Thursday, February 6, 2014

Great series for struggling readers!

I’m always on the lookout for books for boys.  Before beginning my teaching career, I bought all sorts of book for my classroom library.  Most of the books I bought, however, were those that I loved as a child.  So naturally, I had a whole classroom library full of mostly girl books and books that were too difficult for most fourth-graders to read.  I have made finding books that boys will like a personal goal of mine.  Even more so, I am interested in finding books for boy readers who struggle.  Boris on the Move by Andrew Joyner (Published in 2011), is the first book in a series that is perfect for both boys, girls, and struggling readers.

The plot of this story is simple, and this is very intentional by Andrew Joyner.  Boris (He’s a warthog.  I had no idea what he was until I looked online!) lives with his mom and dad in their RV that they have turned into a house.  Before Boris was born, his parents used to travel all over the world.  Once they had him, they settled down in Hogg Bay and haven’t moved the RV since.  Boris, however, desperately wants to travel the world.  He has a map full of red pins that are all the places he wants to go.  His green pins are saved for places he’s been, and he only has one of those!  Boris’s parents see how badly he wants to go somewhere, so they start up their RV house and take him on a short trip to Greater Hogg Bay.  Boris is not happy because he had dreams of the Amazon jungle, but he soon finds himself on an adventure, even this close to home.

   I love Boris on the Move because it has the feel of a chapter book, but it is really a book with texts and lots and lots of pictures.  The text is simple, and I think even my most struggling reader will be able to find success with it.  When I labeled this book and put it in my classroom, I put it under “graphic novels.”  It is not a true graphic novel, but it has the same feel of one and my kids will read any graphic novel you give them!  The pictures add more to the story, like Boris’s face when he finds out his parents took him to Greater Hogg Conversation Park and not somewhere more exciting.  For 11 pages, the reader sees Boris’s face as the text continues as though nothing is wrong.  He is beyond disappointed, while his parents walk around oblivious.  The text doesn’t hint at the unhappiness that Boris is feeling, and so the reader has to depend on the pictures for that.

                I think that Boris on the Move is great, but what I really want to talk about is the Branches division of Scholastic.  Boris on the Move is a part of this division.  Branches is a relatively new part of scholastic that is intentionally designed for readers who are beyond the simple easy readers, but not yet ready for chapter books.   According to their website, Branches is “a unique line of books specifically designed for newly independent readers who are ready to make the exciting leap from leveled readers, but not quite prepared for a traditional chapter book.”  Please visit the link at the bottom of this blog to visit their website and see all the different series they have to offer.   This line of books is absolutely perfect to get a lot of struggling readers going.  My children normally have about 45 minutes to read each day, and I think that even a struggling reader could get through two or three of these books if he or she was engaged.  As far as I can see, they only offer series in the Branches line.  Series are perfect for struggling readers because as soon as they have read one, they are already familiar with the characters and the world.  Some of the cognitive demand is taken away due to familiarity and they are able to more immediately delve into the book.

                On their Branches website, Scholastic lists the feature of Branches books.  These include:

1.       Easy-to-read text

2.       Simple plotlines

3.       Plenty of context clues

4.       Purposeful illustrations that aid reading comprehension

These books are designed by Scholastic very purposefully to be entertaining, to be engaging, and to help students bridge the gap between picture books, leveled readers, and chapter books.  The students themselves feel like they are reading a great deal quickly, because the books are approximately 70 pages long.  These Branches books, like Boris on the Move, offer children a chance to feel like readers, without feeling embarrassed or ashamed that they aren’t reading the chapter books that they might see some of their peers reading.  Just like I said about Babymouse, the world needs books like this, and it is up to us to help spread the word!

Please visit the Scholastic Branches website here!  It has such amazing resources, including teacher guides, parent guides, and about the authors.  Explore the different series that might be perfect for your classroom and your children!
Click here to visit Andrew Joyner's website.


  1. If you can, will you bring this book to class? I have struggling readers who don't want to look like they are reading "baby" books so I'm always searching for books that look like big kid books! Thanks for the Scholastic info too.

  2. Absolutely!!! I'll try to remember to bring it on Thursday. I gave this book to one of my kiddos who has a hard time focusing on Friday. He spent 15 minutes without a single fidget, and read the entire book. The look on his face when he was able to finish this long book without stopping was priceless!!!!

  3. I passed this info on to our 4th grade. We were just talking about lower level books for older students.