Do you have a kid who is keen on reading but reluctant to move onto chapter books?
This post is not about some random beginner chapter books. I talk about some key strategies to raise a reader. Follow it up with a curated list to help transition your kid into chapter books.
Always use contrived motivation to make progress on their reading habits. This means if your kid is into fiction find a book leaning into that and not random popular books. My kid preferred reading about real people and their challenges versus fictional characters. While he would tolerate and enjoy all kinds of picture books, careful insights could tell that he either leaned into superheroes or stories about actual people. It is foundational to spark curiosity in our learners to help them develop any new skills. Follow along with some hands-on techniques that served us well.
Raise a reader…
- Reading aloud to kids is the taproot of all strategies. However, what you read and how you curate their curiosity also go hand in hand. Follow their lead in choosing books while gently interspersing anything different, alongside. For e.g always have their preferred genre in reading alouds, along with something else. Over a period of time, it will seem like you are truly partnering in reading with/for them.
- Create a structured bedtime and/or naptime routine with 2-3 books being read before sleep. Read a lot of picture books, pop-up books right from the beginning, gradually steering it into a series like “Arthur”, Calliou, Pete the Cat, Winnie the pooh, princess fairy tales, Bernstein bear series, etc.
- Overtime (3-5 years old) steer their preferred genre into 5-minute readalouds. E.g if it’s about princesses then start reading 5-minute princess stories, or 5-minute superhero stories. Now, these are similar to chapter books and you could read a chapter/two at a time. This builds in a habit of “being okay” with leaving a book unfinished and coming back to it the next day. Soon the kid will insist that the same book be read in continuity night after night. They also make a mental note of which chapter you paused the previous night. This is going well!
- Now(age 4-5), is also the time where you intersperse “reading aloud” a preferred chapter book anytime through the day/over a weekend casually. You will notice an increase in attention/a bonding over books/questions about the book. Or they may just turn pages to see pictures to understand the plot themselves.
- Then, select a book within their preferred genre, that has bigger text, not long chapters, and relatively easy than the one you “read aloud”. Start reading that one and encourage them to follow through. Take turns reading or just have them read a page or two when you are about to finish a chapter. This will click in as a habit only to manifest as them reading a book alone for leisure.
- Lastly, if they have read a chapter book on their own, discuss the plot, their favorite part, opinions, etc without any demands. Follow through with a video/movie if available on that book as a reward. This final step closely ties into their reading motivation as they see the storyline unfolding! I would strongly recommend do not show movies or videos before reading those books. See this as an optional step serving as a validation to their reading and comprehension skills. They would enjoy a movie weeks after having moved on from that book. It’s so exciting to see them call out book facts and relate while seeing the movie/video.
Here are the steps in a flowchart-
Below is a progression that helped my five-year-old transition to chapter books along with examples.
I have read a ton of books to him right from his birth. We hang out at libraries and have lots of books accessible to them in the house all the time. Quickly, scaled them up to such 5-minute stories.
I chose the superhero books as five-minute read alouds. I have lost count of how many times we have read them aloud!.
Further, interspersed reading with the Boxcar children series during his pre-k years, piquing his natural curiosity towards real-life characters.
This series is about four kids, their dog, and their boxcar! The simple mystery and exploration are made for a young child’s mind.
I identified with the children who had to take care of themselves, hence, introduced it to my kid. Throughout the series, it stresses the importance of being resourceful and surviving no matter what! I am glad that my son often talks about these imaginary friends very fondly.
When he was ready for chapter books at the end of his kindergarten I gifted him the Hey Jack series. I read the first few chapters and he took turns, quickly gaining confidence to read it by himself alone.
They are fast and great confidence-building books for k-3 readers, and they are excellent first chapter books for young readers. Lots of social-emotional learning through the books. Each one starts with a mood and a problem-solving situation with a happy ending and a moral. If you have a girl, you may consider
You may not find this one in local libraries, try old bookshops, thrift stores, or eBay for a copy. I kept reading other chapter books from him, which were not his preferred but classics. We bond a lot over reading time and that’s the awesome part of “reading together”.
Next up, we read Zoe and Sassafras and I am following up with certain other Classic sets that cemented his love for books:-
Each story in this series features a new magical animal with a problem that must be solved using science.
Zoey models how to keep a science journal through her handwritten entries in each story. Each story is complete with a glossary of the kid-friendly definitions for scientific terms used. The series highlights child-led inquiry science and the topics covered align with both Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.
The Hundred Dresses
A moving story with a strong message on shaming and bullying. Everything from the preamble to the chapters seems so realistic and keeps you glued. A book with a timeless message about forgiveness, friendship, and empathy. A must-read for each kid to get exposure to such emotions early in their life!
This book is a literary paradise. Storytelling with rich vocabulary, humor, friendship, and all the fun! A strong message of sacrifice is all well woven within the tale. So far, I can assert here that I think this is the greatest children’s book ever written
Please do your kids a favor and read it to them. Here is a sentiment that stands out!
“I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.
‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
My son has picked the word “Salutations” from this book and greets his teacher daily that way! Almost everyone has asked him, where did he get that word from!
Inspired by this reading experience, we picked the other book by E B White.
It’s not as impressive as the above book. However, does not fall short on vocabulary with its imaginative characterization. The storyline has friendship, sacrifice, and a sense of adventure again. Engages readers, especially kids because the main character, Stuart is a small mouse. It is interesting to see how he overcomes his struggles due to his small size.
The lunch lady series
It is about a tiny family living within the walls of the Biggs’ house. Mr. Little, the tallest member of the family, stands only six inches tall. His wife and two children, Tom and Lucy, are even smaller. The Littles co-exist peacefully with the Bigg family, who are unaware of the Littles’ existence. The books are about obstacles and how they manage to save themselves with real people around. My son loved reading these.
Highly recommend reading this series. You, as the parent, will be entertained and look forward to reading each night to your child.
I hope you will love some/all of these books as much as we did. Follow these tips and turn a reluctant reader into an ardent reader. Enjoy good, quality family time with kids as a bonus!