She Says… The Next Chapter

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Let’s talk about chapter books, shall we?

Chapter books are a milestone I didn’t think we would be ready for until, oh, I don’t know, age 6 or so. I’m not sure why I had that arbitrary number in my head, but I assumed that my needs-to-move, kinesthetic learner (aka wild child who can’t possibly sit still for more than 5 seconds at a time) wouldn’t want to sit still for long enough to listen to pages of books without many/any pictures. I doubted he’d be very engaged. He loves to be read to, and to look through books, so I’m not sure why I wrote them off, but I just thought we weren’t quite there yet.

So I had been saving the “books with too many words” up on a high shelf in his closet as they have been gifted to us or accumulated along the way. But a few days ago, Owen asked me to pull them down so he could see them. He carefully examined the covers and then handed me “The Secret Garden” and begged me to read it.

As usual, he surprises me again.

Ok, so this one isn’t technically a chapter book, but it’s much, much longer than any book I’ve ever read to Owen. This story is very special to me, and I’ve been saving this particular copy since I was a little girl. I loved this story and read it over and over and over again as a child. Then, when I was a musical theater-obsessed sophomore in high school, I got the coveted part of Mary Lennox in the musical the boys’ school across the street from my school was putting on. It was a dream come true. It was my first lead role in a musical, and the start of what I thought would someday become my road to being a Broadway star (spoiler alert! I never made it there).

So I started reading to Owen and immediately realized it uses words I tend to shy away from (name calling like “horrible witch!” and words like “hate”) and topics like death and chronic illness. But, as these are all parts of life that he’ll come into contact with eventually, I resisted the urge to edit the words or omit certain sentences. We’re all growing up a little bit, eh?

He was hanging on my every word. He asked very astute questions like, “What’s a moor?” and then, when I told him, he asked follow-up questions like, “I wonder what animals live on a moor? Birds? Maybe… mice? Or voles?”. Once in a while I stopped and clarified part of the story or asked him things like, “Who do you think is crying?” to see if he was really following along (because it’s not always so clear — the sentence structure is different than most of his books and the references are vague and there are lots of names). He was right there with me every time.

When we were about halfway through, it was past his bedtime and I told him we could stop and read the rest the next night. He bargained for more pages (either really into the book or just stalling bedtime… you decide…) and we settled on 2 more pages, then I showed him how to fold down the corner of the page so we could start there the next morning. The next morning he came into my room with the book in hand and asked me to finish it. And finish it we did, before his normal milk or tv show. Unprecedented.

That night at bedtime we started “The House at Pooh Corner”. It was one we had been gifted a year or so ago, and it had been relegated to the top shelf because it was so dense. I figured it had to be appropriate for kids (duh, it’s Winnie the Pooh), and it is, but what I didn’t realize was that the writing is terribly confusing, especially to read aloud. As an adult I see how clever it is and find so much humor in the writing, but a three year old, even an astute 3 year old, doesn’t necessarily pick up on those things. So we’re halfway through at the moment, and Owen loves it, but I’m thinking there have to be better 1st chapter books out there somewhere.

I’m not sure we’re ready for Harry Potter yet (though perhaps not far off!). So what are the best chapter books for little ones? I would love a series, since Owen loves to get multiple books out of the library in a series (we love anything Pinkalicious and Toot and Puddle). Owen’s teacher recommended “The Magic Treehouse” series, so that’s on the list, even though I’ve never heard of them.

Suggestions?

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24 responses to “She Says… The Next Chapter

  1. kaseypowers

    Magic Treehouse books are fantastic. The Boxcar Children books were some of my favorites in K/1. Junie B. Jones are fun. Maniac McGee The little house on the prairie maybe.
    Good luck and have fun. This is a milestone I’m eagerly waiting for – I think we’re still a few years away.

  2. I read all the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books on my own when I was older, and that might be a fun series for reading aloud. Each chapter is a separate story about how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle handles the problems of one kid or family, so it might be easier to stop in the middle. However, you’ll probably want to take a look at the books on your own first or see if anyone who has read them recently recommends them — it’s possible that the ideas are incredibly dated.

  3. @kaseypowers, Thanks! I remember Boxcar Children as well — great ideas.

    @Aunt Lisa, I LOVED Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. He would think those stories are so hilarious right now (very into laughing at silly things like “dressing” a turkey, haha).

