Getting started with chapter books for younger children

You’ve likely been reading to your child all their life, but sometimes grownups can be intimidated by the idea of reading a chapter book to very young children. But you shouldn’t be!

Even though your child is young, this is a great time to introduce them to longer-form stories. Not sure how (or why) to start? We’ve got you. 

First, what are the benefits of chapter books?

Chapter books help build your child’s imagination, encourage a rich vocabulary, increase their critical thinking skills, create reading fluency + expression, and they expose your child to stories they will not have heard before, and forms a lifelong love for books and stories. (And that’s just for starters!)

When picking your first chapter book, start with a book you think your child will enjoy. (Or even one you remember loving as a child!) You could try a story that is slightly familiar to them, either with characters they already love or a theme they are drawn to like farm animals or fantasy. If possible, take a trip to the library and let them pick one out for themselves. They might judge a book by its cover, but that’s okay! Let them be involved. 

Chapter books for younger children will also have a few illustrations that can help them build the story in their minds, so be sure they can see the pages as you read. Sometimes award-winning, classic books are the perfect pick for your child, but sometimes they aren’t—so be flexible. If they pick out the Cars Storybook Collection based on the Disney movie “Cars,”  go with it! The point is that they are invested in the reading and will learn to give longer stories more focus and attention. 

How to read chapter books to young children

Our biggest advice? Be flexible in your approach. Your child may not be able to get through an entire chapter in one sitting when you first begin, so be patient and follow their lead. (Even a page or two is a win!) When reading aloud, be enthusiastic to bring the story to life. Try voice changes to create character differences and use modulation to build suspense and excitement as your read.

Get comfortable allowing for interruptions, too. Encourage your child to laugh at the funny parts and enjoy the story as you read. Answer questions they may have about the story or the characters, even if they come in the middle of a paragraph or sentence. When the reading is complete, ask your child about the story—what they liked or thought about what happened. Finally, talk about what they anticipate will happen in the next chapter so they look forward to your next reading. 

Remember: Reading a chapter book is a new skill, just like addition or riding a bike! Just like any other lesson, the important thing is to foster a love for the activity—not necessarily to get to the end of the book or chapter.

Ready to get started? Here’s a list of just a few of our favorite chapter (or longer-form) books for children to add to your library:
  1. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  2. Stuart Little by E.B. White
  3. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
  4. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater
  5. Roald Dahl Collection
  6. Winnie the Pooh Collection by A.A. Milne
  7. The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne
  8. Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel
  9. Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
  10. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  11. The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  12. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg
  13. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  14. Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
  15. Little House in the Big Woods series by Laura Ingalls
  16. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  17. The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
  18. Frindle by Andrew Clements
  19. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
  20. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls

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Published by learnandliveletter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-11.

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