my friends before, but I was able to work it out. Have you ever been really mad at your friends?"

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series, Book 1 (2014)
by Dav Pilkey

Book summary
Ricky Ricotta is a mouse who is often picked on at school because he's small. BIG changes happen in Ricky's life when he finds himself in the middle of Dr. Stinky McNasty's plan. Dr. McNasty has built a robot to destroy the city, but the robot refuses after seeing all the damage and fear he has caused. Dr. McNasty tries to zap the robot into doing what he wants, but Ricky protects him. Ricky befriends the robot, and the robot improves Ricky's life in many ways. Meanwhile, Dr. McNasty wants revenge on the robot. He uses a potion to create a giant lizard with a mission to destroy Ricky and his robot. A battle takes place, and Ricky and his robot imprison Dr. McNasty in the city jail.

How to support your child
By the middle of the year most students are able to read simple chapter books. Support your child at his reading level.

  • Talk about unfamiliar vocabulary words.
  • Help your child break longer words into smaller, known chunks.
  • Point out dialogue between characters and the use of quotation marks.
  • Take turns reading aloud, page by page. Show your child how to add expression and different voices when reading.

In addition to the Ricky Ricotta series, try the Mercy Watson or the Young Cam Jansen series.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on his own.

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series, Book 1 (2014)
by Dav Pilkey

While reading Ricky Ricotta books, second graders should be able to answer questions or ask their own questions about the main parts of different chapters. They should also be able to discuss a message or lesson that comes at the end of the book. Here are some sample questions to ask your child.

  • "Why did that just happen?"
  • "What are they going to do next?"
  • "What is different now?"
  • "Tell me what happened in this chapter."
  • "What happened at the beginning of the story? The middle? The end?"

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series, Book 1 (2014)
by Dav Pilkey

Examine the book together. Second graders should be able to put together words and pictures to understand the story.

As you read with your child, use the words and pictures to discover details about the story. Ricky Ricotta has many pages that look like comic books. Discuss the format with your child and ask him to explain what is happening in the comic pages.

  • "Some of the pages are like a comic book. They show art in frames. The frames go in order, and there are just a few words."
  • "What is happening in these pages?"
  • "What kinds of words are on these pages?"

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series, Book 1 (2014)
by Dav Pilkey

Make connections with other books
There are several ways to connect with other books. Discuss how this book is like another book your child has read. Make connections between this book and another Ricky Ricotta book. Or you can make connections between different versions of the same story.

  • "How are the Ricky Ricotta books similar? How are they different?"
  • "Can you think of another book where there's a bad guy and a hero?"
  • "Does this book remind you of any other books you've read?"

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character or the plot of the book. Help your child make connections of his own.

  • "I know what it feels like not to have any friends…"
  • "Having a friend by your side gives you confidence and helps you feel strong."
  • "If I had a mighty robot, he could help me…"

Amber Brown series, Amber Brown Sees Red (2009)
by Paula Danzinger

Book summary
Fourth grade is full of changes for Amber Brown. She has a new best friend, her school is invaded with skunks, her mother is planning to get remarried, and her dad is moving back from Paris. To make things even worse, her mother and father constantly argue on the phone, and her father wants shared custody of Amber. Amber is so angry with her parents that she "sees red."

Amber has mixed feelings about her father returning to her life. She wants him in her life, but it was simpler without him. She likes Max, her mother's fiancé, even though she's not quite ready to call him her stepfather. Max agrees to coach Amber's bowling team, and to Amber it feels like he is becoming part of her family.

Amber worries about what will happen when her father, mother, and Max all meet at the bowling alley. But her fears dissolve when she is reunited with her father and she sees how happy her mom and Max are together. Amber realizes that life isn’t always simple, but it’s going to work out fine.

How to support your child
By the middle of the year most students are able to read simple chapter books. Support your child at her reading level.

