As your child gets older, their attention span increases, and suddenly you can easily read 2, 3 or more books during a bedtime reading session. If you find yourself in this situation, it may be time to consider chapter books. But which are the best chapter books to read aloud to your child?
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I have been reading at bedtime with my son since he was only a few months old, and we still do this today.
But our reading material has significantly progressed. It has been with some nostalgia (on my part, not his) that we have left behind the board books and picture books and moved to mainly reading chapter books aloud each evening.
I admit I am quite excited when now and then he is still happy to read a Mr Men, Dr Seuss or a Classic Fairytale but those days are getting less and less.
So how do you know when is the right time to start reading early chapter books and which are the best chapter books to read aloud with your child?
Let’s start at the beginning.
What are Chapter Books?
A chapter book is a storybook for young children that serves as a transition from picture books to books with more text. Chapter books for young children (early readers and beginners) will still include illustrations; however, these illustrations play a less critical role in the story than they would in picture books.
How do I Know if my Child is Ready for Chapter Books?
As with most aspects of our children's lives, this does depend on the individual child. Some children may start to show an interest in Chapter Books at around 5 years old or younger whilst other children may not show any interest in chapter books until they are 7 years old or older.
If your child can quite easily sit whilst you read 2 picture books together and even asks for more, they may be ready to transition to chapter books to read aloud. You could start with some early reader chapter books and see how your child reacts. If they are not showing any interest, then go back to picture books and try again later.Reading should be fun for your child, so don’t push it if they are not quite ready yet. Beginner chapter books are longer picture books broken into just a few short chapters or books that have several short stories (where each story is a chapter). As a guide, they are typically suitable for 4-8 years old.
How to Pick the Best Chapter Books to Read Aloud?
So how do you go about picking the best chapter books to read aloud? Below are some tips on what to look for and consider when choosing chapter books.
- 1What is the age of the main character? If the main character is about the same age as your child, then they will likely enjoy the book.
- 2Amount and type of illustrations. Books with more illustrations are aimed at younger children. Starting with books with more pictures can be a good choice, especially if your child does not particularly like reading. If the illustrations are coloured, this is also an indication that the book is aimed at younger children.
- 3Size of the text. Those books with larger fonts are aimed at younger children.
- 4The number of pages. Books with less than 100 pages are an indication that the book is an early chapter book. I know the first chapter books my son was interested in had around 60 pages and lots of colour illustrations.
Tips for Reading Chapter Books Aloud with Your Child
There are few things nicer than snuggling up with your child and reading a book together. Reading chapter books is different from reading picture books. A picture book you will typically finish reading with your child in one reading sitting, but with a chapter book, you may end up reading the book over a few evenings or days.
So here are some suggestions for reading chapter books aloud with your child.
- 1Talk a bit about the book before you start. As there are fewer illustrations in chapter books, it can be more difficult for your child to keep track of the characters and what is happening in the book. By discussing the book – an overview of the story, the characters, etc., your child will find it easier to understand what is happening in the story as you read.
- 2Ask questions and recap the story as you go along. As you read, ask your child questions about what is happening in the story. You can also summarise what happened in each chapter before you go onto the next one.
- 3Be prepared to stop mid-chapter. Some books have long chapters, so if your child is starting to lack interest midway through a chapter that is fine, just stop and pick the book up again the next day.
- 4Review each day before you start. When you pick up the book the next day, do a brief recap of what has happened in the story so far. The summary will ensure that your child can keep track of the story as it progresses.
- 5If your child is not enjoying the book, choose another one. Some books may not resonate with your child, if that is the case, and you can see your child is not enjoying the story put the book down and pick another one.
Which are the Best Chapter Books to Read Aloud?
Now that you know:
Let’s look at some of the best chapter books to read aloud.
To simplify this, we have broken our recommendations down into 2 categories:
Categorising books can be a bit challenging however for simplicity in the Beginner Readers list we have included books that are essentially longer picture books written over a few short chapters. You could either read these chapter books aloud with your child or once your child has learnt how to read independently, these make great first reader books. These are great chapter books to start with.
Once your child can easily sit through reading these beginner chapter books, you could progress to age-appropriate chapter books which are less like picture books and more like chapter books (less illustration and more text).
If you are thinking about teaching your child to read, you can read our review of a great reading program – Children Learning Reading.
15 Best Beginner Readers to Read Aloud (4-8 years old)
4. Hello Hedgehog – Do You Like My Bike? by Norm Feuti
About the Book: Hedgehog has a new bike which he loves, but when he asks his best friend Harry to go bike riding with him, Harry does not want to. Why – does Harry not like the bike or could it be something to do with the training wheels? These books are in a comic type format and have large text which is great for early readers.
Age: 4-6 years old
9. Princess Cora and Crocodile by Laura Amy Schultz
10. Owl Diaries by Rebecca Elliott
11. Paddington by Michael Bond
14. Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle
About the Book: This is a classic that your child will love. Raggedy Ann first appeared in print in 1918 and since then has charmed and delighted millions of readers. Raggedy Ann comes to Marcella's nursery and quickly becomes the leader of the dolls.
There are many delightful stories in this book like the time Raggedy Ann has her stuffing replaced and gets her famous "I LOVE YOU" candy heart or when she shares the excitement of a baby brother for Marcella.
Age: 5-8 years old
15. Henry and Mudge Collector's Set by Cynthia Rylant
15 Best Chapter Books to Read Aloud (6-10 years old)
1. Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
About the Book: This is one of the best-known chapter books. To Mr and Mrs Watson, Mercy is not just a pig – she's a porcine wonder. These books are about Mercy, the pig who is adopted by an elderly couple Mr and Mrs Watson, who have no children of their own. These books are hilarious and will keep your little one entertained.
2. Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book 10-Book Box Set by Herman Parish.
3. How Not to Start Third Grade by Cathy Hapka and Ellen Titlebaum
6. Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
8. Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
About the Book: There is a reason some books are popular for decades. This series which has over 25 books, was first published in the 1970s and is still hugely popular today. Nate the Great is the world's greatest detective, and these books will encourage children to solve the mysteries with Nate using logical thinking.
Age: 6-9 years old