This post is part of my “Reading Wednesdays” series in which media specialist, Lauren Bercuson Davis and I share our favorite kid lit recommendations. Yes, I know it’s Thursday.
Harlow is in kindergarten and has just recently showed the first signs of putting together letters to make sounds and sounds together to make words. She can tap out certain words, but it’s still unclear to me whether she just memorized them in class, is making assumptions based on the accompanying pictures or actually knows how to read them. Although, to be fair, I think memorization and looking at pictures for clues are both part of developing early literacy skills.
Kindergarten is a great time to pick up early chapter books and read them to your kids; something I sadly didn’t realize with Mazzy. I was more focused on getting her to read on her own. She was resistant and finally got there with graphic novels, which I highly recommend. I’ll share Mazzy’s favorite graphic novels in a future post. It’s been a bit of a struggle to get Mazzy to read books without pictures, even though she is a very competent reader now. And I feel like we skipped a whole section of books because Mazzy’s interests did not align with her reading level at the time. Meaning, in 2nd grade, when her reading really took off, she wanted to read more about kid drama and would dismiss a book with animal characters on the cover as too babyish, even though those were more at her reading level. I also know parents with the opposite problem— their kids wanted to read books at higher reading levels and as a result, they were exposed to some pretty advanced concepts, maybe before the parents thought they were ready.
But again, that’s a post for another time.
Right now, my goal is to set Harlow up on a good path as her skills develop.
I asked Lauren to put together a list of picture books and beginning “chapter” books for emerging readers that I can begin to introduce to Harlow. Lauren curated the list below, which she says starts with books to read together and then gets progressively more challenging, ending with excellent chapter book choices for independent readers. Some of them Mazzy might even like.
By Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Emily Hughes
Charlie & Mouse contains four short stories about two brothers, and it will have your kids simultaneously reading and giggling in delight. With its gold Geisel Award (an award given annually to the most distinguished American book of the year for beginning readers), this is a perfect first “chapter” book. (2 in series)
By Tina Kugler
Oh my goodness. You and your kids will laugh out loud with both this one and its sequel,Snail and Worm. Not only is this a fabulous book for your new readers (the second book won a Geisel honor!) but you will love the way the illustrations elevate the text to a whole new level. Your kids will be laughing nonstop when they realize how ironic and just plain silly the images are when read in combination with the text. (2 in series)
By Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca
A brave princess who wants to climb trees, get dirty, and have a wild adventure? If that sounds like your kids or students, look no further. Written by a Newbery award winner, Princess Cora and the Crocodile has humor and heart, great illustrations, and a large, easy to read font which makes this a winning beginning chapter book for emerging readers.
By Kate Messner and illustrated by Heather Ross
Fergus is a good little pet in Miss Maxwell’s classroom who typically gets to do everything the students do. But when Miss Maxwell plans a field trip to the museum and Fergus isn’t invited, he finds a way there — and along the way meets a new friend to show him the ropes. Broken up into four chapters, Fergus and Zeke is approachable, the vocabulary is accessible and the illustrations make this one a winner.
By Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Kate DiCamillo is simply brilliant, and the Mercy Watson series is a must for your new readers. This is a New York Times best selling series for a reason, about the beloved “porcine wonder,” his hilarious escapades, and his owners. Once your kids read the first book, they will be begging for the next five — and some buttered toast. (6 in series)
By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
If you thought princesses only wear fancy pink dresses and sparkly tiaras, think again! If your kids like their heroines to go undercover, dress in black and fight off evil monsters, then the The Princess in Black series is a must for your kiddos. (5 in series)
7) Owl Diaries
By Rebecca Elliott
This is the other series I cannot keep on our shelves – the books are checked out as quickly as they are checked in. Owl Diaries is part of Scholastic’s fantastic early chapter book line, Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. The Owl Diaries series focuses on Eva Wingdale and her friends, and it is written as her diary. The text is engaging, there are adorable illustrations on every page, and the plots are fast paced and high interest. Your kid will be begging for the next book in the series as soon as she finishes the one in her hands. (8 in series)
By Tracey West
Dragon Masters is another series in Scholastic’s branches line, and another favorite among my students. A dragon, a king, a wizard and magic. Need I say more? Again, illustrations on every page, short chapters, and easy to read text make this a winning series for newly independent readers. (9 in series)
By Kara LaReau and illustrated by Matt Myers
Another Geisel Honor, The Infamous Ratsos is a hilarious chapter book that revolves around brothers Louie and Raphie who are tough, tough, tough — or so they think. Yet, every time they set out to show the world how tough they are, the Ratso brothers end up doing really good deeds. I loved this book so much. It’s the perfect mix of humor and heart! (2 in series)
By Abby Hanlon
Dory may just be my favorite fictional character, and if you know me, that says a lot. But the Dory Fantasmagory series of books, about a little girl with a big imagination who desperately seeks the attention of her older siblings, has made me laugh in ways that so few books actually can. I cannot keep these out of my students’ hands. And I can’t get enough of them either. (4 in series)
By Mo Willems and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
Flea is an alley cat living on the streets of Paris, and Diva is a pampered dog who lives inside an apartment. When their paths unexpectedly cross one day, their lives are forever changed. Ooh, la, la, The Story of Diva and Flea is a winner!
By Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Doreen Cronin never hits a sour note. In The Chicken Squad, another delightful chapter book series, four little chicks– Dirt, Sugar, Poppy and Sweetie — spend their days solving mysteries and fighting crime, and will leave your kids in stitches — and quite possibly hatching up their own plans. (4 in series)
By Ellen Potter and illustrated by Qin Leng
Piper Green has a fairy tree in her front yard. She lives on Peek-A-Book island and she rides a lobster boat to school. And…. there’s some magic. What else does a little one need? (5 in series)
By Lin Oliver
When Tiger Brooks and his family move into a new house, he quickly discovers that things are strange — very, very strange. Strange enough to include a talking pig in a top hat and a reclusive neighbor with a magical frame that allows Brooks to get pulled in to the world’s greatest paintings. The Fantastic Frame is a fabulous series for your chapter book readers!
What are your favorite children’s books for emerging readers? Tell us in the comments below!
Lauren shares children’s literature reviews and other bookish fun on Instagram @happily.ever.elephants, on Facebook, on Twitter @KidLitLauren and on her blog Happily Ever Elephants.
Thank you for this! We are just now entering this stage and I needed some good ones!
Love this list! My daughter is 4.5 and started reading beginner chapter books. This gives me some ideas as I am already getting tired of princesses, unicorns and magical puppies.
Thank you so much for this list! My son is in kindergarten but is reading at a first grade level and is very excited about chapter books. We have some but not a single one of these. They all sound great! We will definitely be going to the library soon to start reading through the list.
My oldest is also in kindergarten so I know she would love many of these (especially the Princess in Black series – would be a good 6th bday gift!). In addition to the easy reader books that her teacher sends home we’ve been reading a lot of Beginner books. She has also been reading to our younger daughter (20 months) – a lot of board books are easy for her to read! 🙂
My 7-year-old (2nd grade) son is also REALLY into graphic novels right now. I’m looking forward to your post with recommendations, because I find that many of the graphic novels (even in the kids section) seem a little too “old” for him. For us, 2nd grade has been the “magic age” where finding books is now so much easier — we really struggled to find level-appropriate books that were actually engaging for him for a while there. My recommendations for newly independent readers (especially boys) would be Stink (McDonald), Roscoe Riley Rules (Applegate/Biggs), Galaxy Zack (O’Ryan), Hey Jack (Rippin) and Flat Stanley (Brown). Rippin also has a “girls” series called Billie B Brown (the titular Jack and Billie are best friends and appear in each other’s books). Looking forward to checking out The Infamous Ratsons from the list above — we are always looking for a new series!
The Mercy Watson books are fantastic! My daughter LOVED that series. I also recommend the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems if they aren’t already on your radar. My 3rd grader got hooked on graphic novels last summer for kind of a similar reason as Mazzy – her interests and reading level were a little lop sided. She’s actually a very competent reader but she’d burn out on the bigger chapter books and found the picture books to be too simple / short. Graphic novels have been a godsend for the in between reading seasons and frankly they are just fantastic in general.
We love the Lulu books by Judith Viorst (Alexander books). Very funny for kids and parents! The fourth one comes out at the end of the month.
Thank you so much for this! My son is just a week or two younger than Harlow and I have been wanting to encourage him to branch out from picture books now that he’s starting to read a bit. I’m headed to the library today to look for some of these titles!