How do series books motivate young readers (or not motivate them) to read all the books in the series? I'm trying to relate this question back to Hunger Games and Skulduggery Pleasant.

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A series of books that interests a reader can bring home the point that finding one good book is not a fluke. There is more good material out there. 

Personally, I have been invigorated by some fantasy series books in the past (like The Lord of the Rings trilogy) in part because there is a sense of being involved in a real saga. 

 

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I have seen series books turn non-readers into readers. For example, the Series of Unfortunate Event series has 13 relatively short books. If a child reads a book that is not in a series, he typically reads the book and then that's it. If there are 12 more, he is likely going to read 12 more books! In some ways, Harry Potter is the best series because the first book is short and easy, but the six following books get harder and longer. It teaches kids NOT to be afraid of long books!
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I have to agree that interest plays a large role in reading an entire series. I cannot tell you how many times I read the first book of a series and could not wait for the next novel to come out. Outside of that, wannam provides a good point about the number of books in a series. Sometimes the sheer number of novels is overwhelming for a reader (they simple do not wish to devote so much time to a series).

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I think, in general, books in a series do motivate young readers to read more.  It is easier to read when you are interested in the characters.  A good series will drive you to finish reading because you want to know what happens to your favorite characters.  Readers can look forward to the next book.  Once they finish the first book, there is still more to read.  With a single book, the reader is sent looking for another book after they finish reading.  Often, this leads to a lull in the person's reading habits because they don't have a drive to continue reading a particular book.  Series can deter young readers in one sense, because they can seem intimidating.  Longer series with larger books (like Harry Potter for instance) might seem overwhelming to a young reader.  A person might avoid reading the first book because they don't want to have to read all the books in the series.

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A lot of it has to do with creating compelling characters that make you want to read the next in a series just to see what happens to them. Also, some series books have plotlines that very obviously leave the reader wondering about the next book in the series. Recently, the trend has been young adult fiction, but many dime novels of years gone by took exactly the same tack. Sherlock Holmes, though not a serial per se, is one example.

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Some young readers and adults alike will come into a series or an author and then devour that author's books because they recognize something in the style of the writing or the themes of the works that appeals to them. If the young person is a reluctant reader and he or she can find one book that really clicks, then the next few books seem like "friendly territory" and the young person may be more easily inspired to read.

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Generally, if the initial book in a series is a good one, readers will always want to continue reading. The recent Hunger Games series and the previous Harry Potter books are excellent examples of great books spawning successful sequels. During my youth, I found the same held true for The Wizard of Oz and its many followups.

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