Beginning Chapter Books
Kids 3-6 have longer attention spans and the ability to comprehend more complex plots. Enter the novel. Here are some of my favorite beginning chapter books that adults or older siblings can read to kids who are ready for more challenging reading.
Mercy Watson Series by Kate DiCamillo: Mercy is a toast-loving pig who lives with the human Watson family. Imaginative illustrations are the highlight of this amusing series, and parents with a penchant for acting will love creating voices for the hilarious recurring characters.
Cynthia Rylant: Cynthia Rylant’s mastered the genre of emerging-reader chapter books; no one else writes like her. Thankfully she’s written several great series that can be read independently once your child is old enough. The funny situations and charming illustrations in Poppleton keep kids amused through many readings. Henry & Mudge is an excellent boy & dog series, and the Aunt Lucy’s Kitchen series focuses on the adventures of three young sisters. Mr. Putter is another animal series many young fans enjoy.
Squish: This beginning graphic novel series by Babymouse creator Jennifer Holm is a funny and fast take on superhero: the main character is an amoeba!
Arnold Lobel: Since its publication nearly 40 years ago, The Frog & Toad series stands as the best in its class. Each of the 4 books is a collection of gently, funny short stories on topics even a three-year old will understand. His other series are in much the same vein: animals in pastoral settings facing humorous situations.
Magic Tree House series: Once your child shows and interest in the world around him, Jack and Annie (the main characters in Joan Pop Osborne’s Magic Tree House) will take him on a ride through over 60 novels. Start at the beginning with Dinosaurs Before Dawn, and hang on to the books so your child can read them independently up through grade 4.
Clementine: Clementine is an enlightened, modern version of Ramona and Junie B. Jones. Sarah Pennypacker’s delightful series takes Clementine through situations little kids understand: jealousy, making mistakes, dealing with desire for independence, but emerges with humor and grace in every episode with the support of a very loving family. Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series is dated and almost too much text for a 3-6, and many parents consider Junie B.’s poor grammar and perniciousness to make her a bad role model . While I still consider those great reads, Clementine has surpassed them both in the modern realistic-fiction genre.
Captain Underpants series: Only read this if you are prepared for months, possibly years, of underwear jokes and “Tra-La-La” battle cries through your home. While normally I discourage books about school for kids who haven’t started school yet, this one may be the exception. It’s pure silliness and the main characters’ naughty behavior is catharsis for kids who have a little rebel in them.
Most public libraries (including our Denton Public Library) have a large, dedicated “J” section (Juvenile Fiction) with many other choices: it is perfectly OK for you & your child to enjoy the popular fiction there: most are series based on TV, movies, and toys and are high-interest, if not particularly high-quality reading.
Pictures are still OK. Even a small, occasional illustration helps focus a child’s eyes on the page and gives him something to build his own mental images with.
Animals Rule. Animal characters help kids with generalizations (big, bad wolf) and identifying with the characters by erasing gender, race and other limitations and biases.
Last Night In Storyland… : take a trick from teachers and, before opening up to tonight’s chapter, go back and summarize what happened in last night’s reading. Predict what will happen tonight.