Much time is spent, and properly, on the reluctant reader. The reader who may need encouragement in finding something at their reading level that is not "babyish" in content. There is also the reader who reads above grade level. This student needs books that are more of a challenge, but with appropriate age content.
This does not mean that I am encouraging all first graders to read chapter books. On the contrary. Most first grade students are better suited to picture books and "easy readers." When parents try to push their children into chapter books they overlook the fact that most picture books are written at the fourth or fifth grade reading level. Neither do most younger students have the life experience to appreciate the nuances of chapter book plot lines. As I often remind my students, "I can read a medical textbook. That does not mean I can perform surgery, because I don't have the appropriate comprehension of the material."
All is not lost though. There are some fun, age-level appropriate, and even educational books that may meet the needs of your students or children. I will highlight here just a few series or authors.
One of my favorite series is the Three Cousins Detective Club, by Elspeth Campbell Murphy. This is a Christian fiction series published by Bethany House. Each book features short chapters, two - four pages, and a spiritual lesson. The lessons are not excessively strong and the ten-year old cousins behave as real children do. These are an excellent choice for any 8-12 year old, but especially well suited for the first or second grader reading above grade level.
An extremely popular series, that has an educational twist, is the Magic Tree House, by Mary Pope Osborne. Again featuring a group of boys and a girl, through the magic of librarians, we are taken on various adventures through time. Two years ago while in Italy my son enjoyed reading Vacation Under The Volcano. These time travel, fantasies are perfect for kindergarten and first grade students needing a challenge.
Upper elementary school students often pose more of a challenge. Too often these students jump into reading adult literature before they are ready. They are not involved with reading literature that meets their developmental needs. They also encounter situations and moral questions for whith they are not prepared.
Lloyd Alexander is a master storyteller in the fantasy/adventure genre. The Chronicles of Prydain, by Alexander, are a better choice for the gifted reader. They are classic stories of high adventure and conflict between good and evil placed in the mythical land of Prydain. The series begins with The Book of Three. Alexander's books are written at a seventh or eighth grade reading level. Many adult books, including Stephen King, are written at a fifth or sixth grade level.
I hope you enjoy these books. If you know of others that you would recommend for children reading above grade level please post them at the Library Forum.