  • Talk about unfamiliar vocabulary words. Relate new words to words she already knows.
  • Show your child how to break long words into smaller, known chunks.
  • Give your child time to correct her mistakes.
  • Help your child read fluently and with expression.

In addition to the Amber Brown series, try the Geronimo Stilton or the Secrets of Droon series.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on her own.

Amber Brown series, Amber Brown Sees Red (2009)
by Paula Danzinger

While reading Amber Brown books, third graders should be able to answer questions, ask their own questions, and retell parts of the story using book language. They should also be able to talk about character traits and tell you about lessons that the character has learned. Here are some sample questions to ask your child.

  • "Why did she say that to him?"
  • "Based on what you know about him, what do you think he will do next?"
  • "Tell me what happened in these chapters."
  • "What lessons did Amber learn?"

Amber Brown series, Amber Brown Sees Red (2009)
by Paula Danzinger

Examine the book together. Third grade books often have fewer pictures, but the pictures that are there give more clues about the characters and places. Third graders should be able to learn details about the characters and setting through the pictures.

As you read with your child, help her notice words that have more than one meaning. Ask your child about the two meanings. For example, Amber says, "I have always thought they were little stinkers." She is referring to the skunks that smell, and to the boys who sometimes misbehave.

  • "What can you tell about how she is feeling?"
  • "Where is this part of the story happening?"
  • "This word has more than one meaning. How is it being used here?"

Amber Brown series, Amber Brown Sees Red (2009)
by Paula Danzinger

Make connections with other books
Make connections between this book and another Amber Brown book. Discuss what is the same and different in each book.

  • "How are the Amber Brown books similar? How are they different?"
  • "Has Amber changed from book to book? In what ways?"

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character or the plot of the book. Help your child make connections of her own.

  • "Sometimes I 'see red' like Amber. The things that make me angry and frustrated are…"
  • "When I first met my best friend...."

Hank Zipzer series, Niagara Falls, Or Does It? (2003)
by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Book summary
On the first day of fourth grade, Hank is assigned an essay about his summer vacation. School has never been easy for Hank, so he decides to build a model of his assignment instead. He plans to bring Niagara Falls into the classroom. Meanwhile, Papa Pete asks Hank and his friends to put on a magic show at his bowling league game. When Hank brings his Niagara Falls model into school, it leaks and floods the classroom. Hank is in trouble—two weeks of detention, grounding, and he cannot participate in the magic show.

While in detention, Hank meets Mr. Rock, the new music teacher. Mr. Rock suspects that Hank has a learning disability and arranges testing. In the end, Hank convinces his parents to let him participate in the magic show. Mr. Rock helps Hank with his essay, and he talks to Hank's parents about his newly discovered learning disabilities.

How to support your child
By the middle of the year most students are able to read chapter books. Support your child at his reading level.

  • Look for related words, or word families. These words have the same root but may have different endings, such as punctual or punctuality.
  • Show your child how to use what is going on in the story to figure out the meaning of new words. These are context clues.
  • Give your child time to try reading new words and correct his own mistakes.
  • Help your child read fluently and with expression.

In addition to the Hank Zipzer series, try the Chet Gecko Mysteries or the Sisters Grimm series.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on his own.

Hank Zipzer series, Niagara Falls, Or Does It? (2003)
by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

While reading Hank Zipzer books, fourth graders should be able to discuss and write about characters and events using lots of detail. They should also be able to talk about the themes, or big ideas, that the book is teaching. Students should be able to discuss what the characters have learned and also what the readers are supposed to learn. Here are some sample questions to ask your child.

  • "What words and details show how the character is feeling?"
  • "Which details show what happened in this part?"
  • "What lessons did Hank learn?"
  • "What message is this book trying to tell its readers?"

Hank Zipzer series, Niagara Falls, Or Does It? (2003)
by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Examine the book together. Books at this level might only have pictures on the covers and at the beginning of each chapter. Fourth graders should use the illustrations to predict what will happen in each chapter. At the end of the chapter, they can go back to the illustration to see if their guess was right.

