As a novice teacher (forever and a year ago), I admit I would become frustrated with my second graders when they insisted on reading books about popular TV and movie cartoon characters. I felt it was not “real literature” and frowned upon their reading of these during “sustained silent reading” time.
Then I became a parent and realized I had been so, so wrong.
The Appeal of Familiar Characters
Kids often feel connected with the characters they see in movies and on TV. They enjoy what they know of the story so far, and are looking for new “adventures” or “episodes” to quench their thirst for more interactions with their favorite characters. As parents and teachers, we should support their displayed interest:
- Familiar characters and story lines scaffold the reading experience, making books easier for children to decode and comprehend.
- Kids who love to read read more. When kids read more they do better in school (surprise!).
- Many books with familiar characters are now designed to support kids as they learn to read.
Choosing Books with Popular Characters from TV and Movies
Most of us have had the dreaded experience of having our child bring us a book to read about a popular character that may not be a good fit for several reasons (e.g., length, quality of writing, number and types of illustrations). However, there are lots of high-quality books about your child’s favorite characters available, you just need to know what to look for when choosing a book!
- Choose books that are at your child’s reading level. For non-readers or beginning readers, choose simple texts with many detailed illustrations. More independent readers can handle longer books with less picture support.
- Look for books with predictable story lines. If your child is already familiar with the idea that Doc McStuffins helps fix toys when they are broken, a Doc McStuffins book about a new broken toy will be easier for them.
- Let your children choose. Take them to a bookstore or let them browse online. Self-selection is very motivating.
High-Quality Popular Character Books
My boys almost exclusively watch Disney Junior on TV, so it is no surprise that they gravitate toward many of the characters they see on those shows. Given their popularity, there are many high-quality books available with these characters. A few of our favorites include:
Toddlers and preschoolers will love this easy reader which tells the tale of Jake, Izzy, and Cubby as they try to recover their stolen surfboard from Captain Hook. The book is as entertaining as the hit series, including show tag lines like, ” For solving pirate problems today, we earned XX Gold Doubloons!” As a parent I like that the book includes several stopping points, asking questions like, “How many flowers do you see on the surfboard?” to extend their thinking. And at only $3.99, this book is a great deal.
In this book, Sofia saves the day when she rescues Bailey after he touches a dangerous plant on a Buttercup Group trip gone wrong. All trip, Baileywick did things for the young princess, making it so she could not earn any of her own badges. In the end, Sofia is able to demonstrate what she knows and builds a sled to get Bailey to safety. Girl Scouts might particularly appreciate this book!
For Frozen fans, this book tells young readers all the reasons why Olaf is a special snowman. The format is easy to read with simple text and engaging illustrations…a must have for any Frozen book collection.
In addition to the books above, I recommend the following books for parents and educators looking to expand their collection of books with Disney characters in them:
Disclosure: Disney provided some books for consideration that I used in this post. My opinions were not influenced in any way as a result.