“Read me another chapter, Mommy” is the nightly mantra in our house as I turn off lights and tuck in covers… there is no end to the creative ways my children will find to get me to read them more stories. And I know, this doesn’t seem like it should be a problem, and it’s really not, but as we already read at least five story books and two chapters of whatever series we are currently engaged in nightly, there truly isn’t enough time. As an avid reader myself, and the progeny of a lawyer and an educator, it is no surprise my children love books. My gift from my parents for my 1st pregnancy was a full-size crib FULL OF BOOKS… and I mean full. Since then I have carried on this collection as I too love children’s books.
As parents, reading to our children should be as essential as feeding, clothing, and bathing them. It is the key to their learning now and in the future. It will define them as a scholarly student or the child who falls behind in the not so distant future of elementary school. Reading will open doors to opportunities for the remainder of their lives. From school age to college and beyond, the necessary literacy skills acquired by early reading ensures the success of our children in the classroom, the workforce, and society.
Imagination and creativity are fed through fiction reading, mathematical skills are instilled and developed through reading facts and figures, and historical lessons are taught through both fiction and non-fiction, not to mention letters, shapes, numbers, and sounds are all communicated to our babies, toddlers, and young children through books being read on the laps of the adults they trust most.
As children move from the toddler to pre-school age, oftentimes they become interested in longer stories, less pictures, and are better able to use their imagination while listening to a story being told. They are also able to retain and assimilate the information given in the prior chapter of a “chapter book” and enjoy the suspense of what will happen next. The joy on their faces when they “guess” what is going to happen at the end of the story is contagious, forcing both you and your child to want to read more and more to see how the story ends.
Moving from single story books to chapter books around this age allows your child to prepare for early reading themselves and works on the skills he or she will need for letter, sound, and sight word recognition. Listening skills and patience are also age-appropriate developments that occur while reading chapter books, as the child has to listen closer to understand the story as there are not any or as many illustrations, and also there is the suspense of each upcoming chapter and not finishing the book in one sitting. Tone, inflection, and speaking skills are also highly developed by listening to chapter books as the various characters and events throughout the story are “depicted” to the child through the language skills of the reader.
In honor of National Reading Month, here are some chapter books and book series that your pre-school age through 2nd grader (at least) may enjoy.
1. The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osbourne
As you and your children join Jack and Annie of Frogcreek, Pennsylvania on their adventures coordinated by Merlin and Morgan of King Arthur’s Camelot, you will be captivated by the action, adventure, and suspense from the first page. These fiction books use historical events as the theme for many of the stories, teaching your children about important people, places, and times in a fun and engaging manner. The main characters themselves are a lovable pair, a brother and sister who are good kids, love reading, and enjoy helping others. Each story sends the two on a journey where they use books to assist them as they help either people or animals to complete a mission and prevent a catastrophe of some sort.
From dinosaurs, mummies, dolphins, and lions, to Shakespeare, George Washington, and the Pilgrims, your young readers will be inundated with significant historical lessons while simultaneously enthralled by this pair’s lively adventures!
2. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
This classic children’s literary series was originally developed by Gertrude Chandler Warner, a first grade teacher in 1924. Since then the set has continued to add books and authors to its 150+ mystery and adventure series, giving you plenty of books to read if your child loves these stories as much as mine do! The books start out introducing Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, four orphaned children living in an abandoned boxcar in the woods. These children are resourceful and engaging, with great morals and values teaching our children a lot about character development throughout each book.
The children eventually meet and go to live with their grandfather, a wealthy man who allows and encourages their passion for discovery and exploration while displaying to them the same kindness they in turn extend to others. These stories are wonderful reminders of the past and give our children an idea of what it was like before iPads and TV’s. In each mystery book these children embark on an exciting, often outdoor adventure, that keeps the suspense coming until the very end.
3. The Ralph Mouse Collection by Beverly Cleary
Join Ralph S. Mouse, a fun-loving, adventurous, daredevil of a mouse on his exciting adventures out in the big, open world. Children who love animals will be enthralled by these tales where a boy and a mouse can not only be friends, but even understand each other’s language. Ralph’s antics will keep even little ones captivated as their imaginations run wild with visions of a mouse driving around the room on a toy motorcycle!
Kids will love the stories of Ralph in a race car, Ralph on a motorcycle, and Ralph going to school… basically Ralph being a playful, young mouse who doesn’t want to stay trapped in safety of the walls as his mother wishes he would. This book set takes its readers into a fantastic world where a resourceful, daring, friendly little mouse will capture their hearts and minds leaving them wishing for just one more chapter.
4. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
This hilarious book series will keep your kids laughing until the very last page. Beloved by boys or girls, Junie B. Jones starts out as a kindergartner who is always involved in some outrageous antics that do not exactly thrill her parents, grandparents, teachers, or classmates. She is an imaginative, fun-loving, far from perfect little girl who gets into her fair share of trouble, but readers LOVE IT! Not a series to teach children moral lessons, Junie B. Jones offers comedic relief to kids just wanting to enjoy a funny story.
These light-hearted tales will allow your kids to see that reading can be fun and FUNNY! Your school-age kids may relate to some of her antics, and these stories may even calm the jitters of your soon-to-be kindergartner nervous about starting school.
5. My Weird School Series by Dan Gutman
A series written for beginning readers, the My Weird School series is bound to be enjoyed by your developing reader. Based in a school where the kids are normal but the teachers are insane, the crazy antics of this group of characters will have your kids laughing at every page. Although this series may not teach the best lessons the first book starts out with the main character stating that he hates school, it will get your kids reading and it will keep them reading as the humor is something that captivates them and keeps them engaged.
The titles alone are indicative of the fun that is yet to come and packed into every one of these zany books – “Ms. Roopy is Loopy”, “Ms. Daisy is Crazy”, and “Mr. Todd is Odd” – just to name a few. Written in the style of a regular chapter book or novel (meaning not as a comic strip) these stories get kids interested in reading and keep them loving it through the entire series.
6. A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
If your child loves a good mystery, this is the series for you. Join Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose, a cast of kids who problem-solve and fight crime in their hometown Green Lawn, Connecticut. These third-grade sleuths live near each other and enjoy school, hanging out with their families and having fun around town, but they are always down to solve a good mystery. With 26 books in the series beginning with The Absent Author and ending with The Zombie Zone, developing readers are sure to enjoy the suspense and adventure in each of these stories as a new mystery awaits in every book.
Each of these stories has a friendly tone and a positive plot as these super sleuths use their brains and not brawn to fight crime. There are no weapons or violence in these stories which deliver an important message to our kids that brainpower and problem-solving skills are much more effective than fighting and physical force.
Whether your child is just beginning to enjoy a longer book with or without chapters or reading on their own, there is a series here that will pique their imagination, guaranteed. Reading stories to children without pictures allows their imaginations to run wild as they can envision what is happening in their own way. Since different children will envision different illustrations, this can lead to engaging and entertaining discussions about what was just read.
As an additional activity, you can have your younger children draw a picture of what they think happened in the story, giving you an idea of what their awesome brains are imagining as you read. This ability to learn language, letters, sounds, and syntax all while also creating a picture in the mind is a fabulous thing for their developing brains.
Reading to children, teaching children to read, and children learning to read on their own is all about developing early literacy skills that will benefit your child throughout their lifetime. Learning to love to read early on not only engages and captivates the young mind, but it leads to better language skills, improved math skills, and a lifetime hobby that feeds both the brain and body.