Thursday, June 21, 2012

Popular fiction series with kids ages 7 - 11

Our students love reading series, there's no question about it. Of our top 20 fiction books (typically for 4th and 5th graders), all but 3 are part of series. I teach at a very diverse, urban elementary school in Berkeley, California. It's clear from these statistics that our students love books that combine humor, realistic fiction and friendship issues. Today I'll highlight the most popular fiction series; my next post will focus on other novels that our students have loved.

1. Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney
No surprise here: the Wimpy Kid rules. Our students love the Wimpy Kid, checking out all of the different books time and again - nearly double the other series. Kids connect with Greg. When they read these books, they laugh at all the crazy situations, but they also feel like they're not the only ones who act like complete doofuses, goofing up every situation. And that's a good thing. I have noticed that our students checked out the Wimpy Kid books much more in the beginning of the year than at the end - I wonder if kids are finding their Wimpy fixes in other series?

2. Winnie series, by Lauren Myracle
This year, Lauren Myracle's books about Winnie - Ten, Eleven, Twelve, etc. - just took off at our school. At the beginning of the year a few 5th grade girls read them and loved them. They passed them to their friends, who recommended it to others. Girls have talked about the way Winnie has to go through "girl drama", friendship troubles, popularity issues. They connect with Winnie and reflect on their own friendships. Toward the end of the year, after this momentum had built up, I arranged a Skype visit with Lauren Myracle. Our students loved the chance to talk with an author they so admired.

3. The Popularity Papers series, by Amy Ignatow
I have loved seeing how this series resonates with students. Ignatow has created two likable characters who wrestle with friendship issues, school drama and family dynamics. Kids love her visual, colorful style - almost a scrapbook style, with bits of Julie and Lydia's journals, notes, emails and drawings. The only caveat: Lydia writes in cursive, so kids need to be able to read cursive fluently. But this doesn't stop my students from loving this series!

4. The Dork Diaries series, by Rachel Renee Russell
Dork Diaries follows eighth grader Nikki Maxwell as she navigates the ups and downs of moving to a new school, dealing with friendship and social issues, and negotiating for more freedom and privileges at home. Like the Wimpy Kid and the Popularity Papers, this series incorporates a lot of illustrations throughout the text and centers around likable, humorous characters in situations kids can relate to. Parents sometimes worry that this isn't "real reading", but I would encourage you to give your child time and space to read these series. First of all, quantity matters. So eating up these fast-moving, fun series helps kids enjoy reading. That's huge! Secondly, tweens need space to think about all the social changes they're seeing around them. Reading these friendship stories where characters wrestle with so many common problems is a safe way for kids to think about dilemmas they may be experiencing themselves.

5. Big Nate series, by Lincoln Peirce
Are you noticing a common theme here? Yep, our students love funny series. Big Nate is another winner with our kids, who love reading about Nate's struggles with organization, tests, and detentions. Big Nate appeals to kids much like the Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries, but it's slightly easier to read. It still feels like a big book, but it's more accessible for a 3rd grader.

Fantasy series like Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books, the 39 Clues series, and the Warriors books are popular at our school, but not on the same wide-spread scale as these funny, realistic series. What I like about reviewing these circulation figures is that it reminds me to keep looking out for new series in the same vein. Do you have any favorite series you think our students would like?

Next, I'll be sharing individual fiction titles that were very popular at our school this year. There are some surprising results there!

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. Do you have any suggestions for titles staring diverse ethnicities? I am looking for African American boy books/series, specifically, but would love to see a broad range of POVs.

  2. Love this list! I wonder how many from these with books out this year will make the Cybils nominations? Hopefully a lot! I'd love to see them!

    PS...So glad to finally meet this weekend at ALA!

  3. I LOVE Diary of a Wimpy Kid! This is the first I've heard of Dork Diaries, I'll have to find it! I love that kind of stuff LOL!

  4. Hi Andromeda, Did you know that Rachel Renee Russell is an African American lawyer? I have not read the Dork Diaries, so can't really say how much they have a diverse range of characters. This year, our students loved Sharon Draper's series Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs:

    Danielle, it was great to meet you, too! So much fun to connect in real life!

    Zantippy, I sure hope you get some good ideas here! Also, definitely check out Big Nate. Lots of laughs there!

    Mary Ann

  5. Mary Ann, thanks for the suggestions! We will definitely look for the Ziggy book. I love Sharon Draper.