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Encouraging chapter books

Each child’s reading journey is unique, but in a world where screens compete fiercely with books, KELLY EDEN outlines ways we can ensure our children catch the chapter book bug.

Inspiring the leap
The leap from the colourful world of picture books to the imagination-stirring realm of novels usually occurs sometime between ages six and nine. 

To inspire our kids to make the shift from picture books to chapter books, we need to sell it to them. Reading aloud to them regularly has a big impact. 

When children are read aloud to at least three times a week and we discuss stories with them, they read more often themselves and are better at it than peers who are not being read to. (When I was teaching I even read aloud to my teenage students.)  

Why not start with a book you loved as a child? 

Try Charlotte’s Web, Dick King-Smith books, or Little Women (illustrated abridged classics make nice read alouds) and of course Roald Dahl and David Walliams books are always a hit with kids of any age.

Which chapter book?
To succeed with chapter books, it’s important to help our children choose well. Most kids left alone to choose will pick based on the cover and early readers can easily get turned off if what they choose ends up being too hard.

It has to be at the right level or the flow of the story gets lost and your child will understand very little of what they read. 

Ask your child to read a full page out loud to you, and silently count how many words they get wrong.
If they make more than four or five errors per page, suggest kindly that the book is a little too hard right now, but that it won’t be long before they will be able to manage it. Or you could read it with them, quickly filling in incorrect words so they don’t lose the flow of the story.

Easy beginner chapter book series: Billy B Brown, Little Animal Ark, Zac Power, Rainbow Fairies.

Slightly harder chapter book series: Judy Moody, Geronimo Stilton, Wild Rescue, New Zealand Girl, Secret Seven, The Templeton Twins.

Books especially for boys
Boys can be harder to convince when it comes to reading novels, but there are some great books to inspire even the most reluctant male reader.

Try reading some of the following to or alongside your boy: Holes by Louis Sachar, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Zac Power by H. I. Larry, Willard Price’s classic adventure books, or the modern equivalent such as Leopard Adventure by Anthony McGowan, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, or Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey.

Research has shown that light reading leads to more
in-depth reading, so if your child is struggling to be interested in reading at all, try introducing comics.
Comic books help reluctant readers gain confidence and learn to enjoy reading. Often they even introduce sophisticated new vocabulary.

Kelly Eden and her daughter have published Help! I’m Moving to Mars specifically for early chapter book readers. It has been recommended by the author of EJ Girl Hero and Spy School series, Susannah McFarlane and New Zealand author, Sarah Johnson.

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