Notes on Raising Readers, and a Chapter Book Reading List

A voracious reader as a child, I handpick most of the books my school-age children read. This informal book-review habit is part-recreation, part-precaution, and part-service for other families. A librarian once asked if I would be interested in a job at the local library, because “you know how to find the best books!”

Here is our GrowMama Chapter Book Reading List for Elementary Readers. I developed this list over months of reading aloud, scanning library shelves, reading Amazon’s reviews, and referring to recommendations such as those found in Books that Build Character and the Mighty Girl’s website. I hope you find the list helpful and that your children relish these stories as much as we have. This list does not include picture books, although many of the titles would make excellent read-alouds. Young mothers for whom it is too early to make use of a booklist, you have an advantage; see my note below.

My older children have learned through experience that if they can be patient with slow, unfolding beginnings, most mother-recommended books are the can’t-put-down type. The benefits of instilling a love for good literature are widely lauded by experts, but some specific advantages I have found in a high-quality reading list are that values in these books are often a step up from popular mass-produced series. Rich, solid chapter books explore more complex themes, nurture longer attention spans, and naturally develop vocabulary, literary appreciation, and a strong writing style (Be patient- these perks develop at their own pace and may or may not include good spelling!)

If you have a reluctant reader or an older child who has gotten used to reading a lot of fluff, here are a few tips:

  1. Make use of audiobooks in the car to draw them into a good story, then leave a hard copy lying around in plain view and watch to see if they pick it up. Listen to audiobooks instead of running the dvd player during road trips.

  2. Have a rule that children must read the first two chapters, or the first 20 pages, of a book before they decide to pass on it.

  3. Weekly trips to the library are the counterpart of a reading lifestyle-our family regularly checks out 50-100 books a month.

  4. Choose a spot in the house, a coffee table or a low shelf, where you attractively present selected books. Visiting a friend’s house, I loved how she decorated her coffee table with colorful, interesting biographies on basketball players and other topics her kids were interested in. Just as Montessori method suggests attractive “invitations to play”, create intriguing “invitations to read.” I have these sling bookshelves in my living room.

  5. If incentives will help change your child’s reading patterns, I say go for it!

  6. For parents who are already shaking their heads, convinced that nothing can persuade their resistant reader into a diet of rich, healthy reading, I suggest you read this article.

Moms of pre-readers, my advice is to expose your children to the kind of literature you want them to be reading as early as possible, through reading aloud, frequent trips to the library (don’t be afraid to load up with books!), listening to audiobooks in the car, and filling a bookshelf in their room with high quality, age-appropriate titles from the used bookstore. When children are young, you have the liberty to shape their tastes and interests in reading and entertainment, a license that diminishes with age. The cute, stimulating, TV-character storybooks are fine in small doses, but try to develop an interest in books that move slowly with rhythmic language, inspire wonder, require a little more attention to words and detail, and explore non-fiction, natural phenomena, and biographies. Some of my favorite collections for pre-reading and early-reading children include Diana Aston’s collection: A Seed is Sleepy, An Egg is Quiet, and her other titles; David Adler’s Picture Book Biographies; and books by Gail Gibbons.

Maha Ezzeddine

Maha is a homeschooling mother of four children and an active MAS worker who enjoys reading, blogging, and working for Islam.

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