Just when my son, Idris, was making his way over the hump from reading with help to independent reader and needed a little boost. Captain Underpants arrived on the scene just in time! Idris was doing his best to read everything put in front of him, but often times I could tell that he wasn’t thrilled to be reading another book about animals going on a picnic. The books he wanted to read were a bit difficult for him. I read to him, which was helpful, but I could tell he wanted to read the books that other kids in his class were reading.
We took a trip to the bookstore. I combed the shelves and the new releases table for something that would hook him. We sampled a few books, but Idris was more interested in the toy section. I began to feel desperate. If I didn’t find something soon, I’d spend the whole summer prying the TV remote out of his hand or worse yet, deleting his endless game apps from my cell phone.
We experienced reading slide last summer and I want to ensure that doesn’t happen again. I was about to give up hope, but I looked up at the top bookshelf and saw a familiar image, Captain Underpants, hilarious looking as ever.
“Hey Idris,” I said casually hoping this would be the one. “What about this book?”
He smiled wildly and I knew we’d struck gold.
That night we read a few chapters of book 1 together. We sounded out words between jokes and laughter. I remember seeing the series in bookstores years ago and I always wondered what the fascination was. After a few pages, I totally got it and Idris was totally enthralled. That night he slept with the book on his bed and rushed to grab it on the way to school in the morning. He’d ask to read it at night and talked to his friends and teachers about it at school. He was reading - still with help - but finally loving it!
The series has stood the test of time because it has all of the elements that kids love (boys in particular). I asked Idris what he liked about the book. He said, “It’s it was funny and felt real”.
I’ll add some writer’s notes to his list. The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey is:
Unintimidating in length
Written with in short and snappy chapters
Written to let the reader in on little secrets that the characters don’t know
Crafted so that each book previews the next
There’s nothing like a good series to get a reader or writer hooked. Pilkey makes it all seem effortless.
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at carolhl.weebly.com
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