by Lisa Ripperton
January 10, 2019
This on-going series – Introducing Chapter Books – is intended to highlight books that are ideal for families who are just beginning to read chapter books aloud with their children. In our experience we have found that children are typically ready to undertake the challenge of listening to stories without illustrations on each page around age five, and all of the books mentioned in this series have been selected with this age and purpose in mind. A later series will discuss books to use when your child is transitioning to reading chapter books independently.
After enjoying picture books for several years, children are typically ready to undertake the challenge of listening to stories without needing to see pictures on every page by the time they are five. In our experience, this age marks an ideal time to introduce books with fewer illustrations and more text, if you haven't done so before.
The key to success is to choose books that capture your children's interest and attention. We've found over the years that most children love the Burgess Bedtime Story-Book series – spirited stories about the animals who make their home in the Green Meadow – and we recommend that you try a title from that series first. (You can start with any one of the 20 titles, but children may prefer to read them in order once they discover that the last paragraph of each book reveals the name of the next one in the series.)
In the first book of the series, young Reddy Fox is sent to Granny Fox "to learn the things that every fox should know." He also encounters Johnny Chuck, Peter Cottontail, Unc' Billy Possum, and others, all of whom will be memorably featured in later books of the series. Granny Fox has all sorts of clever ways of teaching Reddy, and the other animals in the Green Meadow help out in his training too, alternately playing tricks on, and looking out for, one another.
Everything is done with such a spirit of fun and good humor that most children find these tales to be absolutely delightful. The listener also can't help but absorb information about how the different animals act, how they gain sustenance, where they live, what dangers they face, and how they avoid them.
Although the titles in the Bedtime Story-Book series are excellent ones to read aloud to begin strengthening your children's listening skills, they may not appeal to everyone. The children who love them really love them, but the ones that don't, well, don't. If your child falls in the latter category, don’t worry – there are plenty of other books to read aloud to this age group, and we’ll be posting more on this topic soon! (Please also email us here if you have questions about specific titles. We love helping people find the perfect books to read with their children!)
And, even if your child loves the Bedtime Story-Books, we suggest that you don't read more than a half dozen or so aloud to them. This way, in a year or two when your child is ready to begin reading independently, they can return to this series with gusto, and reading will be all the easier for them because of their familiarity with the vocabulary and way sentences are structured, as well as with the characters and setting.
We hope your children will join the generations of children who have enjoyed the books in Thornton W. Burgess's Bedtime Story-Book series since they were first written over a century ago – give them a try and be sure to leave a comment below to let us know how it goes!