10 Classic Kids’ Chapter Books for Early Readers
Transitioning from picture books to novels with chapters can be intimidating, even for children with excellent reading skills. But what you lose in illustrations, you gain in amazing storytelling.
Still, choosing your child’s first chapter book can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. So browse through our handpicked selection first – you might rediscover an old favorite or find a new one instead – and start reading!
A Bear Called Paddington
by Michael Bond
Named for the London train station where his human family finds him, Paddington is a well-meaning, marmalade-loving bear from Peru who always seem to find mischief. Each chapter of the book is a tidy little story of its own, which will satisfy young children’s needs to know how things turn out – and yet it will keep them reading knowing there are more adventures to come.
by E.B. White
An adorable piglet, a gluttonous rat, a stuttering goose, a loving little girl, and an eloquent spider – what’s not to love about this classic novel you likely read in your own younger years? The story isn’t always lighthearted (Spoiler alert: Charlotte dies near the end), so you may want to read it yourself first and gauge your child’s temperament before sharing.
Amelia Bedelia Means Business
by Herman Parish
Perhaps your own childhood included the classic Amelia Bedelia books starring the grownup, oh-so-literal, and quirky character. Amelia Bedelia has been rebooted as equally charming and matter-of-fact in this book, which is the first in a series. The brief chapters and fun illustrations will encourage early readers to stick with it.
Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark
by Mary Pope Osborne
Some kids have an affinity for all things magical. For these charmed children, books such as the Magic Tree House series are simply captivating.
Siblings Jack and Annie find a treehouse, lined with books, that transports them to fantastical places where they enjoy delightful adventures. In this first novel, they travel to the Cretaceous period where they encounter friendly and terrifying dinosaurs, while they try to find a way back home. With each book set in a different place and time, kids will love following the adventure.
by Betsy Byars
A funnel cloud has been spotted, sending three boys, along with their mother, grandmother, and farmhand Pete to the storm cellar. To distract them from worrying about their father out in the fields, Pete relays the story of his childhood dog. During another twister, years ago, a doghouse landed in Pete’s family’s yard with a dog – shaken but alive – inside. The story of Tornado the dog will enthrall your children, as it does the farmer’s family.
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
by Alice Dalgliesh
Jonathon’s mother sends him alone over the mountain to borrow a pot from his aunt, assuring him there are no bears . . . no bears at all. But grownups aren’t always right. Kids will be compelled to read the next chapter as Jonathon exhibits bravery and experiences pride in following through on an important task.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
by Beverly Cleary
It’s likely that you read at least one Beverly Cleary book in your younger years, so sharing this classic with your child will be a pleasure for the both of you. Ralph is a mouse living in the lively Mountain View Inn where a boy named Keith, who owns a shiny toy motorcycle, checks in with his family. The motorcycle may or may not be magical, but the friendship between Ralph and Keith certainly is.
by Cynthia Rylant
Animal lovers will be taken with the characters in this page-turner. Stumpy the squirrel just had babies – triplets to be exact – when an ice storm separates her from them. Will her friends, who include a bat, a dog, and a hermit crab, be able to help them in time?
Mr. Popper's Penguins
by Richard Atwater
Whether or not your family has seen the movie, this chapter book will delight your young reader. Mr. Popper is a man of modest means who dreams of visiting the South Pole. A fan letter to a famous explorer results in the gift of a penguin. Penguins get lonely without other penguins, it seems, and soon Mr. Popper has a dozen, resulting in hilarious adventures.
The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
A new classic, this books is a must for kids who want to take it up a notch. Ivan is a lonely gorilla, having spent 27 years trapped behind the glass in a shopping mall. He longs to live out his true life’s purpose, which is to protect his family. So when a baby elephant named Ruby comes to live at the mall, Ivan witnesses her abuse and vows to defend her. Young readers will root for the animals chapter by chapter.
Kids are generally ready to begin reading early chapter books at around age seven or eight, but a younger book lover may enjoy having you read a daily chapter to her. When choosing a first chapter book to read together – or for your child to embark upon – consider the subject matter, the inclusion, or lack of illustrations and, of course, the quality of the writing. Before long, you may just have a voracious reader on your hands.
What are some of your favorite first chapter books?
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