Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More Books, Please – Chapter Books

Have you ever heard of someone who would write the first of a series of blog posts in January, and then not write the second post until June?  I mean, really, who would do that?  Someone that disorganized should not have a blog in the first place.  Sheesh.


So… a while back I wrote about our poetry sessions at breakfast.  I haven’t done the best at keeping a poetry book around (we usually get them from our library, and somehow it’s hard for me to stay on top of…. kind of like blogging), so this has been an on and off thing for us lately.  M has actually been asking for poems in the mornings, so hopefully that will give me the motivation I need to pick something up, like this.

In this article about the importance of reading aloud to children, Andrew Pudewa points out that we sometimes forget about the importance of listening as part of communicating.  We teach children to read, write, and speak correctly, but we overlook listening. 

When you think about it, it seems obvious that language is learned by listening… the human brain is simply geared that way.  Children will learn to speak their native language by hearing it spoken.  They will pick up on correct grammar, vocabulary, etc. naturally.  Listening is the primary means of learning to speak correctly.  Reading is something that has to be taught, and communicating clearly can not be taught solely by good reading skills.

“In fact, it’s an interesting observation, but many children who become early readers, independent readers—good readers--often do not store complete and correct language patterns in their brains. Good readers read quickly, silently, and aggressively. They don’t audiate (hear internally) each word or even complete sentences. Generally, comprehension increases with speed, but speed decreases language pattern audiation because good readers will skip words, phrases and even complete sections of books that might hold them back. And to the extent that children don’t hear (frequently) a multitude of complete, reliably correct, and sophisticated language patterns, such patterns are not going to be effectively stored in their brains.” – Andrew Pudewa, One Myth, Two Truths

So it’s important to read good, quality literature aloud to your children, even if they are super readers! 

I want to share some of our favorite chapter books with you, and hope you’ll share yours in the comments section. 

I try to pick out well-written, wholesome, and developmentally-appropriate chapter books for us to read together as a family.  Think Little House on the Prairie types. :)  Although, interestingly, Little House doesn’t hold M’s attention yet… perhaps he doesn’t get that same little thrill from reading about sweeping out the house and airing out the mattresses as I did when I was little. :)  Maybe in another year or two? 

Keep in mind that audio books are an excellent way to get in some story listening too.  They are wonderful for car trips and quiet time.  We will read a chapter or two of our current read-aloud book at lunch and/or bedtime; then at rest time (when it happens) M listens to an audio version of a different book – sometimes he will keep resting in order to listen to an entire book (up to 2 hours!).  See – that makes you want to keep audio books around, doesn’t it?

Our absolute favorites:

I’ve noted the age that M was at when reading these books, just as a basic guideline for appropriateness.


        (age 4)

The Story of Doctor Dolittle and The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting (1920 and 1922)

The idea of talking to and understanding animals captured M’s imagination right from the start.  There are some hilarious parts in this book, and it is no wonder it is a classic.  Warning: some negative racial language is used, and you’ll want to read ahead and determine how you will handle this (edit?  read as is and have a discussion?).  It’s a shame because it is such a wonderful story.  I think more recent editions have been changed slightly to avoid this… I’m not a fan of editing classics, but in this case it might be for the best.  These are books that shouldn’t be left unread simply because of a few politically-incorrect sections.  You can also find these complete books online (ready to load to an e-reader) here, and there’s an audio version!


  (age 3) (This image links to a set of 5 of Burgess’s books, but there are a LOT more!)

The Thornton Burgess series about animals.  These were all written between 1910 and the mid 1950s.  Burgess wrote a couple of picture books, but his chapter books are what M loves.  These are actually the first real chapter books I read to M.  They are wonderful.  Some of these are available as online downloads, here.  These make great jumping off points for unit studies about animals, forests, and that sort of thing too!


(age 5)

The Enchanted Castle, by Edith Nesbit (1907) – full of magic, in rare places a bit dark… I found I had to edit parts that would disturb M.  Overall well worth reading.  M used the enchanted castle in his pretend play for weeks while we were reading this.  Download here.


