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My Favorite First Chapter Books

When should you start reading chapter books?

You can start reading chapter books between the ages of 3-5. It depends on your child's interest and desire to listen. Reading chapter books should NOT replace picture books. Picture books should still be read and enjoyed.

What can it look like?

When I first began reading chapter books to my then three year old, it usually looked like him playing outside at the sandpit while I held the sleeping baby and read. The first book I read to him was in summer so it was perfect weather. He would play quietly and keep his body occupied while his mind was listening to the story. At times, if I wasn't sure if he was listening, he would surprise me by asking me to keep reading or read another chapter.

Now that he is five years old, he often will sit or lay with me while I read during his sibling's naptime. When we're outside, he and his brother will play quietly nearby while I read aloud.

How do you know if your child is ready?

You won't always know until you try it! Pick a chapter book, give your child something quiet to play with or color with, and read the first chapter. Maybe try the second chapter another day. See if your child enjoys it and can listen while you read. If they don't like the story or are unable to listen well, put the book away and try again in a few weeks or months. Keep reading lovely picture books in the meantime!

Our favorite early chapter books:

Old Mother Westwind by Thornton Burgess

This beginner chapter book features stories of various woodland animals in each chapter. Each chapter is a separate story rather than continuous. Burgess also wrote dozens of other books devoted to each woodland creature. Some examples include The Adventures of Grandfather Frog and The Adventures of Peter Cottontail.

Age of my son: 3

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

This short chapter book tells the story of a boy going to rescue a dragon. It includes pictures throughout. There are two additional books in this series that we have since read and enjoyed; Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland

Age of my son: 3

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Little House Series has to be our all-time favorite set of chapter books! We also read and enjoyed Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, and The Long Winter. We've also borrowed the books on CD from our local library and my son loves to listen to them during quiet time or bedtime.

Age of my son: 4

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

Farm animals will win your heart in this story of friendship as spider Charlotte seeks to save the life of Wilbur the Pig. We enjoyed reading this story and then watching the two movie versions.

Age of my son: 4

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White

Louis the Trumpeter Swan has a problem; he can't speak! His father and a boy help him learn to overcome this issue with the help of a chalkboard, chalk, and a trumpet.

Age of my son: 5

We just began reading this classic tale from the Narnia Series. This story has a few more elements of danger and fantasy and is best for ages 5+.

Age of my son: 5

Some other chapter books to try include:

Stuart Little by E. B. White

The Complete Works of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

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