On a child's literacy journey, once an early reader can decode words, read fluently and truly understanding what's being read, it's time to cross that bridge over to chapter books.
I've found that crossover made easier with a fantastic line of books called Branches by Scholastic, intentionally designed to be that bridge into chapter books. We're beginning to use many of the different Branches series books in our house with great success.
Whenever I'm helping kids make that transition into chapter books, I look for several key factors to select the best books:
- An Engrossing Series. Moving into chapter books requires longer reading spans and takes persistence. If kids are invested in the characters and storyline, they're more motivated to push through the longer books. Finding the right book series is essential.
- Great Pictures. Transitioning into chapter books requires lots of picture support to aid in reading comprehension and ease readers into books with more text.
- High-Interest Storylines. Helping kids find books that they will love, with topics or characters who interest them, is important in turning them into lifelong readers.
- Reasonable Text Placement and Size. Books shouldn't be too long or cumbersome or we risk turning off new chapter book readers.
- Engaging and Easy to Follow. The books must be engaging to young readers but simple enough for growing readers to follow as they navigate longer text structure.
The Branches books fulfill many of the requirements, especially the high-interest category. (There's an appealing series for almost every child!) Your kids will get lots of practice building fluency and stamina, which are needed as they move into traditional chapter books.
When I introduce kids to a new early chapter book series, I like to read the first book as a read-aloud. Having adult support through the first book in a series helps kids become comfortable with character names, the setting, and plot of the story. I also model for them by using a bookmark to mark the stopping point since chapter books aren't meant to be read in one session.
Then, I have the child read the next book in the series to me. As he's reading aloud, I can check on reading fluency. I also ask questions to gauge comprehension and determine whether or not the book is still of interest. If all goes well, I turn the series over to the child, remembering to frequently check in to see how things are going.
We have many favorite series in the Branches line. Here are some of our top picks:
1. Haggis and Tank Unleashed #1: All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young — Haggis and Tank are two dogs who are very imaginative and adventurous. Well, Tank is the more adventurous one, but he usually persuades Haggis to join. In book one they set sail on the high seas and book two has them digging for dinosaurs
This series is a great one to start with because the text is limited on each page. There is lots of dialogue and the color of text changes depending on who is speaking. For another series that gives that dialogue and color text support, check out the Princess Pink series.
2. Owl Diaries by Rebecca Elliott — This series is is a small step up from Haggis and Tank. Children will find that there is still lots of dialogue in speech bubbles. Now, the outline of the speech bubble is colored to signal who is speaking. There is also more text on the page. (Remember, we are taking baby steps in text difficulty.)
There are nine books in the series, making it a great choice for developing voracious readers. Eva is the main character owl and she has all sorts of ideas. The characters meet new friends, create stories, and hold fundraisers to help others.
Fans of Owl Diaries may also enjoy Missy's Super Duper Royal Deluxe.
3. The Last Firehawk by Katrina Charman — This is my son's favorite series in the Branches line. This fantasy and adventure series takes readers to the island of Perodia where readers meet Blaze, Tag, and Skyla who are on a hunt for a magical stone. This series moves away from the colored illustrations and into black and white illustrations that are commonly found in chapter books.
To learn more about the many early chapter books available, visit Branches on The Scholastic Store where you'll find descriptions of each series, reading level information, and helpful ways to search (by subject, age, genre and more).
And, watch out for the new Acorn line of books releasing in 2019 featuring series of books for beginning readers not quite ready for the Branches line. The Acorn line is developed to help new readers gain confidence — it also encourages readers to draw and write with additional materials at the end of each book.
Connect with Jodie at her site Growing Book by Book.