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.