Chapter Books Help Kids Learn and Grow with Reading!
Chapter books are stories made for immediate readers (usually ages 7-10) that consist of mostly prose. They can consist of a few illustrations. Chapter books mostly get their name from their short chapters, which makes ready more digestible for younger independent readers. The stories don’t take too long to read, can hold an attention span longer, and provides plenty of opportunity for a child to take a break. There are many advantages to having a child pick up a chapter book and begin their journey to reading a more prose-based form of children’s literature.
Benefits of Chapter Books
Imagine the very first chapter book that you were either read to by an adult or read yourself. The transition from books with illustrations to ones where the only images are the one in your mind. Think of the first time you experienced using your imagination to envision the story. That’s one of the main benefits of chapter books: they ignite a child’s imagination. When a child’s imagination is stimulated it expands their knowledge and understanding of the world around them. It also fosters cognitive and social development, which puts kids on the path to having better social and emotional skills, critical thinking skills, and creative problem-solving skills. This can lead to a child having more appreciation of the written word. A chapter book is going to describe the scene or character and it is the reader’s job to envision it. Children can create their own pictures based on what they hear!
Chapter books can either be read aloud to a child (at any age we might add!) or they can start to read full text literature on their own. They will encounter words they do not know and can learn to either use context clues for meaning or learn how to find the word in a dictionary, both important skills in becoming an avid reader. This improves language skills as well since they are being exposed to new words and phrases! Becoming a more independent reader is essential for academic success and chapter books are a great first step into the world of no pictures. Imagining a story in their own mind will help them connect to the character and scenes more. They will build a love of reading through the experience a chapter book provides.
While beginning to read chapter books more independently, children will have to learn patience. You can’t read a 400-page book in one sitting. You have to take breaks in between reading sessions and retain the knowledge you previously read in the next session. This can be hard, especially when climatic and exciting scenes are happening in the book. Kids will have to put more work into finishing a chapter book and seeing it to the end than they have previously experienced. If a child is being read to, they must use their listening skills and retain each chapter's details and plotlines. Patience is even more important when reading a chapter book series as the end of the book isn’t necessarily “the end”.
Other reading skills that form from reading chapter books is inferential reading skills and storytelling skills. Enhancing inferential comprehension abilities allows children to process the written word better and in doing so understand underlying meanings in a text. They then use the information they’ve obtained to infer any meaning that is not outrightly stated. Inference comes from experiences as well and helps children to be able to draw conclusions. When it comes to storytelling abilities, that begins with awareness of the arc of each story. Being able to point out the stages of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution in each piece of literature they read provides a child the tool they need for great storytelling and even to great writing!
Series Vs. Single Titles
As a child makes their way to the land of chapter books, they will notice some are chapter books all on their own and there are some that have multiple books in a series. Both are great for a child to read, but there are some aspects of each to consider.
A singular title is great for a child who needs more time working on patience. Fully committing to reading an entire chapter book can be daunting to a new reader. That is why a single title that they can tackle and have a conclusive ending is helpful. It is also nice that all of the information necessary to understand the book is in that one title’s pages. If a child reads further into the book and a past scene is mentioned, they can simply flip back to refresh their memory.
Series titles are wonderful for reluctant readers. A child who isn’t naturally drawn to the written word may pick up a book in a series about video games and love it. They don’t have to worry about hunting down the next diamond in the rough book for themselves, because they know there is a whole series for them to go through and they can create book lists from there. It’s also great for readers who like to stay within a certain topic or genre, and if a reader becomes attached to the characters in a series.
Types of Chapter Books
We’ve explored the differences between single titles and series, but there are many more types of chapter books for children to choose from! First, children’s books come in a variety of genres. Some of the best chapter books are scary and mystery chapter books (The Secret Notebook, Mable Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying, Hauntiques), books where your choices impact the outcome(You Choose: Fractured Fairy Tales and You Choose: Prehistoric Survival), realistic fiction(Lukezilla Beats the Game, A Many Feathered Thing, Micah McKinney and the Boys of Summer, The Friendship Lie), sports (Jake Maddox JV series), and historical fiction (Girls Survive series)! No matter what a child is into, there is a book for them. Diverse chapter books are very important as well, especially by #OwnVoices authors, such as Farah Rocks and Daphne, Secret Vlogger. This allows readers to see themselves as the main character as well as help teach other ways of life through authentic experiences.
A good chapter book is one that has an interesting topic or genre to the child and one where they can learn new words and work on their inferential comprehension. Children can truly dive into choice and interest and personal taste and hopefully find something that they love.
Introducing Children to Chapter Books
Young children are being read picture books and other interactive books, but did you know you can begin to introduce and read chapter books to a preschool or kindergartener? We’re not saying take away picture books for good, but slowly bringing in chapter books at a younger age can aid in the process of a child becoming a more independent reader. Reading to a child a chapter book makes them focus on listening, which can be hard for some. Some tips to help begin reading chapter books to a child can include:
- Introduce the book to the child. Make sure they are just as excited to read the story as you are. You can even go as far as saying the plot and who the character will be throughout.
- Explain there are no pictures in the book and what chapter books are. Inspire them to use their imagination to create their own pictures!
- Don’t be afraid if the book isn’t working. Pushing a book could deter a beginning reader from becoming a more independent reader. Pay attention to why the book isn’t working and make adjustments.
- Keeping short reading sessions. How long do you normally take reading a picture book? Go even less than that when beginning chapter books. You don’t have to read a full chapter in one sitting. Find good stopping points when you need to.
- Before you start reading the next day, review what happened beforehand. Have your early readers tell you what they remember and help fill in any important details they may have missed.
When a child is around 7-10 years of age, they may be more inclined to begin reading an early chapter book on their own. Keep in mind there different types of genres and topics the child is interested in and help them find a good book that aligns with those interests. An independent reader needs to be able to find books for themselves as well. Show a child how they can find books they may be interested in such as looking at the cover, reading the titles and subtitle, reading the summary on the back, checking the page count, and checking the text size. This won’t be easy instantly and there will be some duds along the way but giving them the power to choose is essential to becoming a strong reader.
Chapter books are a great way to get children to really appreciate the written word and utilize their listening and memory retention skills. They are the perfect way to let a child’s imagination run wild with their own vision of a story and continue them on their reading journey.