As you read with your child, help him identify who is telling the story. Also point out that different genres (like fiction, myths, or fantasy) are written differently.

  • "Who is telling the story?"
  • "What do you notice about this type of writing, or genre?"
  • "Hank Zipzer is a type of writing called realistic fiction. How is it both realistic and fiction?"

Hank Zipzer series, Niagara Falls, Or Does It? (2003)
by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Make connections with other books
Fourth graders can make connections between this book and other Hank Zipzer books. They can also compare books that have similar themes. Some books are made into movies or television shows. Students can compare the book and its screen version.

  • "How are the Hank Zipzer books similar? How are they different?"
  • "What is the theme of the Hank Zipzer books? How is it similar to or different from the theme of Because of Winn Dixie?"
  • "Compare the Hank Zipzer book series to the television series."

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character or the theme of the book. Help your child make connections of her own.

  • "I know what it feels like to have an assignment that seems impossible to do."
  • "Mr. Rock reminds me of a teacher I once had."
  • Share a learning disability and how it was overcome.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Book 1 (2007)
by Jeff Kinney

Book summary
Middle school is not easy for Greg Heffley and his best friend, Rowley. They are not popular with the girls, and neither have they hit their growth spurts yet. Greg worries about getting the Cheese Touch, which is caused by touching the piece of cheese that has been stuck to the blacktop since last spring.

Greg tells of his daily mishaps at school and in life, through his journal. Greg and Rowley get into trouble with teenagers on Halloween, and things continue to go wrong for Greg on Christmas. Greg doesn't get any of the presents he wants, he accidently breaks Rowley's hand, and then watches as Rowley gets sympathy attention from the girls at school.

Greg and Rowley's friendship is challenged throughout the year. First, Rowley is accused of chasing kindergarteners while on safety patrol, although it was Greg who did it. Then, the boys argue about who created Rowley's comic strip. In the end, Greg has to accept that Rowley earns the coveted title of "class clown" in the yearbook. But Greg still holds the upper hand because he knows a secret about Rowley—Rowley was the one who was forced to eat the Cheese!

How to support your child
By the middle of the year most students are able to read chapter books and early novels. Support your child by helping her identify examples of the author's craft.

  • While reading together, help your child pick out metaphors (words and phrases that stand for ideas). For example, when Greg says that some middle school kids are gorillas, he means that they are bigger and hairier than other kids (they are not actually gorillas).
  • Discuss point of view. Different points of view change the way the story is told.

In addition to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, try The Princess Diaries or the 39 Clues series.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on her own.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Book 1 (2007)
by Jeff Kinney

While reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, fifth graders should be able to compare characters, problems, or settings. They should be able to talk and write about the challenges that characters face. They should also be able to think about the themes in the book by noticing what characters do to overcome challenges. Here are some sample questions to ask your child.

  • "Compare the ways that Greg and Rowley act. Are they similar or different?"
  • "What challenges do the characters face?"
  • "How do Greg and Rowley solve their problems?"
  • "What are the themes in this book?"

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Book 1 (2007)
by Jeff Kinney

Examine the book together. Diary of a Wimpy Kid uses a journal format, but it's also a graphic novel. Graphic novels use simple comic-strip drawings to tell a story.

As you read with your child, discuss how the pictures add to what a book says or the feeling it creates. Talk about the format of the book.

  • "What details do the pictures show?"
  • "How would this book read differently if there weren't any drawings in it?"
  • "How can you tell that this book is a journal?"

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Book 1 (2007)
by Jeff Kinney

Make connections with other books
Make connections between this book and other Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Students can also compare books of the same genre.

  • "How are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books similar? How are they different?"
  • "What other journals or graphic novels have you read? How are they similar to or different from Diary of a Wimpy Kid?"

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character or a problem in the book. Help your child make connections of her own.

  • "Friendships go through ups and downs. I remember one time when I fought with a friend…"
  • "Getting blamed for something you didn't do is frustrating."
  • "Older kids sometimes play jokes on, or can be mean to, younger kids."

Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998)
by J.K. Rowling

Book summary
Harry Potter is an orphaned 10-year old who lives with his relatives, the Dursleys. Harry's life with the Dursleys is miserable. His bedroom is a cupboard under the staircase, his cousin Dudley is a spoiled bully, and he has never had a birthday party.

Harry's life changes for the better when he receives an acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry discovers that his parents were killed by a dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, when he was a baby. Harry survived the attack, making him famous within the wizarding world. Voldemort also survived, but his powers were severely weakened.

Harry meets Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger on the train to Hogwarts, and the trio become good friends. During the year they confront dangerous beasts and magical creatures in and around the castle—a 12-foot tall troll, a 3-headed guard dog, a baby dragon, and a centaur. Harry also discovers that he is a skilled flyer, joins the house Quidditch team, and becomes a star player.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione learn that Voldemort is trying to regain his powers. Voldemort is searching for the Sorcerer's Stone, which offers eternal life to anyone who owns it. The stone is hidden in the basement tunnels of Hogwarts. Harry and his friends must outsmart magical obstacles and defend themselves in a final duel to keep the stone from Voldemort.

How to support your child
By the middle of the year most students are able to read novels. Support your child by helping him analyze new words and parts of the book.

  • Discuss why the author chose certain words to use. Are the words more descriptive or precise? Are they less common?
  • Talk about parts of the book and reasons the author might have included them. For example, in Chapter 9 students attend their first flying lesson. This event is important for many reasons: it shows that Draco and his friends are troublemakers, Harry has natural flying abilities, and Harry will make a good Quidditch player.

In addition to the Harry Potter series, try the Dear Dumb Diary or The Heroes of Olympus series.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on his own.

Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998)
by J.K. Rowling

While reading Harry Potter books, sixth graders should be able to talk and write about how a character changes across a book and what parts of the book helped him/her change. They should also be able to discuss and write about the themes in the book. Here are some sample questions to ask your child.

  • "What was Harry like when he first arrived at Hogwarts? How did he change by the end of the book?"
  • "Which events in the book helped Harry change? How did they change him?"
  • "What are the themes in this book?"

Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998)
by J.K. Rowling

Books at this level might only have pictures on the covers, book jacket, or at the beginning of each chapter. Look for clues in the illustrations to predict what might happen next. Visual images can also be created by the author's use of interesting and rich words. Talk with your student about descriptive language and how things look in his mind's eye.

Some of the book series at this level are made into movies. Watch the movie after reading the book, and then make comparisons.

  • "How does the movie compare to the book?"
  • "Did the Quiddich match look the way you thought it would?"
  • "What things were left out of the movie? Does it change the story?"

Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998)
by J.K. Rowling

Make connections with other books
Make connections between this book and other Harry Potter books. Students can also compare books of the same or different genre.

  • "How are the Harry Potter books similar? How are they different?"
  • "Harry Potter is fantasy, and Wonder is realistic fiction. How are the books similar and different?"
  • "Compare the Harry Potter books to the Septimus Heap books. Both are fantasy. What other similarities do you notice?"

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character or the theme of the book. Help your child make connections of his own.

  • "Harry is curious, but sometimes his curiosity gets him in trouble. My curiosity got me in trouble once…"
  • "Harry's friends are very loyal. They stick up and watch out for him. Can you think of a time that your friends showed their loyalty to you?"
  • "Harry overcomes many fears in this book. I used to be afraid of…"

Alex Rider series, Stormbreaker (2001)
by Anthony Horowitz

Book summary
Alex Rider is 14 years old when his uncle and guardian, Ian Rider, is mysteriously killed in a car accident. Alex soon discovers that his uncle had a secret life as a spy for the British government and that he was murdered. Alex takes over his uncle's mission and is trained as a spy. He goes undercover with several special gadgets to investigate Sayle Enterprises. Sayle Enterprises produces a revolutionary new computer called the Stormbreaker, and they plan to donate one computer to every secondary school in England. But before his death, Ian Rider had warned the British government that the Stormbreakers could not be allowed to leave the manufacturing plant.

