I was nervous about introducing chapter book read-alouds to my son. This was last summer — a year ago — and my son was four. We’d stuck with picture books up to that point, but I knew we’d be starting homeschool kindergarten in the fall, and I wanted to get into the habit of reading longer books together.
Why was I nervous? For one thing, I wasn’t sure if his attention span was long enough. I didn’t want to rush in too quickly and end up with him not being able to follow the story. Also, I knew we had something good going with our picture book reading, and I was nervous that he would consider reading aloud to be boring if we switched to reading chapter books too early.
Because of my concerns, I started out slow. We continued to read picture books as well, while I slowly introduced chapter books that had engaging stories, short chapters, and clear, straightforward sentences. And it worked! The transition went smoothly, and my son was able to follow the story lines even without the aid of illustrations. It warmed my heart to hear the story lines and characters from our read-alouds emerging in his imaginative play.
Here are some of the chapter books that we read over the last year. They are all very accessible to young listeners, with memorable stories and characters.
Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon – by Ruth Stiles Gannett
A young boy rescues a dragon, by means of his own ingenuity and the contents of a well-stocked knapsack. The two proceed to have many adventures together.
Stuart Little – by E.B. White
A young mouse (born to a human family) has adventures and survives the dangers of daily life that come when one is a mouse.
Charlotte’s Web – by E.B. White
A charming tale of friendship about barnyard animals who band together to save the life of Wilbur the pig.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins – by Richard and Florence Atwater
A house-painter who has always longed to see the world (particularly the arctic and antarctic regions) finds himself in an interesting predicament when a penguin shows up on his doorstep.
Anna Hibiscus – by Atinuke
A young girl growing up in Africa (with her African father and Canadian mother) has many adventures with her fun-loving family. This is the first in a series of six books by Nigerian author Atinuke.
The Boxcar Children – by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Four siblings make it on their own by living in an abandoned boxcar. A sweet story about ingenuity and caring for one another. This is the first in a very long series — the first 19 books were written by the original author.
The Dolphin Adventure – by Wayne Grover
The true story of a man who helps an injured dolphin when he’s diving off the coast of Florida. An engaging story, with two sequels available as well.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – by Roald Dahl
The fun and quirky story of a young boy who finds a golden ticket, allowing him to tour Willy Wonka’s extraordinary chocolate factory. The sequel is entitled Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
The Children of Noisy Village – by Astrid Lindgren
A charming story of a group of children growing up in Sweden in the 1960s. They experience the various traditional Swedish holidays and traditions, and have fun adventures along the way. This is the first book of the trilogy.
Pippi Longstocking – by Astrid Lindgren
A red-headed, mischievous girl with super-human strength, no parents, and a horse who lives on her front porch has a series of hilarious adventures. This is the first book of the trilogy.
Tumtum and Nutmeg – by Emily Bearn
Two respectable British mice take it on themselves to help the children of the cottage where they live. This collection contains the first three books of the series, and books 4-6 can be found in The Rose Cottage Tales.
The Littles – by John Peterson
A family of little people live in the walls of the Biggs’ home. But when the Biggs go on vacation, turmoil ensues. This is the first in a series of fifteen books.
Five True Dog Stories – by Margaret Davidson
Five stories about remarkable dogs — some have become famous (such as Balto), while others are unassuming pets who show courage, loyalty, and tenacity. The same author has books of stories on dolphins and horses (though those two come across as a bit more dated than then book of dog stories.)
The Mouse and the Motorcycle – by Beverly Cleary
A young mouse living in the walls of a rural hotel becomes friends with a visiting boy who has a toy motorcycle. There are two sequels available about this remarkable mouse.
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
A collection of heart-warming tales about Yorkshire vet James Herriot and the animals he cares for. Technically this is a collection of picture books (the illustrations are lovely), but the text is long enough (and complex enough) that it felt more like reading a chapter book.
Old Mother West Wind – by Thornton Burgess
A collection of fun, old-fashioned stories about anthropomorphized forest and meadow animals. Despite the fact that the animals talk and wear clothes, a lot of the details about their lives and homes are true to life. Thornton Burgess has a number of other books and stories that feature the same characters.
Homer Price – by Robert McKloskey
A collection of stories about a spunky, mechanical-minded boy growing up in the mid-west in the 1950s. The sequel is entitled Centerburg Tales.