  4. Ralph and the Motorcycle! And all things Beverly Cleary. Freckle Juice and all things Judy Bloom. Junie B Jones is good and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series is great and boys and girls love it!

    The Magic Treehouse books are simple, page turners which kids seem to enjoy. They are good for early readers, but I prefer something with a more complex plot and vocabulary for a read aloud. But, that being said, my kid (age 5) picks them at bookstores and the library and loves them. I think the “nonfiction companions” are nice to read in parallel when available. Doing that has prompted discussions about fiction v, nonfiction, which he prefers, genres, and the like.

  5. Oh, and anything Roald Dahl of course!!

  6. If you aren’t reading this blog, you should be! She writes about children’s books very often. Just a few weeks ago she wrote a post about early chapter books! http://www.everyday-reading.com/2014/03/a-brief-list-of-early-chapter-books.html

  7. My husband also reads the children The Chronicles of Narnia, and he’s read them The Hobbit. I have a couple of older girls (6 & 8, plus a baby), but my son is about Owen’s age. He’s most interested in the Little House books at this point.

  8. He’ll LOVE Magic Treehouse, and there are tons of them. He might also like Amelia Bedelia books (they’re funny, and there are several of them).

  9. I second Magic Treehouse books. My oldest niece is 7 and has been obsessed with them for at least 2 years. You could also go old school and read him Hardy Boys or – better yet! – Nancy Drew. I’m curious to see what other suggestions folks give, too.

  10. They aren’t a series, but anything by E.B. White is great for reading to younger kids. He wrote Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan. My mom read those books to my sister and me when we were little. They are longer, so it took awhile to read them, but it always gave us something to look forward to at night.

  11. All of the above are great suggestions. Homer Price by Robert McCloskey and Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking) are also good choices. I highly recommend Beverly Cleary and Charlotte’s Web. Can’t wait to read some of these to Owen!

  12. Caroline s.

    Back in my day there were the magic school bus books, I loved those!

  13. This is what we’ve read so far. My little boy is 4.5 and we started over a year ago. I think we’re getting close to reading C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I’ve added more to this list but haven’t updated. If you click the “Books” tab at the top of my blog you can see what we’ve read each month. Way to go, Mama! This has been SO MUCH FUN for me. http://www.apageisturnedblog.com/2013/11/read-aloud-chapter-books-for.html

  14. The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were favorites at our house!

  15. Yes! Definitely the Little House on the Prairie books! Wonderful wonderful books about family and life way back in the early days of America. So great.

  16. I second Junie B. Jones because she’s hilarious. And Frog and Toad – a great series AND a Broadway musical! The best of all worlds! 🙂

  17. Lemony Snicket?

  18. My kids started the Magic Treehouse books when Sam was 5 and Oliver was 3 and they LOVED them (maybe to the point of obsession). We’re now on number 44 in the series, 2 years later. I sometimes get a little tired of reading them (there’s some text that repeats in each book, and they’re a bit formulaic, as they should be), but I would definitely recommend them as first chapter books.

  19. I also recommend Magic Tree House. My 3.5 year old and I are on book 21 and going strong. The Boston Science Museum has a pretty cool Magic Tree House Space Mission playing in their planetarium right now. If you read a few of the books and get Owen acquainted with the characters, Jack and Annie, he’d probably love to see the show. Hopefully it’ll be playing for awhile longer.

  20. Wow, thank you all so much for these awesome recs! I have already snagged a few from Amazon and have put some others on reserve at the library. Owen blasted through the 1st Magic Treehouse book in 2 days and can’t wait for the next one. I have to agree with NOLAGirlie that it certainly wasn’t as fun for me to read, as the sentences are super short and repetitive. But, that said, I can easily see how this would be a perfect series for a new reader, and the short chapters are exciting for Owen as well.

    I can’t wait to read more of your suggestions!

  21. Enid Blyton.

  22. Indian in the Cupboard, Sideways stories from Wayside school are funny and I think there are a few in that series. I second E.B. White books.

  23. We read The Magic Tollbooth to Miss A when she was about that age. She loved it, but a lot of it was clearly over her head. She just recently asked for us to read it again (she’s 5 now) and she is getting a lot of the jokes and stuff she didn’t when she was 3. I expect Pooh will be like that for you, and also I recommend Magic Tollbooth. Also, don’t neglect the Milne poetry which is better for a younger kid — When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six.

  24. Er, that Anonymous reply is me.

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