A common question I hear from parents is: when do I start reading chapter books out loud to my kids and what books should I read?
First, I have to encourage you not to give up on picture books too early. Even older kids can get so much out of the art in picture books. They often contain more sophisticated stories and themes than when you move up to early chapter books, which are written more simply for new readers.
However, if you are eager to start reading chapter books, then the best books to start with have short chapters and illustrations on almost every page. It also helps if the books are part of a series, since my daughter's first question is always, "Are there more of these?"
Here are some treasures that we have found that will appeal to all ages.
Several of our friends were raving about these books and they were so right. Anna Hibiscus is a little girl living in Africa in a compound with her large African family. The stories are funny and full of gentle lessons about compassion, traditions, and family love.We are looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite authors. She has several Easy Reader series that are wonderful: Mr. Putter and Tabby, Poppleton, Henry and Mudge. The Cobble Street Cousins features three cousins who are staying with their aunt while their parents perform in ballets. They have lots of little-kid adventures: baking, making a newspaper, going shopping for gifts. Sweet and just right for young readers.
Kate DiCamillo brings us a pig who loves toast with a great deal of butter. What is there not to love? These stories are funny and full of a great cast of characters. The vivid color illustrations by Chris Van Dusen are amazing! This is a series not to be missed. The audio books are some of our favorites too.
I discovered Dick King-Smith's books through a wonderful list of 50 Chapter Books for Preschoolers compiled by What Do We Do All Day? Dick King-Smith was a British failed-farmer-turned-author, and he loves pigs.You may recognize his most famous work: Babe: The Gallant Pig or at least the famous line, "That'll do, pig." I have a daughter who loves pigs so we have read many of his books and loved them. The Lady Lollipop books are our particular favorites though because it features a princess and a pig.
I discovered The Racketty- Packetty House by Frances Hodgson Burnett last year and it was a big hit with my girls. When a new, fancy dollhouse arrives, the well-loved and shabby Racketty-Packetty House is shoved in a corner, but nothing can dampen the spirits of the dolls that live there. We really loved this version with illustrations by Wendy Anderson Halperin.
Kenny and the Dragon is a retelling of The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame. Tony DiTerlizzi's gorgeous illustrations add so much life to the story of a poetry-loving, dessert-eating dragon who befriends a young rabbit who then must save the dragon from the frightened townsfolk. The kids had me start over at the beginning as soon as we were through.