As your child transitions from a beginning reader who needs to sound out each simple word to a more advanced reader who is starting to decode faster and follow longer and more complicated stories, kids’ chapter books become the reading material of choice. But kids’ chapter books come in lots of different styles with various kinds of content — how do you know which are just-right for your young reader? Use this guide to match your child with the perfect book.
1. What exactly are kids’ chapter books?
Early readers focus on very short books that are light on text and heavy on pictures and illustrations. As they become more confident, children can transition to kids’ chapter books — stories that are long enough to be divided into chapters, but not as long or complicated as a novel. Chapter books still feature illustrations, but fewer than early readers’ picture books. Generally speaking, children become ready to transition to kids’ chapter books at around age 7 or 8.
2. For independent readers
Children who took an active role in the read-alouds you shared — holding the book, flipping the pages herself, memorizing parts of the story — are likely to be enthusiastic about diving into the world of kids’ chapter books. They need very little encouragement or supervision — just point them toward the books and get out of the way! Independent readers will devour pretty much anything, but you know your child’s tastes. For fans of tense thrillers, recommend some Gordon Korman; kids who prefer more familiar settings, like classrooms and hallways, could try Sara Pennypacker and her Clementine series. Also see our book list "Books of Interest to Independent Readers" for more tips.
3. For reluctant readers
Even if you’ve been a passionate reader to your child throughout the early years, sometimes it takes a little extra to show her the joys of reading for pleasure. If trips to the library are producing groans in your 1st or 2nd grader, don’t despair. It’s perfectly normal for children to struggle with reading once the books become longer and harder to follow. Try introducing your reluctant reader to series, like the Junie B. Jones or Magic Tree House books. Once your child knows the basic structure and characters, it’s easier to get into the story. And they tend to become addictive!
4. Classics to share
One of the great joys of kids’ chapter books is in sharing the books you loved as a child with your newly independent reader. It’s impossible to forget the first time you read the Boxcar Children series or Charlotte’s Web, and now you can reread it along with your child, discovering all over again what made you a book-lover. Don’t be afraid to keep reading books aloud with your child! Try our "Timeless Chapter Books" list to jog your memory.