The Transition from Picture Books to Chapter Books: 3 Sure Tips to Help Your Little Bookworm
Updated: Nov 7
Image from Michelle Cornish, 2020
As parents of beginner readers, the question is how to go from ten-page books with pictures taking up half the pages to eighty-page books that are covered head to toe in words.
Of course, we cannot go through life just reading picture books but there is a real struggle in getting a child to graduate to chapter books. In some cases, a child is left reading a book that is way out of their comfort zone which can lead to frustration. We do not want a child growing frustrated while reading as it can hinder their growth and destroy their passion. Now chapter books play a significant role in the development of literacy and comprehension. Readers are introduced to longer and more complex tests that offer a wider range of vocabulary which contributes to language development. Chapter books also drive readers to understand and retain information over a variety of chapters and plotlines. The longer narratives encourage comprehension growth and sustained attention. With more detailed plots and characters, readers can make connection, think critically, and problem-solve. Not only is there intellectual growth, but chapter books also open a child’s mind to new ideas and experiences that activate social awareness and empathy.
Tips to Guide Your Readers to Chapter Books
Tip #1 Find Chapter Books That Connects to Your Child’s Interests
In finding a starter chapter book, it is beneficial to look for books that have shorter chapters and larger texts. That way you can start your child off slow and estimate how well they can transition to books that are longer and more text-filled. However, what can be extremely crucial is selecting books that align with a child’s hobbies, passions, and interests. We are taking away illustrations with chapter books which means we are losing a big factor that engages readers, so we must find other factors that will make the reading experience more enjoyable. If the child is reading a book that contains a subject that he/she likes, the child can relate to the book and will be more likely to continue reading.
Tip #2 Be A Part of the Reading Process with Your Child.
While you’ll want your child to become independent with their reading, when you are first starting your child out it is best to be a part of the process with them.
• Creating a reading routine- Establish a routine where you and your child will set aside specific times to read together.
• Model Reading- Young children will often try to imitate the actions of their parents. If your child sees you reading, they will most likely join in on the action. Being enthusiastic about reading will encourage your child to share the same emotion.
• Discuss the book- Create discussions about the contents of the book and have your child participate in them. Ask questions about the characters, plot, and setting. Share any personal opinions on the book and clarify any questions your child may have.
Tip #3 Follow Reading Levels
Reading levels are a detailed measure of a child’s reading progress. It provides a solid framework to assess a child’s level of reading and where their skills are currently at. Test your child by asking them to read a specific text at a specific level. Then use reading levels to determine whether their skills are at, above, or below the grade level they are expected to be in. Additionally, evaluate if your child can advance to a higher level or require additional support. Parents can then select reading resources and materials that are at the right degree of difficulty to ensure that their child has access to resources that are appropriate for them and their reading abilities.
Reading levels can be used in various ways and forms:
Fountas & Pinnell- Reading levels are classified alphabetically with “A” representing early readers and “Z” representing readers who are at or above an eighth-grade reading skill.
Developmental Reading Assessment- To examine a child’s independent reading and match the skills on a numbered scale from 1-80.
Lexile Measurement- This framework measures reading comprehension in a child’s abilities and book levels. A school or state-wide test is used to determine a child’s Lexile reading measure.
Accelerated Reader Levels- AR levels are found through computerized quizzes or tests that measure a child’s comprehension and knowledge of a book they have read.
Image by Traci Clausen, 2013
However, it is important to note that reading levels can serve merely as a framework or guide in a child’s reading education, but it is not necessary to be so strict with it. A child at any age can appreciate a book from any reading level. The key is to make reading enjoyable through positivity and patience so that a lifelong passion for books and reading can grow. Some readers may grow their skills quickly and other may take more time, but as long as they are reading then the kids are learning and growing. Eventually, we want our young readers to feel comfortable enough to advance and enhance their reading independently. If a young reader enjoys a book, simply let them read.
Our Picks of Starter Chapter Books to Introduce to Young Readers.
1. Junie B. Jones Series by Barbara Park
This series stars the titular character, Junie B. Jones, who takes on the adventures of a growing girl. She goes through the everyday shenanigans dealing with the numerous obstacles of school, friends, family, and just overall life. An easy-to-read chapter book with lots of humor that young readers will appreciate. Beginning readers can laugh while building upon their reading skills
Reading Level: M, ages 6-8
2. Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne
The adventures of two siblings and their magic tree house full of books. Readers can be taken on adventures through time and all around the world alongside Jack and Annie. The complexity and difficulty of the writing have been known to increase within the books of the series, which can help kids push their reading along.
Reading Level: L-N, ages 6-10
3. A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
Follow the journey of Bat and his friendship with an orphaned baby skunk. While Bat exhibits behaviors of autism, it is never directly stated in the book. This book contains a simple plot with a complex character that showcases real-life situations of kids on the spectrum and divorced families. Young readers may find Bat relatable or unique, nonetheless, they will get drawn into the sweet story of Bat and his skunk.
Reading Level: R, ages 7-11
4. Clubhouse Mysteries by Sharon M. Draper
A diverse group of curious and rambunctious boys start a club that leads to secret codes, treasures, meetings, and mysteries. In this chapter book series, readers are taken on the adventures of seeing the boys solve mysteries and grow in their community. Humor, friendship, suspense, and a touch of scare make a wonderful chapter book that will entice young readers into feeling like a member of the clubhouse.
Reading Level: P, ages 7-11