(age late 3, 4)

The Littles (first published in 1967) – a cute series by John Peterson (look for the chapter books, not the easy readers!)


(age 5)

The Rescuers, by Margery Sharp (1959) – super exciting adventure.


(age 4)

Stuart Little, by E. B. White (1945) – funny little adventure and story about friendship.


  (age 5)

The Boxcar Children, a series by Gertrude Chandler Warner (First published in 1924) – there are so many books in this series you will never run out of anything to read!  These are about adventurous children who love to work and are always polite, and they solve mysteries. :)  Exciting and character-building at the same time.  These also come as audio books, complete with voices for each character (check your library).  There is a more modern series about these same children (different author), which are also very good, but we prefer the originals. 


(age 5)

Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1916) – great story about a little girl learning to be independent (if you are a fan of Montessori, you will love this book!)  Download it here.


(age 4)

Hank the Cowdog Series by John Erickson (1982).  There are a LOT of these also.  Hank does not have the best grammar, but he is hilarious and we all laugh at these books. 


(age 3)

Beatrix Potter books (published beginning in 1902) – wonderful stories; you can download them here, and some are available as audio downloads. (age 3)


(age early 3)

The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne (1926) – very loved, gentle stories about childhood.  Great vocabulary too!


(age 5)

Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (1934) - this is what we are currently reading, and there is a whole series to explore.  These are magical and imaginative, and much better than the movie (which M has never seen)… although the movie is great too, don’t get me wrong!  I’m so glad we found the books, though!

Which chapter books does your family love to listen to?

Have a beautiful day!

Nicole :)


  1. Wow... you are late but the latest!!! (In posting ofcourse!) Anyway, what a lovely resourceful post! Thanks for this!

  2. It's an interesting quote about importance of listening. My daughter is definitely one of those aggressive early readers that can swallow a big book in 1 or 2 hours, but I still read a lot to her. Now I feel even better as to why. You compiled a great list of chapter books, I'll be looking for some of them in the library.

  3. Great list! I have run into about 3 recommendations for Doctor Dolittle this week. I guess we will have to add that to our list!
    Miles is 5, and we just finished up "Homer Price," and have started on "Centerburg Tales." These are both by Robert McClosky the guy who wrote "Blueberries for Sal." Very good and funny books. They have Miles laughing so hard! :)

    1. We love Robert McCloskey, but I have never heard of these books - will definitely have to look for them! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  4. I was surprised at how much Sam loves Little House books. I was reading them and thinking, "Wow, I liked these? I still do, but they are really slow for an action loving boy - he's going to hate this!" But instead, he jumps up after every chapter and reenacts something. Right now we are reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I know people have mixed views, but it's one of my all time favorites. I remember reading it to my little brother and I couldn't wait to read it to Sam. I wanted to be sure he was old enough to enjoy and remember it though so I waited til now. He LOVES it. I've never read him a book that he refused to let me put down. It's been 2 days, and we're almost done! Thanks for this list - I just requested a few from the library.

    1. I have felt the same way... maybe I need to revisit them sooner than I was thinking. To be honest, we started with Farmer Boy and there was just so. much. beating. I could just imagine Matthew in tears on every page. :) Maybe if we start off with one of the other ones... we'll see! I'll have to keep Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in mind; maybe read it myself first since I never have!

  5. We're reading Ordinary Princess right now to my little Princess. We're also reading the Borrowers, which from my understanding is similar to "The Littles." We read them the first 3 Harry Potter books, but are waiting on later ones.

    I've got a long list of chapter books I look forward to sharing, thanks for reminding me about Mary Poppins.

    1. The Borrowers is hands-down one of my favorites. I tried reading it to Matthew at too young of an age, I think... the style of speaking was so old-fashioned and he had a question mark on his face during the entire first chapter... just wasn't getting it. This is why I decided to go with The Littles first, but the Borrowers is definitely on my list!! I've never heard of Ordinary Princess - sounds cute. :) Harry Potter is a little dark for Matthew at this point, I'd say, but I can definitely see your boys getting into them (the excitement and magic... not the dark part, gee that didn't sound right).
      I owe you an email, Ticia... working on it. ;)


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