A Funny Thing Happend When a Friend Recommended Big Nate: The Power of Peer Book Recommendations

     My eight year old son has loved graphic novels, particularly the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, since he was six.  He devoured what he could of the text and pictures, laughing, sharing, enjoying.  He even started writing his own ‘Diary of a Wimpy Max’ books, emulating Kinney’s style.
     Being the avid reading advocate I am, I naturally noted his interest and brought him to the library to check out other graphic novels.  He read the Flying Beaver Brother series by Maxwell Eaton III,   Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, El Deafo by Cece Bell, The Bird and Squirrel series by James Burkes and many others.  He pretty much loved them all, reading several of them more than once.  (I silently curse my own poor parenting when he’s up at 10:00PM on a school night and I can’t get him to close a book.)
     Near the beginning of this school year, I brought home several of the books from the Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce.  Students at my school like them, so I figured Max would, too.  I talked to him a bit about them and showed him the covers, but for some reason, he didn’t pick them up.  Over the course of a week, I mentioned them several times, but nothing sparked his interest.  I collected the books and took them back to school.  

Then, a funny thing happened.

     A few weeks ago Max asked me about Big Nate.  I replied, “Remember, I brought home several of the books from the series, but you weren’t interested.”
     “Well, I’m interested now.”
     I wanted to check some out from the library, but he insisted he wanted his own copies.  Strange…how did we go from no interest to “I’ll die if I don’t have my own copies?”  Come to find out, a student in Max’s second grade class gave a book talk on one of the Big Nate books.  The teacher has a simple routine: every student has a day of the week for “Share a Book.”  They give quick book talks, sharing favorite parts, reading a bit aloud, etc.  Max’s classmate shared a few funny parts from Big Nate and OH!  From that point forward, Max was convinced he had to get his hands on these books.
     Since the books arrived from Amazon, Max has been furiously reading.  He can’t put them down.  In fact, I just spoke with his teacher today and he’s been in a tad bit of trouble for trying to read them while his teacher is teaching.  In trouble for reading!  Ha, imagine that.
     The point of this post is this:  REVERE THE POWER STUDENTS HAVE IN THEIR HANDS!  They can be extremely influential in the reading lives of their peers.  Imagine, me, full-time teacher, writer of books, book-talk extraordinaire, unable to convince Max to pick up a book, but a classmate did the job with little to no effort.  A few questions you might consider:  Do you take advantage of the power of peer-to-peer book recommendations?  Do you have any simple routines in place that allow for student book-sharing or informal talk about books?  I presented on this topic at the IRA annual convention in 2014 and wrote a post with some suggestions you might find useful.  You can find it here:  http://janielwagstaff.blogspot.com/2014/05/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html  I’d love to hear your stories and ideas, as well.

Happy reading (and, we’re going to bed early tonight—books closed, lights out!)!


  1. Same song, different verse here at my house. Reading specialist with 25 years of experience, and I had a child that just decided one day that she hated to read. What?? Well, at the end of fifth grade, a grown up friend suggested that reading was a great thing to do when you're bored. (um yes...) With that suggestion, she asked to go to the library, looked forever, and came out with a stack. Read them all in a matter of a week and wanted more. She's become a voracious reader, and has even started blogging about them...(maybe since I do??) , and now she's writing her own. As kids move into the teen years, I think peers become increasingly more important and so does tech. Using blogging and closed discussion groups to allow kids to share their opinions taps into their need to be social (and builds motivation to read). Great post, Janiel! So wonderful that Max is such a reader from the beginning. :-)

  2. Aww, thanks, Carla. I love your story. Thanks for taking the time to write and share it. No matter the situation, there is always the possibility a child will get turned on to reading and the power of peers can't be denied. I appreciate your perspective and advice for teen readers, too--so helpful. Thanks again, friend!


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