Tips for Reading Chapter Books to Young Kids

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reading with kidsI have always loved to read. While I hope my kids develop and explore their own interests and hobbies I have my fingers crossed that they will become little bookworms too.

My daughter turned 4 this past summer and I have been impatiently waiting to start reading chapter books to her. I just couldn’t wait to share some of my favorites from my childhood! Short picture books and board books are great but for an avid reader like myself I just was so eager to share “real” books with her. After a failed attempt earlier in the year we were finally able to recently finish our first chapter book together.

Tips for reading chapter books with kids

Give them something to do while you read.

I always had this grand vision in my mind of my daughter and I cuddled up in her bed, her head on my shoulder attentively listening. She would be quiet and still while I read chapter after chapter from my favorite childhood book. Are you laughing at me yet? Maybe one day we will get to this point, but right now it’s hard for her little body and brain to sit still and focus for any extended period of time. I have found it helpful to give her a simple task she can do while listening to me read aloud. Sometimes she colors, practices her scissor skills, or plays with play-doh.

Choose a small book with short chapters.

As eager as I am to share Little Women and the Harry Potter series with my daughter, I will have to hold off for a few more years. When choosing a chapter book, start off with books that have short chapters and are short in general. Having short chapters helps break things up and a shorter book overall helps keep kids interested. They want to know what happens in the end after only a few pages in! If a book is too long it can be hard for them to recall what happened earlier and they may loose interest. We have started with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (a childhood favorite of mine). Other examples that may be good would be Charlotte’s Web or The Magic Tree House collection.

Find books with pictures

A chapter book with pictures? Is that a thing? Sure is! There are many chapter books for kids that have small illustrations throughout. Even if it’s not on every page having one every now and then really seemed to help my daughter understand and remember the plot. We could take a pause and look at the picture together and talk about it. Another reason why I chose to start off with the Little House books is because they also make a picture book version of the chapter books! Often, we would read the picture book version of the chapter book we had been reading at bedtime. This seemed to keep her interested and sometimes she would “follow along” in her picture book while I read the chapter version!

Incorporate the story into other activities.

Because reading a chapter book takes more time we typically weren’t able to read it every day. Because of this,reading  I tried to find ways to incorporate topics from the book we were reading into other daily activities. I did this in simple ways such as encouraging my daughter to help me with a chore “like Laura helps Ma” or relating her play to the play activities of Laura and Mary we read about. When we visited Living History Farms this summer we talked a lot about Laura and her family! Another option for this is watching the movie of your book you’re reading if there is one!

If reading aloud to your kids is something you are interested in I hope these suggestions help make the experience more fun for everyone!

What are your favorite beginner chapter books for kids? 

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Casey is an Iowa captive by way of Alabama. She lives in Urbandale with her first responder husband Derek, black lab Dakota, and human daughters Avery (2018) and Nellie (2021). She loves being a mom and is navigating her journey with her own version of what motherhood looks like including shamelessly singing “Baby Shark” on command and eating Oreos during nap time so she doesn’t have to share. Casey works part time in the non-profit field supporting families that are grieving the loss of a child. In her “free time” Casey enjoys baking, specializing in boxed brownies and pre-made cookie dough. She also enjoys reading historical fiction books and watching Netflix. Her preferred forms of communication include sarcasm, emojis and gifs.

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