Chapter Books for Kids

chapter books for kids

First Chapter Books (ages 5-7)
Popular Easy Readers (ages 7-10)
Popular Chapter Books (ages 10-12)

When I was young, chapter books for kids were a lot different than they are now. Before I ever read my first chapter book, I had already been reading for several years. Since kindergarten, if not earlier. Thanks to learning phonics in 1st grade, I finally learned how to “decipher” words (the key to reading that still works today). Before that, I was just memorizing.

I remember HATING the Dick and Jane books I was required to read in 2nd grade. I always looked forward to getting back to more exciting books once I got home. But that was before Easy Readers had come out. If I were a child today, I’d probably enjoy some of those, especially the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel.

These days, easy readers provide the perfect transition from picture books to chapter books for kids. Some children may be able to transition directly to easy chapter books, but there’s such a wide variety of choices in the marketplace today, it’s easy to find easy readers and early chapter books for kids that will appeal to almost any child’s tastes. Reading books online is another option for youngsters who are comfortable with a computer.

Key Ingredient: Humor

One thing that many chapter books for kids have in common (especially easy readers) is humor. And contrary to what some parents may think, easy readers don’t all stick to vocabulary lists. In fact, the most popular easy readers don’t stick to words lists at all.

As with any other genre, one of your best resources in looking for good chapter books for kids is the children’s librarian. Sales people working in the children’s section of local booksellers can also be helpful. And, of course, online resources are always easy to find. (See Getting Kids to Read for information on children’s book clubs – a great way to get your own child more excited about reading.)

Popular Easy Readers

Listed below are four of the most popular easy reader books, serving as a great transition from picture books to more difficult chapter books:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (by Judith Viorst)

Days with Frog and Toad (by Arnold Lobel) This book is part of the I Can Read Book series.

Little Bear (by Else Holmelund Minarik)

The Cat in the Hat (by Dr. Seuss) For more information on this and other books by Dr. Seuss, see The World of Dr. Seuss.

Examples of Easy Reader Levels

Dragon’s Pancake Party! Adapted by Mara Conlon, based on an original TV episode written by Steven Westren. Scholastic Inc., 2010. Level 1 (Beginning) Readers contain 50-250 words. (Level 1 is actually the second level in this series of readers. Level Pre-1 focuses on ABC’s and first words.)

Because this story was adapted from a TV show, the pictures are actually scenes from that episode. Dragon decides to invite his friends to a pancake party that turns into a minor disaster.

I Spy a Balloon. Riddles by Jean Marzollo, photographs by Walter Wick. Scholastic Inc., 2006. This Level 1 Scholastic Reader is perfect for children just starting to read. (Level 1 Readers contain short sentences and stories with words that kids can sound out using phonics and vocabulary words.

There are four levels of readers in this series. This book is identical to the larger I Spy books, except that the objects are much easier to find in these photos.

Max & Mo Make a Snowman. By Patricia Lakin, illustrated by Brian Floca. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division), 2007. This Level 1 Ready-to-Read book belongs to the second of four levels of readers through Aladdin. It features “simple stories, increased vocabulary, and longer sentences.”

Max and Mo are hamsters who share the same cage and experience all sorts of adventures together. In this story, they decide to create a snowman out of odds and ends like paper, seeds, and toothpicks. The last three pages of the book list all the materials your child will need to make their own snowman (starting with “a grown-up’s help”), along with 12 very simple steps to follow.

Rumble Meets Milly the Maid. By Felicia Law, illustrated by Yoon-Mi Pak. Picture Window Books, 2004. This is an Orange Level book in the Read-it! Readers series. This level of readers presents children with a wide range of ideas and concepts, using challenging vocabulary and complex language structure. (Orange Level is the highest level of readers published by Picture Window Books. There are five other levels below this one.)

The story is about a “cool, young dragon named Rumble” who tries to turn a run-down cave into a 4-star hotel. His helpers include an annoying spider named Shelby and a hen named Milly (the maid). Milly decides to become a professional singer when Wilson Wolf compliments her clucking (what he calls “singing”).

To see more easy reader books, see our Easy Reader Books page.

Popular Early-Reader Chapter Books

Listed below are five of the most popular easy chapter books for kids, perfect for most 7- through 10-year-olds:

The Bald Bandit (by Ron Roy) This book is the second in a series of 26 alphabetically titled chapter books, known as A to Z Mysteries. This one just happens to have been one of my son's favorites in this series.

Amelia Bedelia Collection (by Peggy and Herman Parish) This particular set contains three of the most popular books in the series: Amelia Bedelia, Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia, and Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower.

The Boxcar Children Mysteries (by Gertrude Chandler Warner) There are a total of 119 books in this series, the first of which was published over 80 years ago!

Charlotte’s Web (by E.B. White) This one's a true classic, first published in 1952 and winner of a Newbery Honor in 1953.

Flat Stanley (by Jeff Brown) There are several books in this series, which can be purchased as sets.

The Peculiar Pumpkin Thief - a Geronimo Stilton book (written by Elisabetta Dami and published by Edizione Piemme) - is one of the most recent books in a series about a journalist who’s a mouse. Currently, there are over 40 books in the series, but since a new one comes out almost every month, that number is climbing rapidly. (For more info, see my page on Geronimo Stilton.)

Little House in the Big Woods (by Laura Ingalls Wilder) is the first in a series of seven books, and was originally published in 1932. The books follow the life of a little girl living in pioneer days, and have become a classic with young girls everywhere. (This series was one of my personal favorites!)

For more information on easy chapter books for kids, see our Easy Chapter Books page.

Popular Chapter Books

Listed below are some of the most popular chapter books for kids, which are usually written with 10- through 12-year-olds in mind:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (by Lewis Carroll)

Black Beauty (by Anna Sewell)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (by Jeff Kinney)

Holes (by Louis Sachar)

The Children of Noisy Village (by Astrid Lindgren)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond (by Elizabeth George Speare)

Writing Chapter Books

As with picture books, writing easy readers is far harder than it looks. Having to limit the number of words on a page requires a lot of creativity on the part of the writer. Arnold Lobel once said that writing his books about Frog and Toad was far more challenging than illustrating them.

Aspiring authors of chapter books for kids need to remember to keep the plot simple, use lots of dialogue, include humor and action, and keep sentences short. For more details on writing for children see our page on that subject.

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