Working in the children’s room at the library, I’ve heard a lot of parents moan, “Not another fairy book!” or “Why don’t you try something new? You’ve read every Diary of a Wimpy Kid book a million times!” I always try and reassure parents that this is in fact a normal phase for kids discovering how pleasurable reading can be.
For two years between third and fifth grade I read Deborah and James Howe’s Bunnicula books almost exclusively. When I came to the end of the series, I would start all over again with the first book. This may not sound too bad until you realize there are only seven books in the series; six at the time I was reading them. Since I could get through a book in a couple of days, this means I probably read each book about 50 times.
My parents finally resorted to bribery to get me to read something different. I read their recommendations and collected my bribes, but I still curled up with my favorite books and re-read the familiar adventures of Harold, Chester, Howie and Bunnicula.
What makes these books so great is the flawless blend of puns, light sarcasm, misunderstanding of idioms, and just enough action to keep you wondering what will happen next without being so intense as to give an easily excitable child nightmares.
Harold the dog narrates as Chester the cat concocts conspiracy theories and plans to save the day from a very lethargic, possibly vampiric, seemingly harmless pet rabbit that may or may not be sucking the juice out of all of the vegetables in the kitchen. Later books introduce Howie the dachshund, who provides additional comic relief as Chester’s unwanted sidekick. The humans in the family come into the stories only enough to provide an audience when Chester’s plans inevitably go haywire.
Eventually I moved on from Bunnicula and found new books and new authors to love. I believe the hours and days I spent reading and re-reading books well below my reading level and ability weren’t wasted. I read these books over and over again because I liked them. This meant that every minute I spent reading each book, whether it was for the first time or the fiftieth, I was enjoying reading. When I came across harder books in school and later on in life, I wasn’t daunted; I already knew reading was fun.