As much as I adore the Frog and Toad series (or really, all Arnold Lobel books, and maybe Owl at Home is my very favorite) and the many other I-Can-Read books, it has been so exciting when my kids graduated to easy chapter books that they could read on their own. Eila made that transition not so very long ago, and Ada is getting ready for it soon.
But while longer picture books, and easy I-Can-Read books are a dime a dozen, it can be harder to find easy chapter books for early readers. Having made it through this transitional phase a few times here, we’ve found some easy chapter books for kids that we can happily recommend.
All kids are different, and so are their reading preferences and skills, so if possible (if you don’t live over seas without a library like the lovely reader who commented here and inspired this post) check out the books and find the ones that are right for your child. When that’s not possible, read reviews and look at previews on Amazon. All of these books below are ones that we’ve read a hundred times and thoroughly enjoy.
If you’re still looking for early chapter books, Janssen has some really good recommendations over on Everyday Reading.
Also, remember that while you are anxiously waiting for your kids to transition to the next level of reading, reading some of the more advanced chapter books aloud together is a lot of fun. Long before my kids were ready to them on their own, we read aloud all the Road Dahl books and some of the Edward Eager books.
Beginner Chapter Books for Young Readers
1. Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne
This is the best series of beginner chapter books we’ve come across. All three of my girls have enjoyed these books that follow the adventure of Jack and Annie, siblings that discover a magic tree house that take them on adventures through time and space. The kids love these for the mystery and adventure, plus they have short chapters, a few illustrations to break up the text, and are easy reads. I loved the discussions that so many of the books got started for us – lively discussions about the history of the Titanic, the science behind volcanoes, and what really happened during the American Revolution.
2. Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
This is such a fun series of books! Mercy Watson is a pig, a porcine wonder as her owners fondly refer to her, that stumbles onto all sorts of mischief. There are short chapters and illustrations and though an early reader will find some words they need help with, it’s a great series of books for transitioning to chapter books. My girls and I always find ourselves doing a lot of funny accents when we read these books, which inevitably has everyone listening giggling. I think these are just the sweetest books. They are a bit easier to read than Magic Tree House, mostly because they are shorter.
3. Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
This is another good series of easy to read chapter books. Nate is a kid detective solving the other mysteries of the kids in his neighborhood – a missing cookie, a missing beach bag, a missing picture. They’ve been around since the 1970’s and I remember reading them when I was in kindergarten/first grade so it was fun to see my kids reading them too. Short chapters and a few illustrations to break up the text.
4. A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
There are 26 books in this series, a mystery for every letter in the alphabet (plus, a follow up series called A to Z Mysteries Super Edition). Three kid detectives solving clever little mysteries. It’s similar in style and reading level to The Magic Tree House books, and kind of old fashioned in execution. Great fun and a lot of books to work your way through, which is something my kids always love.
5. Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
Though easier to read than the Beverly Cleary books, and ideal for a transitional chapter book, the character Dory has been compared to Ramona. I disagree. I love Ramona, but Dory . . . not so much. That being said, my kids love Dory. She is a rascal of a little sister and her antics always left my girls giggling. When Eila was reading this book, she kept wanting to come read passages out loud to me because she thought they were so hilarious – I call that reading success!
6. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
Flat Stanley is awesome. These books are from the 1960’s, but a recent reprint has made them popular all over again. When Stanley wakes up one morning he discovers that a bulletin board fell on him during the night and he is now only a half inch thick – he becomes Flat Stanley. My kids loved every book in this silly series. Easy to read, every book around a hundred pages.
7. Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
These books are in our family’s personal hall of fame. They have been Eila’s favorite books since she transitioned to chapter books and I think she’s read every single one multiple times and is now reading them aloud to her younger sister. For that reason alone, I say they are wonderful. They are two girls, unlikely friends, who become a dynamic duo. There is mischief and some adventure, but mostly it’s just the ordinary world of young kid stuff, which is probably why Eila loves them so much – she can relate. A few illustrations, short chapters. They are about girls, but I don’t think they necessarily have to be “girl books” – depends on your kid I suppose. Check them out.
8. The Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott
Another good series like the Magic Tree House books, but with more magic and wizardry to liven up the stories. Shorter chapter books, around a hundred pages each, but a lot of good fun. Three kids find a staircase into a magic world, the secret world of Droon, where adventure ensues. They are exciting, classic good vs. evil stories where good always wins. Bonus, there are a whole bunch of these so if they’re a hit, your child will have plenty to read!
9. The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
These books are a step up from the Magic Tree House series. They are still easy to read, but they are longer, have less pictures, and introduce a few more new words. They are a great transition series into “real chapter books” when your child is ready to move up a little. They are told from the perspective of a classroom hamster and my kids all agree that they are really funny. While transitioning, this is a great book to read aloud together – you read a page, I’ll read a page.
10. Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
I adored these mysteries when I was a kid and my kids feel the same way now. They are a small step up from the Magic Tree House series, but perfect for kids looking for a little bit more of a challenge. The books each have several mysteries to solve and give the reader the chance to solve them first before they give away the solutions. They are old fashioned (from the 1960’s) but the mysteries remain just as compelling as ever. A really great series of books!
Graphic Novels + Comic Books for Young Readers
We love graphic novels and comic books here and I think they can be really great during that transitional reading phase between picture books and chapter books. There are many that are surprisingly well written and because they are so visually appealing to kids, they really help foster a love of reading. My five and seven year old girls will sit and read these aloud to each other for hours! Eila even has what we’ve dubbed her “Calvin and Hobbes voice” that makes us all grin here.
These are few graphic novels and comic books that we’d recommend for kids just entering the chapter book phase.
1. Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
The dry humor in this series still appeals to me and all of my kids love Binky. He’s really just a house cat, but he’s convinced that he’s really a “space cat,” so he goes about trying to get to outer space. It’s laugh out loud funny and though it’s a great graphic novel for young readers, readers of all ages can appreciate Binky.
These graphic novels are new to us, but fast becoming favorite reads here. They are about the same length and reading level as The Magic Tree House series, but written in the graphic novel style. Geronimo Stilton is the editor of the Rodent Gazette, the newspaper of Mouse City, and his journalistic adventure writing is so much fun. We highly recommend this unique series!
3. Owly by Andy Runton
This graphic novel series, which doesn’t have a lot of words, might seem like a strange choice for a advancing reader book list. However, I feel like the books in this series tell complex stories, even if they are mainly told through pictures. I find that as my girls “read” these books and tell the stories in their own words, that they are really doing a surprising amount of learning about reading and the art of storytelling. Owly is the most lovable character and these books are really well done!
4. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
These comic books are pure genius. They capture the essence of being six, the essence of childhood so incredibly well so it’s no surprise that my kids adore these books. I include them on this advancing reader list because I feel like they’ve added so many great words to my kids’ vocabulary. All the time I’m asking them where they learned a surprisingly big word that they are using correctly in conversation and they’ll point me back to Calvin and Hobbes.
5. Stick Dog by Tom Watson
These are great chapter books/comic books. Similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, but easier to read. The plots are simple, action like Stick Dog and his buddies trying to swipe a hamburger, but my kids find them hilarious. The really bad stick drawings only add to the humor. Plenty of words, but easy to read.