Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Chapter books for elementary-aged children

Oh, this seems like such an impossible task to start narrowing these down, but try I shall! Please note that this is certainly not an exhaustive list and is based solely on books that I actually own--there are a gazillion amazing books out there, but these are just the ones I love enough to have searched them out and purchased them and made space for them on our shelves.

Something really important: most of these are books that I still love enough to reread as an adult. I pre-read as much as I can of the books my kids are reading, but I also feel like when you read a book, you are making a lifelong friend of that book, and so I want my children to be introduced to MY friends that I still love as an adult. I'm not doing the best job of explaining this, but I do not think that these are just children's books. They are classics for everyone! 

These books are all ones that my children have read or that I consider them old enough to read. As I write this, my five-year-old is reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, my seven-year-old is reading Martin the Warrior, and my ten-year-old is rereading Jurassic Park so that's where we are today in terms of interest levels and abilities (so about a second-grade reading level up through eighth grade. Give or take).

Many of these books are the first in the series or one among many by a particular author. I generally have my kids read the one listed here and then they're hooked and want to read everything by that author, so this is my gateway book, so to speak. For some authors I have listed more than one if I think they're truly exceptional and not to be missed; I have also noted some books about which I have reservations by an author that I otherwise love.

I have also tried to list these by level of difficulty. This is an awesome site which tells you the reading grade level of a specific book, and I have gone through most of our books and noted the level inside the front cover. Keep in mind that most of these increase in complexity and difficulty as the series progresses--so, for instance, five-year-old Isaac can happily read the first few Harry Potter books, but I don't anticipate that I'll find him curled up with Deathly Hallows anytime soon.

Please note that my kids also read their fair share of Magic Treehouse, Warriors, etc., and their list of must-read books would probably look very different from mine! I do require that they read a certain number of books from MY list every so often (depending on what time of year we are in and how busy they are with school--often I require them to read the first three chapters of the book I've picked before they start anything else, and then they're hooked and they're ten chapters in and they've forgotten about the other book). We talk quite a bit about junk-food fun books vs. feast-for-your-mind books, and how it's good to maintain a balance that will nurture your mind. And I do still reserve the right to refuse to let particularly gory, rude, or gross books into our home.

Over the summer, the older children are each reading ten books from my list in addition to everything else they are picking on their own; at this point, they're almost done with my lists, but have added a lot to it by reading everything else that author has written after they finish my picks.

Absolute must-read series to be a human being walking this planet: 

Fun series that you and your children should read at some point, but your life will not be over if you don't get around to them...

General books that everyone should read:

    So there's some of my favorites--what are yours? What ones have I left off that you would absolutely add to this list?


    Kayli said...

    Thanks Rachael! There were only a couple that I absolutely hadn't heard of, some that I am not a fan of (am I the only person in the ENTIRE world who doesn't love L.M. Montgomery? I do love the movies though...), but mostly I just agree agree agree!

    Oh, and for now, we're keeping our rooster and see how it goes.

    Robin V said...

    This was a fun post to read. (Who am I kidding? All of your posts are a delight.)

    Here are several books I remember from my youth. I don't know that they have any particular claim to fame, beyond the fact that I do remember reading them (and that memory has persisted for quite a few years now!).

    The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, by Eleanor Cameron
    My Father's Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett
    Lassie Come-Home, by Eric Knight
    The Greyhound, by Helen Griffiths

    Lassie Come-Home is one of my all-time favorite books. I've yet to see a movie that does it justice. :)

    I read these two as an adult, and would add them to a list:

    Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
    Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson (I've enjoyed a number of Paterson's books, including Jacob Have I Loved).

    Kathleen said...

    Thanks for this post! I've started chapter books out loud with my 4 year old and I'm always looking for suggestions! He really enjoyed "Sideways Stories from Wayside School," which is a lot goofier than I remember it being when I was little! Maybe that's why I liked it back then... but he really enjoyed it!

    (I don't know if you remember me from Zanesville... I'm Mary Beth's age. I found your blog a little bit ago and I creep on it every once in a while! Your family is adorable and you give me such great ideas of stuff to do with my kids!)

    micahl said...

    I enjoyed your list of recommended chapter books. Many of these are favorites of ours.

    I'm curious what methods you've used to teach young children to read? Have you employed technology (i.e. ipad apps), or have you done most of the teaching yourself? What have you found to be the most successful? And have your methods been different with each child?

    Our son Emmett is 4. He knows the alphabet and the sounds of the letters and he can sound out basic words. However, he still prefers to have books read to him instead of reading them himself. I'm trying to find a way to help him take the next step. Any suggestions?

    Rachael said...

    Great question about teaching my children to read--the short answer is that I haven't, and I've done so (or not done so) deliberately. Our oldest three children have entered kindergarten at the same stage where Emmett is now, and then learned to read rapidly enough that they are reading at a third-grade reading level when they exit kindergarten (atypical for their class; at that point they continue to stay well above grade level and their teachers have struggled to find material that is sufficiently challenging for them within the classroom framework, even in the dedicated high-ability classrooms).

    I've done this for several reasons. One, I love the reading time that we have together, and I don't want to diminish the quality of that time by adding in reading lessons too early, especially after working with my kindergarten-aged child and seeing what a frustrating and lengthy process it can be even with an older and motivated child (it's an exercise in patience akin to potty-training but seems to last much longer!). I enjoy reading aloud with my children as a time to snuggle up together; as they learn to read independently, that time disappears; there is a brief period where reading together becomes a stressful time for us both and then once they grasp the concepts, they're off on their own and no longer interested in reading with me. Which is all well and good, but I do miss the opportunity to physically hold them and have that bonding time. It's not something I am eager to give up.

    Secondly, I don't want my children to be bored in kindergarten, since few of their classmates enter knowing how to read, and we have really struggled with behavioral issues in first grade when they are so far above grade level, bored by the classroom work, and acting out in consequence (our school doesn't begin full-time gifted classrooms until 2nd grade). My oldest spent much of her first-grade year sitting in a corner of the classroom reading Harry Potter books while the rest of her class sounded out letter combinations; I don't want to begin that process even earlier in kindergarten. I have so many friends who have told me that they did not begin to thrive until college, since they were so bored in elementary/middle/high school that they goofed off and got poor grades until the academic rigor of collegiate courses began.

    With that said, if you do want Emmett to learn to read on his own prior to beginning kindergarten, I have heard wonderful things about this book: I can't speak personally to its efficacy, but that's the one I have seen most often recommended.

    Obviously I have some decided opinions on this topic, so it's not unbiased in any way, but let me know if you have any other questions I can answer!

    micahl said...

    I really appreciate your thoughts -- thanks for sharing! I like the approach of letting them learn at their own pace and enjoying the family reading time in the interim. Your perspective (coupled with your experiences) helps me let go of the fact that one of Emmett's classmates was reading before 3. It's too easy to be that "overly involved parent" know, the one that ultimately does more harm than good. Thanks for providing some perspective and helping me see things more clearly!

    Rebekah said...

    Great list! Might I add the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody? I'm reading aloud the series to my kids (ages 13, 11, 9, 7, and 5) and everyone loves the stories. Just fantastic books. Also the Great Brain books are very entertaining, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a MUST READ in my family. :)

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