If your child is just crossing the bridge from picture books to novels, you’ll love these easy-to-read chapter books. They are the sweet spot that will keep kids entertained while strengthening reading skills and confidence.
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Over the last year, my 7-year-old son’s reading ability has exploded. I’ve seen him develop a hunger for books, and seen his confidence in reading grow. He is flying through stories now that he would have been intimidated by just a few months ago. It has been so fun to watch!
But this in-between stage of reading is tricky in some ways, too. Several months ago, he got to the point where he was ready to experiment with reading longer texts than a typical picture book, but he wasn’t quite ready for a full novel. So, I began hunting for books that could help him bridge that gap.
And so we entered the world of Early Reader chapter books!
What are “Early Reader” books?
“Early readers” (aka easy-to-read books) are books that are specifically geared toward kids who are just learning to read independently, usually between the ages of 6-8. If you’ve read the classic Frog & Toad books, that’s what we were aiming for. These easy-to-read chapter books have several key qualities that make them perfect for young kids who are ready for a more challenging picture book.
Characteristics of easy-to-read chapter books:
- Include several chapters (usually 4-8). Often, the chapters are episodic, so you can easily take a break and come back another time to read more without getting lost in the storyline.
- Have lots of pictures. Pictures are important for beginning readers. They provide context clues to help kids move through the text, especially when they encounter unfamiliar words.
- Are usually humorous. Kids love to laugh, and a good joke or ridiculous scenario keeps them engaged.
- Are often written as a series of books. Kids like familiarity. So once we introduce them to a set of characters, they usually enjoy reading more books about these new “friends.” Because these young readers are spending so much energy trying to decipher language and keep track of a plot, having familiar characters becomes one less piece of the book’s puzzle to solve. Plus, it makes it easy for us to help them find a book at the library! Gimme the whole stack, please!
After many trips to the library, and almost a year of exploring what this niche genre has to offer, we have discovered some real gems!
So if you have a beginning reader who is starting to show interest in pushing the limits of the picture book genre, give these a try. Happy reading!
Beginner chapter books for kids in the “early reader” stage
Frog and Toad Let’s start with the classics. There is so much to love about Frog and Toad. These silly, sentimental stories are the books that started my first-grader on the road to chapter books. We love reading them together, and I especially love the belly laughs I get to hear as we read about the misadventures of these two amphibious friends.
Charlie and Mouse. These stories about two brothers (Charlie and Mouse) perfectly nail what it’s like to be a kid. Little details, like the fact that they call their grandpa “Grumpy” made me laugh out loud at just how well the author captured what real-life conversations with young kids are like. Plus, they have a calming, nostalgic feel to them that is simply charming.
Boris on the Move. Boris is a young, energetic warthog who longs for adventure. Need I say more? These books are simple and fun, full of real-life problem-solving and silly situations. I only wish there were more than 4 books!
Nate the Great. This is the perfect first detective series for young readers. Nate the Great sleuths out the truth in neighborhood, encouraging kids to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Mercy Watson. I have to be honest, I don’t love these books about a “porcine wonder.” We listened to the first one as an audio book, and my kids enjoyed it well enough, but they didn’t like actually reading the physical books. I think they had a hard time sounding out all the silly words and names in them. Still, I’m including it here because I know there are TONS of people who love them. So, try them out and see for yourself.
Cork & Fuzz. Cork and Fuzz are the new Frog and Toad. It’s another classic tale of two animal friends who are completely opposite, and yet still enjoy being best friends (most of the time). My favorite: The Swimming Lesson.
Fluffy. Fluffy is a guinea pig, the class pet Ms. Day’s classroom. These funny books are oldies (1999), but so fun. We discovered them on Epic Reading (LOVE Epic), and some of them can be hard to find, but check your library. They’re perfectly silly tales of (As your kids get older, check out this author’s series “Dragon Slayer’s Academy”. They’re the perfect next-level-up book.)
As a total word nerd, I LOVE all the silly word play in these books about two dogs, Haggis (a grumpy Scottie dog) and Tank (an adventurous Great Dane). They are especially good for teaching kids about homonyms in a hilarious way.
Pedro on the Go Pedro is a typical boy who loves adventures and occasionally gets into mischief. These realistic fiction stories are fun, easy-to-read, and very relatable. The series is actually a spin off from the author’s popular Katie Woo books (I haven’t read those yet).
Note: Several of the series above are part of Scholastic’s line of early reader chapter books called “Branches.” These books are specifically geared toward newly independent readers and we’ve had great success with them. So, if your kids fly through the books above, look for more Branches books.
Now it’s your turn!
Have you read and loved any of these books? Or, do you have other favorites I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!
And, if you’re looking for more great books to enjoy with your kids, try these…