My Journey to the Magic Tree House

My 6-year-old son is a very good reader. He began reading at a very young age, and I feel very lucky that he loves reading as much as he does. Last year I wrote a blog post asking for book recommendations to help me start reading chapter books with him. I knew that he had the skills to take that leap, and I was excited to move to that phase of his reading life.

We tried one of the recommendations that I received last spring and it was a big fat flop. He had no interest reading the book by himself or with me. We tried another chapter book and had similar results. I decided not to push things. My son was reading all the time and he was loving what he was reading. I was not about to make reading a chore for my then 5-year-old.

Over the course of the next 12 months my son has read hundreds of books: picture books, graphic novels, informational, poetry, etc. What he had not read was a chapter book.

I was never worried about my son not reading chapter books, and I don’t think that it hurt him as a reader not reading them. Just because a reader can read something doesn’t mean that they should be forced to read text.

Last week my wife and my son started reading the first Magic Tree House book, Dinosaurs Before Dark. My son was mesmerized. He kept asking for us to read, “One more chapter.”

I was lucky enough to be able to read the end of the book with him. I’ll never forget how he shook with fear as the T-Rex approached Jack, or how his eyes filled with tears with Jack and Annie made it home safely. Over the course of the last handful of days we have made it through two Magic Tree House books, and I’m thinking that next week on spring break we’ll read a bunch more.

As I reflect on the last year of my son’s reading life, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I would have forced my son to read chapter books before we was “ready”. I guess I’ll never know, but what I do know is that my happy little reader is right where he needs to be.

I’m about to start my last day of school before spring break. I can’t wait to spend the day talking about books with my fourth graders. On more than one occasion today I’ll be talking with a student reading a graphic novel or a picture book, that could be reading a middle grade novel, that some may feel is more challenging. My job today is to value the choices of my young readers and find something in that text that I can use to help them grow as a reader.

Today is going to be awesome.

11 Comments
  1. I got goosebumps!! That was my exact experience with my young reader. You confirmed I did the right thing- letting her take the lead.

  2. I love this! It is so similar to what we experienced with our son who is in first grade; after many misses, we finally have a hit with Magic Treehouse as well. We are so fortunate that he has a teacher who thinks like you do and values his choices. Today is our last day before spring break as well, and I am busy helping my middle school students make their vacation reading choices. It is going to be a great day! We are pretty lucky, huh?

  3. Loved your post today. We thought my son was actually allergic to chapter books at that age and now at eleven he is a voracious reader of almost everything (poetry still not so much) Encouraging a love of reading and getting kids to think of themselves as readers is what is so important. The rest will come. Your students (and son) are very lucky to have you!

  4. Colby, just the other day I was wondering if you and your son had tried any of the books that were recommended and how he liked them. It sounds like he found the right book at the right time, which is always wonderful but can be magical for young readers.

    Thank you for sharing this story.

  5. Colby, your post was perfect timing for me. While I always had Magic Treehouse books in my class library, I didn’t love them. But I saw Mary Pope Osbourne at a conference years ago and she shared that all her MTH books came from ideas from kids. So I bought in. But it’s your son’s story that brings it home – Mary Pope Osbourne writes for kids like yours. And your son lives in a reading home, but her books also hook kids who don’t have that kind of home experience. Your post reminds me about an important point: Timing is important. As I move from literacy coaching back to classroom teaching, I will continue to think about this – after all, it’s all about the readers, right?

  6. Great post! As a fellow educator…I couldn’t agree more~ honoring the choices of readers leads to a LOVE of reading!!! I have read the whole MTH series, many with my 2nd grade classes and what you described with your son is what happens every time with my students. They can’t get enough. They beg to continue reading through recess when we are at a suspensful part. When we finish one, they’ve got the next one in hand asking “when can we start?”

  7. Your son may also like the Magic School Bus series. Using the magic school bus, Mrs. Fizzle takes her class on adventures relating to that day’s lesson – dinosaurs, inside the body, inside the center of the earth, outer space. It has the right balance of learning and adventure. I found that the kids that liked the one series also liked the other (Magic Treehouse and Magic School Bus) series.

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