Think Outside the Chapters

By Melissa Taylor

Regan wasn’t a cooperative student. She was loud, demanding and strong-willed. In fact, she was so strong-willed that the only thing she’d read in my fifth grade class was the encyclopedia. (Ever.)

She drove me crazy. But she taught me something, too. She showed me that kids could become successful, productive adults (she’s now a lawyer) even if they don’t read chapter books. Amazing, I know.

So, here’s my challenge for you and your kids. Skip the chapter books. Instead, read graphic novels, cookbooks and magazines. Think outside the chapter book for a while.

Reading is Reading

You know that Dr. Seuss line, “A person’s a person no matter how small”? It’s the same for reading, “Reading is reading no matter the genre.”

Here’s why I say that …

When we read, our brain performs several complex operations. Our eyes see the letters, our brain translates the letters into words and into meaning, and we store that information in our short-term and long-term memory.

It only follows that we can perform this complex process of reading with any printed material. Including graphic novels, cookbooks and magazines.

Not a Chapter Book

Want to know something really awesome? Sometimes, our kids don’t even realize they’re “reading” when it’s not in a chapter book. This might just get them reading more, and for longer periods of time.

Graphic Novels and Comics

The term “graphic novel” basically means a longer, full-length comic. Comics are shorter than graphic novels. They’re more like magazines, not full books. Comics or graphic novels give kids the opportunity to read visual cues and make inferences along with practicing other reading skills.

Get started with one of my favorite kid-tested graphic novels:

  • Graphic novels by Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton
  • “Amulet” by Kazu Kibuishi
  • “Rapunzel’s Revenge” by Shannon Hale
  • “Zita” the Space Girl by Ben Hatke
  • “Mal and Chad” by Stephen McCranie
  • “The Olympians” series by George O’Connor


After comics, try cookbooks! One of my favorite things to do with my kids is to bake. Recently, my eldest daughter started baking by herself. She reads cookbooks and iPad apps. (Of course, I’m secretly hoping she’ll start cooking family meals soon.) Cookbooks require children to sequence, follow directions, measure, add and sometimes multiply. Talk about some important skill building!

See how it goes for your kids. Here are three to get you started:

  • “The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” by Dinah Bucholz
  • “Smart Cookie” by Dana Meachen Rau
  • Hello, Cupcake! app for the iPad


Did you know there are cooking magazines for kids? When we were young (back in the Dark Ages) we didn’t have the quality or quantity of children’s magazines our kids have. Now, it’s quite impressive. There’s something for almost every interest. In magazines, pictures provide support for a child’s reading comprehension. Not only that, it familiarizes kids with nonfiction reading, a skill they’ll need as they grow up.

See if your kids will read one of these magazines:

  • National Geographic Little Kids
  • OWL Magazine
  • American Girl Magazine
  • Sports Illustrated Kids Magazine
  • Discovery Girls Magazine
  • Yum Food & Fun for Kids

Many kids love to read outside of chapter books. After you try graphic novels, cookbooks and magazines, think of all the other possibilities: newspapers, encyclopedia, Web pages, plays, their own writing, nonfiction books and puzzle books. You’ll find there’s a lot to read outside of the chapter book.

Which will you choose first?

Compensation was provided by Sylvan Learning. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Sylvan.
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