Five Great Chapter Books To Read With Your Kids
Did you know May 12-18 is Children’s Book Week according to the Children’s Book Council? I didn’t either until I decided to write about the chapter books my kids and I have enjoyed reading together. What a lucky coincidence.
When Max was three he loved a book called The Truck Book. The Truck Book was full of pictures of trucks with their names below. “Digger”, “Steam Roller”, and sometimes, for fun, a three worder would be thrown in, like Front End Loader. Reading this book at bedtime was one of the darkest hours of my day. It’s not that I needed to be reading Kafka at bedtime, but something with a narrative, a plot, a climax….even just one of those things would have been nice. I tried to hide the book. I tried to insist that tonight we’re reading a story, not a book of pictures. This didn’t go over very well and in the middle of the tantrum, I realized I’d just painted myself into one of those really stupid parenting corners. You know, the one where once you’re in it you realize it was really stupid to back yourself in?
So what if I hated the book, this was his time to sit with me and share something he loved. So for about ten excruciating months I feigned interest and glee at Fuel Tankers and Back Hoes.
When my daughter started reading chapter books to herself at bedtime I realized a couple things. I could probably start reading chapter books with my son and this would make each night like a television episode. Each night we’d close the book and wonder what would happen tomorrow. I also realized I could read with my daughter, trading pages, or I could bring my own book to her room and read next to her on the bed.
I realize neither of these things are particularly novel ideas, but still reading chapter books with my kids and next to my kids has been such a simple pleasure for all of us, I highly recommend it. Here are five of my family’s favorite chapter books to get you started.
The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
I read this book as a third grader and did my very first book report on it. I convinced my mother to let me pass out whole Hershey bars during my presentation. John Midas is a chocoholic and after a visit to a very special candy store he finds that everything he touches turns to chocolate. This sounds wonderful to kids, but soon, as everything turns to chocolate he’s totally turned off the stuff, like me and ice cream after my first summer job. This is a great book to spark imagination in your kid, mine have spent hours imagining turning my entire house into chocolate. Especially our very fat cat, imagine all the chocolate!
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
Beverly Cleary is one of my favorite authors, probably because I grew up reading her books. Shockingly I’d never read this book. This was great fun for my daughter because she’d already read it in school, and so could be the ‘expert’ as we read it together at bedtime. Ralph is a mouse living in a hotel when Keith and his family check in. Ralph can’t resist Keith’s toy motorcycle and heads out on adventures. Huge hit with the kids, especially Max who is completely dumbfounded why, if he can ride a two wheeler, he can’t ride a motorcycle?
Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan
This is the story of Marley, “The World’s Worst Dog” adapted for young readers from Grogan’s original title, Marley & Me. My daughter’s life revolves around dogs. How life isn’t fair because she doesn’t have a dog, how she might convince her parents to get a dog, how her life would be so much better with a dog. She likes to read dog stories, volunteers at the Humane Society and is obsessed with dog training shows. Reading about Marley, who is actually a pretty bad dog but also the best dog for that family, was a divine torture for the both of us. Contrary to Madison’s long held beliefs, I do want to have a dog, but we’re waiting until all of us are ready for such a big commitment. If you have a dog lover in your family, this is an entertaining read for both of you. (There’s also a picture book version available.)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Narnia) by CS Lewis
We read this book before watching the movie and that’s another great way to approach choosing chapter books to read together. Reading the book will almost always make a movie more meaningful (to both kids and adults). It will also explain why, in 9th grade, when they insist it’s “The same…” to watch To Kill A Mockingbird as it is to read the book, it’s actually not. They can see how books are adapted and the results are often not exactly the same and this is why some great books become terrible movies. You’re probably familiar with the story, but this was a fun repeat read for me.
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D’Aulaire and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
So it’s not a chapter book really but myths are wonderful for young kids. My friend Jim at Sweet Juniper, who shares mythology with his three-year-old, inspired me to pull out this book I had from a 12th grade mythology class. It’s easy to forget how much these kinds of stories can impress young kids. They particularly love the story of Medusa and how you can only look at her through a reflection and the story of Persephone being taken by Hades for the winter causing her mother to mourn and cause the seasons.
Those are some good titles to start you thinking. If you need more help finding great chapter books to read with your kids, ask your librarian. A friend of ours who is a librarian would like you to know, “About 80% of what I do involves really boring clerical duties. But I do this job for the other 20%: leading storytimes, helping kids with projects and helping find perfect books for interested readers.” I see a new Library motto: “Librarians: Use Them!”
What are your favorite children’s chapter books?