Great Chapter Books for Kids

great chapter books for kids

As Beach Girl and I have shared our nightly reading time, we’ve enjoyed some great chapter books together. Here are the books we’ve read so far:

Winnie the Pooh & The House at Pooh Corner, both by A.A. Milne – These were our first chapter books. At first, I worried I was boring Beach Girl or that she wasn’t paying attention, but at one point, she chimed in with “Silly old bear!” right before I read Christopher Robin’s line and I knew she must be picking up more than I thought! This sweet story of a little boy and his buddies in the Hundred Acre Woods is an easy-to-understand classic, and the imaginary tales are something every kid can relate to. (We have this box set, which includes a couple poetry books as well.)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – The tales of Laura and Mary’s simple childhood are enchanting and easy to follow. There are times, however, when there’s a little too much detail about hunting or making cheese to hold a 3-year-old’s interest. We just skipped over that and continued on! There’s something about Ma & Pa’s parenting, as well as the simplicity of their lifestyle that is so enthralling to me and to Beach Girl. We just started Little House on the Prairie (the 2nd book in the Little House series) a few nights ago.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White- The friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider is endearing and so much fun.  This book is another favorite. Bonus: we learned facts about pigs & spiders, as well as a few vocabulary words when Charlotte stitched them into her web.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater- This book about a penguin-loving painter who receives a gift of penguins is pure fun and I hardly had to explain any of it. We loved imagining if we owned penguins and we learned some cool penguin facts along the way.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis’ writing is beautiful. This story is an entertaining read and a lovely allegory for the way God loves us. However, I think Beach Girl wasn’t quite old enough for it. I had to explain and reword things often and she had a harder time paying attention than usual. When we finished, I asked her if we should read another Narnia book now or wait, and she told me we needed to wait until she turned 4. I agree – a 4 or 5 year old would probably enjoy this book significantly more.

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame- This is the only book Beach Girl has fallen asleep during! The language is a bit advanced and, at times, rambling. I do think it’s helpful to read advanced words to preschoolers because their brains are primed to pick up language easily at this age, but this was too much of a stretch, I think. After many requests to find a different book, we stopped reading this book only halfway through. The story was cute and fun, just harder to follow.  We read the free Kindle book version, which doesn’t include any pictures. Illustrations probably would have made a significant difference in her understanding and enjoyment of the story, so next time we try, we’ll make sure to get a version that includes pictures!

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren- Pippi Longstocking is a little girl who lives without a mom or dad and has all sorts of silly adventures. She’s strong enough to lift up a horse or to wrestle the strongest man, and her misadventures provided us with lots of laughs.  Beach Girl’s favorite part of this book is that Pippi tells herself to go to bed… and if she doesn’t obey the first time, then she tells herself again! I chose to edit this book more than any of our other selections, but it was still a fun, worthwhile read. We skipped over a few unpleasant words here and there, and missed the entire chapter about Pippi entertaining robbers – I don’t even want to introduce the idea that robbers could come into our house!

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White- We just finished this one and decided it’s our favorite book so far. Louis the Trumpeter Swan is born unable to speak, so his (human) friend Sam Beaver helps him learn to communicate by reading and writing and his dad helps him get a trumpet, which he learns to play beautifully.  The Trumpet of the Swan is a fun read, easy to understand, and includes valuable lessons about friendship and honesty.

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What recommendations do you have for chapter books for preschoolers?

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The UnWired Mom (free today & tomorrow!)

I’ve mentioned before how much my friends and I loved reading through Sally Clarkson &  Sarah Mae’s book Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. I just wanted to pop in quickly to tell y’all that Sarah Mae just came out with a new e-book – The UnWired Mom: Choosing to Live Free in an Internet Addicted World.

Chapter titles include: I Like the Internet; How Alive Am I Willing to Be?; Down the Rabbit Hole: When 5 Minutes Becomes 2 Hours; Helping Our Children Not Become Addicted to Social Media; & Tips from Bloggers on How to Manage Your Online Time.

I’m pretty sure this book will have helpful thoughts for any mom (or person) in 2013.  I just got my copy and am excited to get reading!

It’s on amazon (affiliate link) for $4.99, but I wanted to tell you about it now, because it’s free if you subscribe to her blog today or tomorrow. Subscribing to her blog is well worth it anyway, so hop on over and check it out. If you do, I’d love to hear what you think!

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Reading Chapter Books

Some of my sweetest memories of time with my mom and sister are of snuggling up on my mom’s bed to read chapter books with them. I’ve always hoped to carry on the tradition with my daughters, so last November, I started having special mommy-daughter reading time with Beach Girl.

At just over 3, I wasn’t sure she was old enough for chapter books, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much she enjoys them and even retains from what we’ve read. She can recite key information from some of the books we finished months ago! Although, I have to admit, there are many times when we are reading that I’m not sure she’s paying a bit of attention… But I guess that’s just how it works, right? They don’t miss a thing, especially when we think they’re not listening!

early chapter books

(I like how Beach Baby photobombed this pic)

If you’re looking to introduce this time with your own preschooler, here’s how it’s worked for us:

  • We read chapter books right before bedtime. Beach Girl – and probably every kid ever – will do almost anything to delay bedtime. So, whereas she might have had trouble sitting still for longer stories at any other time of day, if she knows it’s this or bedtime, she’ll calm down and listen.
  • We do hair while we read. This is partially selfishly motivated because I love it when she brushes my hair, but we take turns putting loads of hair clips in each other’s hair. Having something calm but still active to do helps her sit relatively still and to focus better.
  • I “rewrite” some of the stories to suit her. Sometimes it’s just by saying a sentence again with more simple words or more explanation. Other times, it’s skipping over pages like the long, detailed explanations of Pa’s hunting adventures in Little House in the Big Woods (Beach Girl was getting restless) or the chapter where Pippi Longstocking entertains robbers (we don’t need to even introduce the idea that robbers could come into our house!).
  • Each night, I base how much we read off of how interested she is. Some nights, we don’t even finish a chapter. Other nights, we read 2 or more chapters.
  • Some nights, we don’t have time/energy to read a chapter book. I was worried to introduce something that would make our bedtime routine even longer because, frankly, there are some nights when bedtime needs to happen. Right. Now. I’m glad I didn’t let those nights get in the way of this special time together. I usually try to read at least a little bit, but if we’ve been out or stayed up late already, we plan to read the next night and it’s not a big deal. I’m glad I made the choice to not let the rough nights drive our bedtime routine.

We’ve treated this time as special time, and it really is. Many days, this is the only time Beach Girl and I get alone and uninterrupted together. We’ve read some wonderful books together and often refer to what we’re reading during the day or introduce phrases from our books into our everyday talk. Our favorite phrase is “silly old bear!” from Winnie the Pooh.

Next time, I’ll share what books we’ve read and our thoughts on each.

(This post is linked to The Better Moms link-up.)

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