Pretending to be a teenage computer whiz, Alex enters Sayle's base and begins to find clues left behind by his uncle. He also meets several of Sayle's accomplices—Mr. Grin, an ex-circus knife catcher turned butler, and Yassen Gergorovich, a professional hit man. Sayle begins to suspect Alex, and soon Alex is attacked by armed guards.

Alex discovers a factory where the Stormbreaker computers are being filled with a strange fluid. Alex is captured by Sayle and is told that the computers are biological weapons. They are being filled with a virus that will infect students and teachers with smallpox when activated. After several high-speed chase scenes, close calls, and the use of his quirky gadgets, Alex crashes through the roof of the Science Museum to save the Stormbreakers from being activated.

How to support your child
By the middle of the year most students are able to read novels. Support your child by helping her analyze words, phrases, and parts of the book.

  • Discuss why the author chose certain words to use. Are the words more descriptive or precise? Does the sound of the word change the mood?
  • Talk about parts of the book and reasons the author might have included them. For example, Alex starts off with a funny, lighthearted way of seeing his new spy world. But Tulip Jones is very serious about it and wants Alex to be the same way. Tulip must suspect the dangers that lie ahead for Alex.
  • Discuss point of view. Does Alex or a narrator tell the story? Different points of view change the way the story is told.

In addition to the Alex Rider series, try the The Clique or the Artemis Fowl series.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on her own.

Alex Rider series, Stormbreaker (2001)
by Anthony Horowitz

While reading Alex Rider books, seventh graders should be able to talk and write about how parts of a book affect other parts. For example, where a story takes place might make characters act in a certain way. They should also be able to analyze how a theme develops across a book. In all cases, seventh graders should be able to find details from the book to support what they are thinking. Here are some sample questions to ask your child.

  • "Even though Ian Rider died, how did he influence Alex to become a spy?"
  • "How did Alex's training help him succeed as a spy?"
  • "What is one theme of the book? How does it develop over the chapters?"

Alex Rider series, Stormbreaker (2001)
by Anthony Horowitz

Books at this level contain few illustrations, if any. Even the covers are plain. However, the words the author uses are usually interesting and rich. Talk with your seventh grader about descriptive language and how things look in her mind's eye.

Some of the book series at this level are made into movies. Watch the movie after reading the book, and then make comparisons.

  • "Compare the Stormbreaker movie to the book. Was the movie similar to how you pictured it while reading? How was it different?"
  • "Pay attention to the lighting, sound, and what the camera focuses on. What do you notice about the director's choices?"

Alex Rider series, Stormbreaker (2001)
by Anthony Horowitz

Make connections with other books
Make connections between this book and other Alex Rider books. Students can also compare books of the same or different genre.

  • "How are the Alex Rider books similar? How are they different?"
  • "Alex Rider books are action or adventure novels. Have you read other books in this genre? Do you like this genre?"

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character, event, or theme in the book. Help your child make connections of her own.

  • "Alex is smart. He uses his wits to get out of tricky situations. When have you used your wits to help you?"
  • "If you could invent a special gadget, what would it be? What would it do?"

The Hunger Games series, Book 1 (2010)
by Suzanne Collins

Book summary
Set in the future, the nation of Panem is made up of the Capitol and its 12 districts. Each year, the districts must send 2 tributes to compete in the Hunger Games, a battle to the death that is shown on live television. When young Prim Everdeen is randomly chosen to represent her district, her older sister, Katniss, volunteers to take her place. The district's male representative is Peeta Mellark who once saved Katniss' life when they were children. Katniss begins to worry that she will need to kill Peeta in order to survive the games.

