My girls began hearing chapter books at very young ages. While I love picture books, I also love the stories and characters that develop in longer text so I found myself turning to chapter books as a supplement to the girl’s picture book diet pretty early on. Knowing also that children’s listening levels and reading levels do not coincide until the 8th grade, I knew it made sense to always be reading levels above what they could read to themselves.
Jim Trelease writes about this subject in his magnificent book, The Read Aloud Handbook.
He desribes a logical progression of moving from long picture books, perhaps broken up into mulitple readings, to colletions of stories about one characther such as All About Alfie by Shirley Hughes and then moving into short chapter books. Trelease’s recommendations include, My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, Wolf Story by William McCleery and Rip Roaring Russell by Johanna Hurwitz.
This is a list that I should have been adding to all along because we have been fortunate to have stumbled upon many but we found a new one this week that is worth mentioning. Almost always, Katherine (age 5) listens contentedly while I read chapter that are more geared to Caroline’s (age 8) level. I know the higher level books will appeal to both girls and they can each benefit in a developmentally appopriate way. Occasionally though, I do try to sprinkle in one of the shorter chapter books. This week’s choice was Uh, Oh Cleo by Jessica Harper.
In this story, after a run in with a falling bookcase, Cleo must get stitches. The whole books takes place over only a few hours time making it easy to follow for those children new to chapter books. My girls tend to prefer books that take place in the present day. I just can’t get them hooked on historical fiction or even fantasy. I do hope to break them of this as there is so much great stuff they are missing but that’s a conversation for another day. Cleo fits the present day bill with reference to Harry Potter and Candy Land and Lemony Snicket to ground them in the here and now.
Now the irony of this whole post is that we read the book in one sitting. As we started reading, this post began to form in my mind- a great chapter book recommendation for the pre-school set. But then the girls got completely wrapped up in the story and just couldn’t imagine stopping until they knew the ending. While it is an ideal book to introduce young children to the idea of chapters, it is also, apparently a good enough story to hook those kids already used to the idea.