It’s National Young Readers Week, and appropriately enough, a certain youngster in this house has entered a new chapter in his literary life. Eli has stepped into the world of chapter books.
He’s still a long way off from reading himself, but reading to our children is an integral part of our daily routine. Yes, that even includes reading aloud to our very proficient 9-year-old reader. We will read aloud to our children until they kindly ask us to stop, which is hopefully a long, long time from now.
I’ll admit, I was worried if Eli would transition into the same listener that Elena is. He’s always loved board and picture books, but it’s a developmental leap into a world of stories that isn’t vividly illustrated for you. While we always read to Elena, we also exposed her to various story times all around Nashville. I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve taken Eli to story time. This is largely due to the fact that the quality of children’s programming here is no where near that of our beloved Nashville libraries. I wanted story time to be something fun, not something that needed to be endured (yes, our library programs in the wealthiest county in Indiana are that bad), so we stopped going. We found the best books we could and read them with enthusiasm at home.
Between having less exposure to story hours than Elena, and the fact that Eli is a very active boy, I wasn’t sure if he would have the attention span for longer chapter books that his sister does. It turns out we had nothing to worry about. Eli loves chapter books and greatly prefers them over picture books now. As we did with Elena, Mike and I both choose a chapter book to read to Eli and then take turns reading to him. It’s amazed me how much he can remember of what we’ve read previously, especially when a day or two lapses in between my turn to read to him at night.
I’ve had a few people inquire about good choices for delving into the world of chapter books for young listeners, and so I thought this would be a perfect time to share some of our favorites.
Roald Dahl is a great place to start. The very first book I tried with Eli was The Enormous Crocodile. It’s not technically a chapter book, but it is a longer book that can be broken into a few reading sessions. It has pictures on every page, but it’s a good length of book to gauge whether your listener is ready for some longer stories. I followed up with The Twits, a fantastically disgusting book that particularly appeals to little boys. We read it three times through before the pages of our hand-me-down book started falling apart and I convinced Eli to branch out a bit.
E.B. White is our current author. We’re reading Charlotte’s Web right now, which also happens to be the very first chapter book I read to Elena. I could read this book a hundred times and more. The Garth Williams illustrations are timeless, and it’s so much fun to read the part of Templeton the rat in a really dispicable voice. Eli especially enjoyed the part when Avery smashed the rotten goose egg, as he managed to do the same thing last summer and clear out 30 kids listening to a police officer talk about his patrol dog. Stuart Little is a great follow-up to Charlotte’s Web. We also found it fun to read these books and then watch the movies together.
Beverly Cleary will also be on the roster. If Stuart Little is a hit, then chances are you’ll also both enjoy The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Don’t discount the Ramona Series as only for girls, either. I’ve yet to meet a kid that doesn’t have an appreciation for Ramona and all her adventures and tribulations. They’ll never crack a hard-boiled egg without thinking twice again!
Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid was Mike’s first choice to read to Eli. They’re almost done with the second book in the Wimpy Kid series. This might not be an obvious choice for the younger set, but if they have older siblings chances are your kids are dying to be in on the Wimpy Kid phenomenon. This is another good choice, along with Roald Dahl, to draw in boys who might not so sure about this chapter book stuff.
Now we need your help. It’s been a few years since we’ve thought this much about chapter books for the young listener, and I’m sure I’m missing some great books that have come out in the last couple of years. What’s new that we should check out? And are there any oldies but goodies I’m missing?