‘The Bad Guys’ by Aaron Blabey.
Okay so I’m cheating a little here and choosing an entire series rather than just one book but Blabey’s series about a group of villainous anthropomorphs (who desperately want to be the heroes) was the key to reigniting Harrison’s love of reading.
You see, from babyhood, Harrison loved books. I read countless books daily, one bedtime story was never enough and I was happy to indulge. But when he started in a (British) primary school at the tender age of four and reading became a blur of reading levels and reciting high frequency words, his enthusiasm stopped.
Boring and mothballed home readers were killing his desire to read until the day we visited our local bookstore, when Harrison was aged 6, and he picked out Blabey’s ‘Bad Guys.’
The turnaround was amazing. Initially I read it to him, then he realised that he was able to decipher the words himself so we share read, until finally he was reading it all himself. His reading confidence shot through the roof. He now WANTED to read. He found the text utterly hilarious and as a six-year-old boy, that was exactly what he needed: a bit of silly fun.
I also can’t stress the importance of illustrations enough. As well as being an author, Blabey is an awesome illustrator too and that was part of the deal for Harrison. It’s well known that pictures help young readers engage with the text. The comic style of Bad Guys made for some fast-paced reading fun because he didn’t have to stress over every single world.
Fast forward three years and he still loves the series but has graduated onto more complex novels. Harrison went from Bad Guys to The Treehouse series and Diary of a Wimpy Kid -all cartoony and all hilarious for a young boy. More recently, his reading tastes have developed and he’s more willing to attempt longer chapter books – in fact, he’s just finished the entire Harry Potter series.
So in summary, we are eternally grateful to Aussie author Aaron Blabey for reigniting Harrison’s love of reading. If we could give just one message to other parents it would be to try not to let reading levels get in the way of enjoyment. There’s more than one way to learn how to read so head out to the local library or bookstore and help your child find a book or series that is right for them.