If I'd known I'd still be trying to figure this out 12 years later...
In which I learn my child has an alternate (and better behaved!) personality when he's not around me. (OBVS)

Impromptu history lesson in the Cheung playroom this evening (alternately titled: do you have ideas for books for little boys?)

Holy shnikeys. Okay. SO! I just finished reading my first grader a first grade-level biography of Abraham Lincoln. But I somehow neglected to consider the fact that reading my first grader a first grade-level biography of Abraham Lincoln would STILL involve discussion of slavery and war and assassinations and DEAR GOD I'M GLAD THAT'S OVER. 

I am tired of Jackson telling me he doesn't like to read. Not like he's said that a LOT or anything, but just the once or twice was enough to make me think OH NO YOU DON'T and develop a Plan. The plan is basically to bombard him with books he can 1) read himself and 2) ARE OF INTEREST. He is moderately interested in the Star Wars early reader books (GAG) but was MUCH more interested in our collection of books about the human body or freaky animals or volcanoes. A while back I was talking about learning to read with my parents (not about Jack necessarily) and my dad said that many little boys appear to be uninterested in reading, but the truth is that they're just not interested in they're offered. He suggested biographies for gifts for my nephews so I marched myself to Barnes & Noble yesterday to look for... biographies a first grader could read. 

Guess what! There aren't many! Well, I suppose there are if you have an especially advanced reader, but Jack isn't and I didn't want to frustrate him with books that were too hard. Almost all of the biographies and nonfiction early readers were at higher levels (and sometimes I think even level 1 is high!) I ended up buying two readers about George Washington that I thought we could read together, one easier one about Abraham Lincoln and one about storms, both National Geographic readers. Oh, I also bought a book about the First Thanksgiving because guess what! My kids have yet to hear Thanksgiving mentioned in school! I intend to ask why at conferences. Anyway. We've been reading that before bedtime and they seem to be pretty interested AND learning a thing or two! Well done, Me! Parenting Gold Star!

But anyway, he wanted to read about Abraham Lincoln tonight. And of course I got all excited because HE WANTED TO READ! And he COULD read it! And then we got to the page about slavery and UGH. 

I don't particularly want to or feel like I should shield him from Very Bad Things That Happened. Not anymore. (Molly, at this point, had taken herself to bed, her being much more interested in books using the words Fancy and Nancy.) That said, I didn't quite feel PREPARED, you know? And I felt sad that I HAD to explain what happened. And wondered how it was going to sit in his brain. What pieces he would remember and what he would think about and it did not help when he said, "oh, so like slavery is like being a kid." OMG YOU GUYS. I might find this funny later on, but I did NOT FIND IT FUNNY THIS EVENING. He was all, "You know, because you have to clean up and obey your parents and do what you're told." (LIKE HE EVER DOES WHAT HE'S TOLD.) And I said, "Oh no. No no no no no no no. NOOOOO. It is NOT like being a kid." And that is when I chose to go into great and terrible detail about what it might have been like to be a slave and how it was not at ALL like being a kid who lives with his nice mommy and daddy and no no no NOOOOO.

I think he got it. It takes a lot to chasten Jackson Cheung, but I think I achieved Satisfactory Chastening.

And that was before we even got to the Civil War and the assassination.

So! Lotsa learning in the Cheung household tonight! I do feel it was appropriate, seeing as how today is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Best of all, Jack was interested. He asked questions. He wanted to read the whole thing. He correctly answered all the"questions for review" at the end of the book (which HE wanted to do btw, I didn't make him do it.) I wondered if I have switched to reading mainly nonfiction because somehow my subconscious knew that my kid would prefer it and I would want to be excited instead of bummed.

He DOES like Nate the Great. Not all is lost.

And Molly will read anything with a pink cover.

I am starting to feel anxious about what they are learning (or NOT learning, rather) in school. But that's another post. I'll save it for after my conference interrogations. (Ha. Like I actually have it in me to interrogate anyone.) (NO.)

What books do your little boys enjoy? I need things to tide us over until we're ready for chapter books.  



Argh I just lost a long reply. The short version is that I heard a speaker tonight that said boys like to read action books or books that are informative, so I think you're on the right track. I would look into graphic novels as they can be easy to read but have more interesting subject matter.


Nate the great! Yes. Chris really likes history - particularly the revolutionary war. For some reason that has really held a lot of appeal to him. So that was his first grade focus. Now we're all about. Ninjago here in the Troy house, which....okay fine. But those are so comic bookish that I'm not to pleased. That said, the child will read anything. He loves magazines too....boys life, which he gets through cub scouts and the US States edition of Highlights. Those are fun because they're MAIL. He'll read them cover to cover as soon as the mail comes in the door.


TOO pleased. I'm not TOO pleased. But yes - totally agree that any child can be a reader, provided you figure out where his interest lies. Sports books are also big here for that reason...

J. Johnson

When my daughter was Jackson's age, she really didn't like to read much either. However, she loved going to the library and choosing books about, bats, snakes, frogs, sharks, etc. There are many non-fiction books with good pictures and information written at a first grader's level. Perhaps he would like those types of books? My son loved the Captain Underpants books.


