Hurrah for Captain Underpants

My 6-year-old started this school year not reading. He was not interested, and did not want to practice or anything of the sort.

Over the past few months, though, something clicked. He (with the help of his teachers) figured it out. A few weeks ago, I had him read me Pete the Cat and he did pretty well.

Then, as often happens, as you figure out that reading is fun, you want to do more of it. He was looking at the Who Is George Lucas? biography the other day (a kid-focused bio series) and he asked something about it. I said he could probably read it. He told me he could not read it, and I said he was wrong. So he picked it up, and was able to tell me a few things about George Lucas shortly afterward.

Then he began begging to read Captain Underpants. I had heard of this series as being particularly good for little boys who may or may not be confident readers. So I ordered a copy. He counted the days until it arrived. I brought it with me when I picked him up from science club yesterday. He began reading it aloud in the car…

…and kept going. He read the whole thing, all 120 pages, last night and this morning. All out loud (the silent reading thing may be asking too much for a kindergartner). So all of us were treated to the tales of Captain Underpants, but I have to say, hurrah for Captain Underpants. I now have an eager reader on my hands.

What books got your kids really into reading?

28 thoughts on “Hurrah for Captain Underpants

  1. Graphic novels are great, particularly for late elementary age reluctant readers. A Mighty Girl ( has a robust list of suggestions.

    Earlier this week my almost-10-year-old pulled out our battered copy of “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You”, announcing that it’s a great book, and there really ought to be versions for older readers.

    1. I LOOOOOOOVE that website, I get fb posts on my newsfeed daily, and I love the information they share. I haven’t ordered any books from there yet, but I need to keep it in mind for upcoming birthdays!

  2. The 13-Story Treehouse and its sequels. I just went to double-check the title and there’s a new 4th book so I ordered it for my former non-reader (who now has to be reminded to go to sleep!).

  3. My 6 year old is currently obsessed with Dr Suess. I actually have the captain underpants books that a neighbor gave me, I should try them on him, I’m getting tired of hearing fox in socks and horton hears a who

  4. My six year old got into reading with the Ella & Olivia series but then really got obsessed with The Famous Five. She’s currently talking about what she’s going to do on her “hols”. Also, I finally caved and let her start reading Harry Potter. We trade off – she does some silent reading then we read some out loud.

    1. I SO wish we could find Enid Blyton books easily in the US but they’re crazy expensive on Amazon and not all of them are available. I found them when visiting relatives in India, and they were SO great, exactly what I need for my 6yo – “harder” content that is still kid-appropriate. I should figure out if I can order them online somewhere else without paying crazy shipping prices.

  5. I do not have kids myself, but when my brother was in elementary school he never wanted to read. He could read perfectly fine, but never read for pleasure/by choice. Captain Underpants was the first thing that my parents were able to get him to read and he was obsessed with it. And that was in the mid-90’s, so Captain Underpants is apparently still going strong.

  6. The first two series to really grab my older son’s attention were the Stink series by Megan McDonald and A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy. My younger son (age 6) is a more ‘intuitive’ reader and he is really enjoying the Lunch Lady graphic novel series right now. We have all 10 from the library right now and he has read each of them tens of times. It is so fun to watch when they finally take the plunge! Both kids also loved the Zita the Spacegirl trilogy.

    1. My son LOOOOOVES the A to Z Mysteries (unfortunately, I do not, and he loves the audiobooks). My mom got him the younger-sib spinoffs, the Calendar Mysteries, for Christmas, and that’s all it took for him to take the plunge into chapter books (he’s in kindergarten). But the books that flipped the reading switch for him were a series of Marvel Storybooks — big, huge, hardcover numbers that tell all the superhero stories in regular illustrated book format, not comic book format (though he’s crazy about comics, too — Hero Cats is a big fave).

  7. My advice as a teacher and mom raising trilingual children. Keep books everywhere! I have them in the car, all of the bathrooms, their bedroom, my bedroom, and the living room. It works! Captain Underpants was a major hit in Spanish! I tap into their interests. I have one very into snakes right now, and I get all the books I can in Spanish and English for him. The local library is great too. Thankfully in California we can get books in Spanish and English. Their German is weaker, unfortunately, due to a lack of resources.

    1. I was so jealous on a visit to CA that you could easily buy Spanish books at places like Target!! Here in Seattle, it’s a lot harder to find them, though our library has a decent section and we’ve found a handful on Amazon as well.

  8. I love this post!!! that is so awesome!
    I have been struggling with how to reinforce reading at home. my 5 year old daughter apparently does well in school with sight words and reading, but at home she just won’t do it. I try not to push, but I also don’t read to them as often as I would like ( they are early bed -time kids, who are usually exhausted and grumpy at preschool pick up).
    I did see that Roald Dahl’s BFG is getting made into a movie and I had the thought of trying to read the book nightly prior to the release of the movie. My first grade teacher read a handful of Roald Dahl’s books to my class and I believe that is what began my love of reading. ( It is so cool to picture something so imaginative in your head while reading, and I want my kids to have that feeling).
    Thanks for bringing up this topic… To the store and library I go….

    1. Angela, for the nights when I’m too tired to read, i play audio books or books on CD for my girls. We’ve listened to novels like A Wrinkle in Time, but I also keep Skippy Jon Jones series in rotation — I think the narrators act out the books better than I could sometimes. We’ve listened to other books on road trips. My oldest daughter got into reading with the Junie B Jones series, although it was hard to nudge her into more challenging books after that, it’s still a work in progress.

      1. That is a great idea!!!! I have never really thought much about audio books until recently, since I have discovered podcast. I’m guessing I could just download the audio books to their devices and we can all listen along.
        Thank you for that! I will look into that tonight.

  9. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. We read this first book in the series together, then my reluctant readers devoured the rest for themselves.

  10. Captain Underpants actually has some really rich vocabulary words tucked into the stories. It was one of the first series my son chose to read.
    My son really enjoys nonfiction- books about the sea, solar system, nature, science.
    Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has also been a big hit. He loves graphic novels such as Bone and the Adventuretime series.

    Head to your local library library and have the children’s librarian show you what’s popular with that age group and reading level. They are always in the know!

  11. Too funny- my 6 year old has just discovered Captain Underpants, too, and she loves them. She isn’t yet reading them on her own, but she did create her own comic, with her own made up superhero!

  12. Magic Treehouse has been especially popular here with my 6.5yo. She also liked the “bad kitty” series – fewer words, more pictures, but still fun. She is obsessed with the Rainbow Magic series of Fairy books – and since she reads to herself, I don’t care how formulaic and annoying they are 😉

    I did notice it took her a couple of months to make the leap to reading to herself when she learned how to read. Sample size of 1, so take that for what it’s worth.

    Another friend recommended getting a cheap reading-only (black and white) Kindle for avid readers – this allows us to borrow books from our library and is much easier than making a trip there every week.

    1. @ARC – we had a long Magic Treehouse phase around here with kid #1. He devoured those books. Then he would make up his own Jack and Annie stories. The formula is pretty set (“Then everything was still. Absolutely still.”) So it wasn’t too hard to transfer the format to some other setting, though frankly I think Magic Treehouse has been just about everywhere.

  13. Figuring out that my son was dyslexic, and getting him the right kind of reading instruction, made all the difference in the world. Dyslexia can be diagnosed in kindergarten, but most teachers have no training in spotting it. To everyone whose child struggles, I urge you to seek out help sooner rather than later. The book Overcoming Dyslexia is a great resource.

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