Katniss and Peeta meet Haymitch Abernathy, a former game survivor from their district. Haymitch trains them together and gives them tips about how to stay alive in the games. At the opening ceremony, Katniss and Peeta are presented as a pair, and in a later interview Peeta reveals that he's in love with Katniss. The audience is led to believe that the two are star-crossed lovers doomed to tragedy within the games.

The games begin and Katniss becomes confused about her relationship with Peeta. Are they friends and teammates, or has Peeta been misleading her to give himself an advantage in the games? Katniss is shocked to see that Peeta has joined forces with the Careers (tributes from wealthier districts) and they are hunting the weakest tributes together. Katniss forms an alliance with a young tribute named Rue after Rue helps Katniss escape from the Careers.

In the arena, Katniss not only fights other tributes to the death, but she also faces hunger, dehydration, lethal wasps, fire, and explosions. As the games progress, the announcer changes the rules and declares that 2 tributes can win as long as they come from the same district. Katniss goes to find Peeta, who has been injured and is close to death.

Katniss is torn between her own feelings towards Peeta and giving the audience the romance it wants so she can improve her position in the game. Working together Katniss and Peeta win the Hunger Games, but the victory comes at great personal expense.

How to support your child
By the middle of the year most students are able to read complex novels. Support your child by helping him analyze words and phrases in books, focusing on how they change the meaning of a book or the feelings the book creates.

  • Discuss why the author chose certain words to use. Does the word choice change the mood of the writing?
  • Pick out sentences that describe a feeling or mood or that hint at a theme. For example, at the end of Chapter 4 Katniss describes the grandeur of the Capitol as "the magnificence of the glistening buildings in a rainbow of hues," and "colors seem artificial." She also compares the Capitol to District 12.

In addition to the The Hunger Games series, try The Princess Diaries or the Divergent series.

Ask your child's teacher about the typical progress expected. Also ask for book suggestions that your child can read confidently on his own.

The Hunger Games series, Book 1 (2010)
by Suzanne Collins

While reading The Hunger Games books, eighth graders should be able to talk and write about turning points in the story where a character has to make a decision or take an action. They should also be able to analyze how a theme develops across a book and connect the theme to different characters. Here are some sample questions to ask your child.

  • "Find a place in the book where a character makes a big decision to do something that changes the direction of the story."
  • "What is one important theme in the book? How is it developed through the book?"
  • "The book makes a statement about reality TV. What message do you think it's trying to tell? How is this theme connected to Katniss? How is it connected to Peeta?"

The Hunger Games series, Book 1 (2010)
by Suzanne Collins

Books at this level rarely contain illustrations. Even the covers are plain. However, the words the author uses are usually interesting and rich. Talk with your eighth grader about descriptive language and how the language helps you form a picture in your mind.

  • Reread the description in Chapter 14 when Katniss cuts down the wasp nest. Pick out the descriptive words and phrases that make this scene vivid.

Some of the book series at this level are made into movies. Watch the movie after reading the book, and then make comparisons.

  • "How did the movie stick to the book and how was it different? Do you agree with the director's choices?"
  • "Did the arena and Cornucopia in the movie look the way you imagined it while reading the book? What about District 12?"

The Hunger Games series, Book 1 (2010)
by Suzanne Collins

Make connections with other books
Make connections between this book and other The Hunger Games books. Students can also compare well-known books in different genres to this book.

  • "How are The Hunger Games books similar? How are they different?"
  • "In Greek myths, Diana was a strong hunter who used a bow and arrow, just like Katniss. How is Katniss similar to Diana? How are they different?"

Make personal connections
Books become more meaningful when readers connect with them personally. Show your child how you identify with a character, event, or theme in the book. Help your child make connections of his own.

  • "Katniss protected her younger sister by taking her place in the games. Can you think of a time when you stepped up to protect a sister or brother? How did it make you feel?"
  • "I remember a time when I felt worried and scared that I wasn't going to succeed…"
  • "Katniss is a strong, brave, and determined character. She reminds me of ______ because…"

Reading guides created by Christopher Lehman.