I have 2 boys, one is a teen who LOVES to read, and the other is only six, so I'm hoping for more success. My older son loved non fiction books when he was little. We would go to the library and bring home stacks of books about presidents and history and animals and weather and nature etc. You can also read chapter books to him a few chapters a day. Goose bumps are really popular, but kind of scary so that is gonna have to wait a few years, at least for mine. Both of my boys LOVED Junie B Jones books. Yes they are probably girl books, but she is a bit of a trouble maker and the books are really funny. Good Luck. You read so much I'm sure it will rub off on your kids.


Nate the Great was a big one at our house at that age. And your dad is right, you have to offer them things they like. My cousin's son, and then my own son, both spent HOURS reading a hardcover Pokemon video game guide. But they were reading! (I think this was later than 1st grade, but the theory applies.)

I agree with the advice of graphic novels, and comic books, too, or even the books based on their favorite TV shows. It sounds dumbed-down, but it develops the habit.

And The Magic Tree House was a favorite for us.


Calvin and Hobbes. I have a 13 year old, an 8 year old and a 6 year old (all boys--the two year old one can't read yet) and they alllll adore Calvin and Hobbes. All have gone through a stage (the six year old is currently in this) where that is all they read. Lest you despair because those aren't "real books," we have had many an enlightening discussion about imagination, proper social behavior, and why you wouldn't want to behave like Calvin. My six year old just started to read proficiently this year and I credit Calvin and Hobbes with really sparking his interest lately.

I also recommend the Bunnicula books, Encyclopedia Brown, and Joan Aiken's "Arabel and Mortimer" series.

I was filling out a form for the allergist today and asked the six year old if he had any hobbies, "You know, things you really like to do," and he thought a minute and said, "Reading." Yay mom!


I remember trying to explain slavery to my second grade class and it was hard. Such a tough topic to get little kids to understand when they live such (thank goodness) safe, sheltered lives.


My boys are similar. They looooooooooooove nonfiction, especially Rhys, especially about sports, which is why I know all about the early career of Troy Aiken and have had to explain segregation in baseball multiple times. Fun.

We've had some success with easy readers that are historical fiction, like Sam The Minuteman, and nature books, too.

Also, fiction books that are funny usually are acceptable. So Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books and Frog and Toad (also an easy reader) have been big hits.


My first grader likes non-fiction so we have covered all sorts of info. about planes, dinosaurs, trains and animals. He likes magic tree house but sometimes I don't like reading them. We just started the A to Z mysteries and he loves them. My older son did to. The " national geographic big books for little kids" are great too. The Big book of Why and the one about planets are very well done.
With my older son, I remember reading a book with him and explaining about WWII and the holocaust. It was so painful to explain and watch him process the horrible facts.


Does he like Legos? I can't remember if you ever mention them. If he does, there are a couple different series of early reader Lego books that are sort of cute.


I have no little boys but I'm getting my nephew a few of the Nate the Great books for Christmas so I'm happy to see Jackson likes them :)

Good luck.


Oh NO. I have to explain these things? I've already bought a children's dictionary so that it could define words that I use all the time but can't seem to figure out how to explain. I can use them in a SENTENCE.


I absolutely second the Bunnicula books, and the Plant That Ate Dirty Socks books are also good for when he's at that reading level (longer chapter books).

A little younger than those, but probably still a little older than he's at right now, are the Time Warp Trio books. They're fantastic!! They're very action-oriented and historical (in a warped sort of way...) I loved them when I was a kid, since I was a tomboy, but they were allllmost even too "boyish" for me, and that's saying something.

Kate E

Captain Underpants, nothing like a little inappropriate kid humor to liven up the reading:)


I think my comment got eaten. If this shows up twice, feel free to delete!

Check out http://guysread.com/ - it's a website just for encouraging boys to read, with a ton of lists of books that boys like, by age/reading ability.
My oldest was an early and quick reader and my youngest was super slow to read (English being his second language and all) so it's hard to remember what 1st graders read. Magic Tree House is good - and you can get the books on CD at the library so he can "read along"; also Zach is/was a huge fan of The Imagination Station books (like MTH, but Christian, basically), the Bunnicula early readers, everything Mo Willems (most are very easy reader, but so stinking funny), Henry and Mudge, Frog and Toad... I could go on and on. And yes, fact books are big with Zach too. The DK books are great because they have so many pictures. And The Cat in The Hat Knows A Lot About That books. And I'll stop there, because this comment is becoming a novel. LOL.

Erin P.

My 6 year old LOVES the Captain Underpants series..totally perfect for little boys since most love potty humor :) He also loves Nate the Great and also Flat Stanley. He also reads Richard Scarry books and anything non fiction about Space, trucks, Big Book of Questions for kids, etc. He loves going to the library and Barnes and Noble. Because of his love for reading, we are buying him a Kindle Fire for Christmas :)


We're big fans of Cynthia Rylant here, too- Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter, etc.

Samuel loves the DK Lego books, and any easy reader about super heroes.

MIL gets him subscriptions to several kid magazines- Turtle, Ranger Rick Jr, Little Nat Geo, etc. He and Rebekkah will both sit with those for a pretty long time.

Kate P

Slavery is more like being a kid's plaything than a kid, if he really wants a comparison.

The first graders at my school are crazy for the "Fly Guy" series, and some also go for the Dino-sports series (Dino-Soccer, Dino-Baseball, etc.).

For non-fiction, I think you're on the right track with more of a collective biography/informational book. For example, a book on all of the U.S. presidents might be easier to consume in "bites" and have less, er, detail that would pose challenges for younger readers.

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