When do you start reading aloud chapter books to kids? What books are good choices with which to start? How do we start a habit of reading aloud together?
This post is an answer to the many questions I have received from friends and readers about reading aloud chapter books to young kids.
Reading aloud books together as a family is incredibly rewarding, for so many reasons. Whether you are starting while your kids are still quite young, or hoping to start a new habit with school-age children, the practice is well-worth any initial resistance or struggle– on the part of the kids or the adults!
Good stories have the power to shape our kids.
They give our children characters to admire and imitate, friends to relate to, adventures to dream of, and ideas to consider. They stretch their imaginations and build their understanding of the world.
Through good books, we introduce our kids to underdog heroes like Bilbo Baggins, and to intelligent yet accident-prone girls who see beauty and wonder in the world like Anne Shirley. We share stories of survival against all odds, families who love each other sincerely and unashamedly, and children who struggle just like they do to behave and figure out their place in the world.
Characters and stories like these are enjoyable for all ages, which is one reason why choosing a good book makes it easier to form a habit of reading aloud. You will want to continue the story as much as your children do!
Reading aloud is also incredibly helpful in raising children who will want to read books for themselves. More than learning how to read, developing a desire to hear stories and experience new books will help children learn to love to read.
The options can seem overwhelming when you are making the transition from picture books to longer chapter books, . With so many books to choose from, it can be hard to know where to begin!
These are books that we have read to our kids. We love these books and our kids love them. They are books worth reading over and over.
First Read-Aloud Chapter Books ::
We have read books 1-6 to our kids, and have listened to the radio theatre cds over and over. We also own two of the movies (we are not a fan of Prince Caspian due to how they changed the story). We have chosen not to read the seventh book to our kids yet, because unlike the first six books, the seventh book tends to blur the lines between good and evil more. We will read it to them when they are a little older and we can discuss the subject more in depth.
I LOVE the Classic Starts books because it makes wonderful stories more accessible to young children. We have read several of these books to our kids. The chapters are short, and the books are abridged well. The covers are also beautifully illustrated, which never hurts.
Peter Pan and Dr. Dolittle are two of our favorites. We also enjoyed Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and The Jungle Book, and I am really looking forward to reading A Little Princess now that my daughter is a little older.
The Boxcar Children series is wonderful for young children for so many reasons. The four siblings are kind and generous, making them the kind of characters I prefer to put before my kids as examples. The chapters are good lengths for reading aloud, and the storylines are suspenseful enough to have your children asking you to “keep reading!”.
After you read the first book, there is also a cute little animated version on Netflix to watch. We also enjoy listening to these on Audible occasionally.
4. Roald Dahl’s Short Stories
Roald Dahl has many classic books, but for beginning to read aloud, I would suggest starting with some of his shorter stories. My kids thoroughly enjoyed Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Giraffe and The Pelly and Me. The books are clever, hilarious, and short.
We have a couple dozen Magic Tree House books in our collection. The books are not exactly the most captivating writing, but the stories are enjoyable. The books are also a great way to introduce different periods, events, and persons in history to your kids.
Another great thing about the Magic Tree House books is that once your children start to read, the MTH books are good options for first readers.
This series is another one from which I have downloaded books on Audible. Two years ago I downloaded the Thanksgiving book and this year I downloaded the Christmas Carol Magic Tree House book. I love that they are now stored in my Audible account and we can listen to them every year!
After you get started…
After you have developed a habit of reading aloud chapter books together and your kids attention spans are strengthened, you can begin to move on to longer chapter books. The following books are more books we have read and loved over the years.
6. Hatchet & Brian’s Winter
11. The Hobbit
13. Little Men
14. Little Women
15. Harry Potter (books 1-3) (They now have beautiful illustrated versions too!)
16. The Ramona Series
17. The Henry Huggins Series
20. Charlotte’s Web
Starting the habit of reading-aloud…
Knowing how to develop the habit of reading aloud good books together is just as important as knowing which books to choose.
Transitioning to chapter books means adjusting to fewer pictures, more characters, and longer storylines. I have found three years old to be a great age to introduce the habit of reading-aloud chapter books, though our younger children still listen in as well.
We started reading aloud chapter books to our boys when they were three and two, and we have been reading chapter books to them ever since. If you consider that we have been reading books to them for three years now, that is a lot of books!
Likely, you have already been reading aloud picture books to your children, so they are used to listening and enjoying good stories. In time, your kids will become great listeners and will surprise you with the details they remember!
Try these 5 tips for a smooth and easy transition ::
1. Begin with short passages and build up to reading for longer lengths of time.
2. Read before nap time or bedtime (or both) while children are naturally settling down.
3. As children get used to listening to chapter books, you can begin to read at other times of the day too. Read aloud during/after mealtimes, while children are playing or drawing quietly, or while they are cleaning up their room.
4. Ask questions before, during, and after you read. Asking good questions will help the children to recall what they heard and to interact with the books. Simple questions like “what happened in the story?” or “why do you think the character did what he did?” will help build attention and comprehension.
5. Read with lots of expression and (if you can) different character voices.
Sharing books together as a family is undoubtedly one of my most favorite things we do together, and one of my favorite parts of being a parent! It is a habit I hope we continue for years.
I would love to hear from you now!
Have you started reading chapter books to your kids?
What is one of your family’s favorite chapter books?
What does reading aloud together look like in your home?
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We love reading aloud around here! The Ramona books were a big hit, as well as Beverly Cleary’s Mouse and the Motorcycle. We just finished The Cricket in Times Square and really enjoyed it, and The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White is next in our stack to begin. I think it might be time to try the Boxcar Children! I remember enjoying them in my own childhood. Great list!
One of our resolutions this year is to read aloud more as a family. This post was very helpful in gaining ideas and encouragement. It is also nice to have the post available when we are ready for the next book:) thank you, Lisa!
Thank you for this! My kids are around the same ages as your youngest three. I’ve started reading loud with my oldest (4.5). So far, we have read the My Father’s Dragon series (which he loved) now we are reading The Mouse And the Motorcycle. He’s not as interested, so we may try one of the book son your list instead.