As parents, we are always on the lookout for milestones with our children. We diligently record (or try to remember to record) when they took that first step or lost their first tooth. We take pictures on their first day of school, so we can remember their brave smiles the first time they climbed onto the bus all by themselves.
Some of those milestones are literary. We proudly record our little ones parroting back a favorite board book and keep the report card where their teacher extols their reading habits. And somewhere along the way, our kids go from snuggling close while you read Courderoy and Madeline to reading a book Percy Jackson all by themselves.
But the transition itself can be tricky. How do you take your child from picture books to chapter books? You can't jump straight from The Cat in the Hat to Harry Potter, of course. Here are some suggestions for the little reader who needs some longer books!
1. Grow with a character
If your child already has a character they know and love in picture books, check to see if you can also find them in chapter books. I know that Fancy Nancy evolved into Nancy Clancy chapter books and Cam Jansen has both easy readers and chapter books for your young sleuths.
2. Branches Books
These books from Scholastic are specifically written for kids who are between picture books and chapter books. There are several series here, and each one is illustrated and has short chapters. My toddler is currently enjoying the Missy's Super Duper Royal Deluxe series.
3. Kate DiCamillo
Hi. Huge Kate DiCamillo fans here. She seems to have a wonderful understanding of what transitioning readers want in their books and her Bink and Gollie, Mercy Watson, and Tales from Deckawoo Drive books are all in high demand around here. And they make this mom laugh, which is some serious icing on the cake if you are the one who is doing the bedtime reading.
4. Stories instead of chapters
Some of the trouble of chapter books is the sheer number of bedtimes it will take for you or your little one to read to the end. Sometimes it works best if you are reading one story at a time instead of one chapter at a time. The Winnie the Pooh books are perfect for this and you could read a mystery or two with Nate the Great before lights out.
5. Have hope
There are several series out there that are perfect for kids just starting chapter books. The trouble, of course, is finding them. We have had a lot of success with the Princess in Black books as well as Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robots series. When in doubt, look for chapter books that have pictures or ask your neighborhood librarian!