Reading chapter books to kids

Before this summer I have tried reading chapter books to my kids (we’ve tried Charlotte’s Web, The Little Prince and James and the Giant Peach)… but despite our initial excitement, we never seem to finish the books — either my kids lose interest half-way through or come night three, they just opt for a picture book instead. It must be difficult for kids to make the switch from picture books to chapter books — their little imaginations have to work much more actively, creating the illustrations in their heads. And also, it must be difficult for kids to string together the chapters and piece everything together.

We have, however, just finished our first chapter book and it was a big success. We read a chapter (or two) of Stuart Little every night before bed, and I was so surprised by how excited my boys were to read the next chapter and by how much they remembered from the nights before. My boys are 6 and 4 and I think that the 6-year-old definitely comprehended more than the 4-year-old, but still the 4-year-old enjoyed it (even asking questions from time to time). Thankfully Stuart Little is such a sweet, simple story with short and exciting chapters (and even a few illustrations thrown in) — perfect for little kids with short attention spans.

I’m not sure if it’s because my kids are finally old enough, or if Stuart Little just caught their attention… but I’m hoping this is the beginning of a trend toward chapter books.

Do your kids like chapter books? How old were they when you started reading them? And do you have any books you recommend? How exciting it must be when our kids actually start reading their own chapter books (I already have a list of books I want my kids to read!).

x Courtney


Comments (11)

August 26, 2011

My son (just 6 and an early reader) read Fantastic Mr Fox as his first chapter book, he also liked me reading Matilda and Danny Champion of the world, he LOVED My Fathers Dragon a book I had never heard of but was recommended by a friend and I got him the follow up books for his birthday. He is well and truely hooked on the magic tree house books at the moment he finished number 19 this morning and he will often read 2 or 3 chapters by himself.

Courtney in London
August 26, 2011

Wow Jojoebi!! That’s amazing that your 6-year-old is reading so well. We’ll have to check out My Father’s Dragon!
(We also love the Roald Dahl books. I can’t wait for my kids to start reading them on their own!)
xx C

August 26, 2011

Oh have to agree with Jojoebi on everything, especially My father’s Dragon…. I wrote a post on Family reading together with a couple of great suggestions: http://www.se7en.org.za/2011/03/24/se7en-tips-for-family-reading-time
And I also have, after my kids demanded I write a post on the best chapter books, this one: http://www.se7en.org.za/2011/04/15/se7en-of-the-best-bazillion-chapter-books-a-book-bonanza

Have a great weekend!!!

August 26, 2011

Hi Court, Thanks for the recommendation of Stuart Little, never heard of it and will try it on my boys. We have been reading for our oldest one (6) for the last year or so chapter books. First one was a bit of a struggle, like you experienced. We gone through quite some Roald Dahl: The Twits, Mathilde, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Giraffe and the Pelle and me (might be nice for quin too)The Witches, The Giant Peach, The enormous crocodile etc.,David loved Alice in Wonderland, but comprehension wasn’t good enough yet for Treasure Island and we had to stop reading it. At the moment we are reading on his request Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and really enjoys it. The problem is that our youngest (3) does not have the patience for non picture books. So David first reads a chapter out of his own chapter book fi now The Goffins of Lofty and Eave then we read the chapter book (Harry Potter)and then 2 picture books, which they both still enjoy and then bedtime!!

August 26, 2011

Sorry forgot to say, I think when encouraging your children to read their own chapter books it is good to go to a very good childrens book store and ask what is suitable for their reading level (not age!) and let your child choose his first book with a subject that interests them. David loves magic, so he chose lots of books from Sally Gardner: The invisible Boy, the boy with magic numbers and the boy who could fly. Enjoy!

August 26, 2011

I third the “Father’s Dragon” series. Such a clever story and very entertaining for young children. We also loved The Trumpet of the Swan in our house (for some reason Charlotte’s Web was the least interesting EB White book for our kids also). My daughter enjoys Step Up history books – meet George Washington, theodore Roosevelt, etc. They are a great size for little hands and just the right amount of information per chapter. The wind in the willows and Mary Poppins might work now or slightly later.

August 27, 2011

I cannot believe I completely forgot the two Winnie the Pooh books which are utterly charming and FUN to read as an adult. We started reading those when my oldest was between 2 and 3…she didn’t always make it through a whole chapter, but was always interested in finishing later…

August 28, 2011

We started reading chapter books to our son at around 3.5 yrs. First it was the Toad and Frog books, then the Magic Tree House Books and now Roald Dahl books. Actually, we started reading the original Thomas series when he was about 2. Lots was lost on him but it did serve for good training in listening to stories without pictures. Honestly, we just keep plugging along. We have just started Roald Dahl’s The Witches, it is bit of a chore for our son, who is 5. However, once we get through the description of witches, hopefully his interest will pick up. If you haven’t tried Dahl’s The BFG you might want to give it a go.

August 30, 2011

Ooh, books, my favourite topic! Our first foray into chapter books with my girls (then aged 5 and 3) was via THE ENCHANTED WOOD, by Enid Blyton. It’s not literary stuff by any means, but it’s very straightforward and, crucially, very exciting. It’s got a cast of characters that both boys and girls can relate to and enjoy, and it’s just a fast-paced, (very) old-fashioned adventure. There is a character in it called the Saucepan man that mishears everything – my eldest daughter almost falls off her chair laughing at him. The only real complaint I have with it is that the boy character gets to do all the talking and is much more pro-active than the girls, but I just change it as I read it so the girls get his lines. Go girls! Other successes in our house are The Rainbow Magic series and the Milly-Molly-Mandy books (though both girls only) and Flat Stanley.

August 31, 2011

Have you tried the Tashi series? I think the author is an Aussie, but these had my 5 year old boy Miles AND his sister Stella hooked. Check them out – they came to me recommended by another ex pat pommie mum!

October 5, 2011

[…] like Courtney and her boys, my girls and I have graduated to a new type of bed time story. Longer format books are slowly […]

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