This year I teach sixth grade, but I’ve met some kids in the other grade levels over the course of the year, and typically the conversations revolve around books. For example, I saw some fourth graders reading the Dork Diaries books one morning while they were sitting outside during an earthquake evacuation drill. I was walking up and down, monitoring kids, and asking students about what they were reading, how it was going, and did they recommend their books for me to read as well? I had just been to an educator event at our local Barnes and Noble and I won a box full of Dork Diaries promotional materials, so when I spied the girls reading those very books, I told them to stop by my room after school. They did and I gave them each a bookmark and a sticker (or pencil, or some other little freebie that was in my box o’loot.) Then they told their friends and soon I had given away all of my Dork Diaries stuff! One of the girls was looking through my classroom library, so I invited her to stop by and borrow books any time. She took me up on the offer and started coming around regularly to chat.
As it turns out, this particular reader was quite passionate about the Percy Jackson series and I had to admit that I…yep, I had never read them. Not a one. I have them all in my library, but there are so many books and so little time, and I just hadn’t had a chance…but I will, I promise I will!
For about a month, this student popped her head in my classroom to check on my status. “Did you read it yet?” “Did you?” “What page are you on?” “What part are on you on?” “Did you finish yet?” “How about now????” Literally, she would ask me in the morning before school and then stop back by on her way out at the end of the day. “Did you read it yet?” she would ask, and I’d have to explain, “Uhhh, still no. I HAVE been teaching class for the last 7 hours, you know!”
Long story short, I DID read The Lightning Thief finally. I get it now. It was a really fun read and what a great gateway into mythology! As an adult reader, it was neat to watch the stories connect together and for familiar characters to pop up. Even though the plot has been done before (misfit teenager with super powers meets up with friends who share a secret world and together they go on quests and fight evil–but who doesn’t love that?), the writing was fresh and right on target for kids. I have noticed that the students in my class who have read these books are the ones who have strong reference points when it is time to talk about theme. They can instantly identify the journey of the hero in other stories when I point out that it actually is “a thing” to look for when reading and comparing texts. We are about to study ancient Greece, so those students will be well served with this extra background knowledge, too.
I can now wholeheartedly recommend The Lightning Thief any other student who comes around looking for something to read. I was not impressed with the first movie, and the kids who loved the books gave it a big, fat N-O. Movie #2, Sea of Monsters, comes out this summer, but since it features Nathan Fillion, one of my favorite people, I’ll probably give it another shot. I’ll finish reading the series this summer, and give The Red Pyramid a try as well, which is the first book in another series by Rick Riordan, The Kane Chronicles. Two thumbs up and shame on me for not reading these books earlier!
Percy Jackson and the Olympians, book 1: The Lightning Thief has an AR level of 4.7 and is worth 13 points. The rest of the series falls in the same reading range, with varying points from 10 to 17.