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Five Great Chapter Books To Read With Your Kids

May13

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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

Great Chapter Books for kids

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
Great Chapter Books for kidsBeverly 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
marley.jpgThis 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
Great Chapter Books for kidsWe 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

Great Chapter Books for kidsSo 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?

About the author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa's Buzz Off.


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16 Responses to “Five Great Chapter Books To Read With Your Kids”

  1. Rachel May 13 at 3:40 pm Reply

    Bravo. I’m totally a librarian for the times I get to connect a child with a book they will enjoy. For family reading, I regularly suggest Beverly Cleary, E.B. White, Judy Blume and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

  2. catnip May 13 at 4:11 pm Reply

    Thanks! I’ve been looking for some different chapter books. I’m going to check out the Greek Mythology book!
    My 5 year old boy is loving reading the Narnia books with his dad right now. He also loved all the Magic Tree House books and the Magic School Bus chapter books. They’re both great for either boys or girls.

  3. Tina May 13 at 4:29 pm Reply

    We’re reading the early Little House on the Prarie Books to our 5 year old son. We started by listening to the books on CD on a long car ride, now he loves to see the pictures. We also have done the Narnia books. I had just thought the other day about needed to look at the Beverly Cleary books–I loved those too!

  4. Kate May 13 at 4:38 pm Reply

    My daughter (now 8) is fascinated by Harry Potter. I read her the books. It was great for both of us because I also love the books and if I thought anything was above her head or inappropriate for her, I could just skip it or explain it in words she would understand.

  5. Liz M May 13 at 5:11 pm Reply

    My daughter is turning five, and some chapter books we’ve enjoyed together include The Borrowers, and the Little House series – although she lost interest during that brutal winter, and when Laura started dating and working. I’m thinking about trying Heidi next, then the Anne of Green Gables series. Thanks for the reminder of the Mouse and the Motorcycle – I’m off to order it from the library now. :)

  6. Liz M May 13 at 5:15 pm Reply

    Oh, by the way, the Little House books have some disturbingly racist takes on Native Americans (what we call First Nations here in Canada); and even though my daughter is 1/4 First Nations, she still walked away with some negative stereotypes that we continue to address. I recommend skimming ahead and skipping those sections. Who knew you’d have to damage control comments from Ma?

  7. anna May 13 at 5:22 pm Reply

    Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass! I still remember my dad reading those to me when I was about 7, and SOOOO looking forward to each evening’s new chapter.

  8. RachelJ May 13 at 8:27 pm Reply

    For slightly older kids–7 and up: The Series of Unfortunate Events were very fun reads for my son and I. It has some dark parts, but has very resourceful kids and great adventures. We also enjoyed the Anybodies series by NE Bode. Currently reading Edgar & Ellen by Charles Ogden.

  9. Amanda May 14 at 1:07 am Reply

    We’ve read Trumpet of the Swan, a couple of Ramona books and just started James and the Giant Peach. I’m worried that the Narnia books might be too much for my almost 4 and almost 6 year olds, but I really loved them and want to start them soon! I’m going to have to find Heidi now!

  10. Tania May 14 at 12:27 pm Reply

    I too am ashamed to say that I would try and hide “The Truck Book” from my 3 year old boy – I too like a little narrative to go with the pictures…. I once read a book review of “The Truck Book” that described it as “Truck Porn” – lots of close up pictures of trucks with no narrative.
    I am happy to say my now 4.5 year old boy enjoys chapter books, which serves to entertain the both of us.
    When I was pregnant with my 2nd child, I read “Charlotte’s Web” to my boy, and he just couldn’t understand why I was crying so hard at the end. Didn’t have anything to do with the pregnancy hormones, nope not at all.

  11. Katharine May 14 at 1:11 pm Reply

    I read The Chocolate Money Mystery but Alexander McCall Smith to my class of 7-year-olds recently and they loved it! It’s a great book for younger kids to have read to them and for more confident readers to read to themselves. The main characters are junior detectives, a brother and sister duo called Max and Maddie – and there are dogs!

  12. Calee May 14 at 2:08 pm Reply

    My daughter is only 1 but I’m looking forward to reading her the Madeline L’Engle books– A Wrinkle in Time, etc
    I taught 5th grade reading for a while- the mouse and the motorcycle was a big hit. And Bunnicula, the vampire rabbit.

  13. AnneM May 14 at 7:30 pm Reply

    Oooh, I forgot about The Chocolate Touch! My daughter is 6 but with a nearly third grade reading level, so finding things that she can read but still on a topic to interest her is hard. We tried LHOTP but she had so many questions per page that it was like sitting for the History SATs trying to explain things to her – “why did they play with pumpkins? How do you make your own shirt? Eating deer meat, ewww!” etc.

  14. kel May 15 at 7:25 pm Reply

    Anything by Gordon Korman!
    My favorites would be the Bruno & Boots series (about all the good clean fun you can have at a boarding school), and one of my all time greatest favorite books EVER (regardless of age level):
    I Want To Go Home. (about two kids trying to break out of summer camp)
    My dad read this to us on a family vacation when we were kids, and we would get SO mad because HE was laughing too hard to read out loud. As an adult, I still have that old tattered copy on my shelf and re-read it every year. literally. a MUST READ!
    Some of his books are more geared to boys, but I was somewhat tomboyish, and I ate them up. :)

  15. Czexpat May 16 at 4:15 pm Reply

    My 5-year-old loves the stories that are somehow just slightly subversive. Anything by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and the lesser known gem Fantastic Mr. Fox), Pippi Longstocking (“She lives _alone_, Mom?”), and the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, which are oldies but really goodies with lines that get elevated to the status of family in jokes.
    Thanks for the recommendations!

  16. Hermine May 18 at 8:02 pm Reply

    As a first grade teacher I have found that the students have loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Trumpet of the Swan (E.B.White), and The Enormous Crocodile (Dahl). They REALLY loved My Father’s Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett) because of the tricks played and the map to follow.There are 2 sequels to this book if you are interested.The Magic Tree House and Boxcar Children are very popular. I love H.Potter and read some with my grandson. You may want to also check out some of the high quality and more challenging picture books. I love Cynthia Rylant…she has such a great variety!

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