The right chapter books for early readers can turn a reluctant reader into a voracious reader! I love these books about friends and families; they are sweet and funny stories that are age appropriate for children who are early advanced readers and yet still interesting for more typically developing readers. Think: ages 6-10 (or as young as 4 or 5 if you have a super-advanced reader like I did!).
These are perfect beginning chapter books for kindergarten and first grade shelves, as well as second and third graders. Kids will relate to the tales of friendship foibles and family squabbles and love.
If you want a bit of extra help finding the right book for your child at the library, read my parent tips and hints for finding and choosing chapter books.
And, don’t forget, I have many other beginning chapter book lists! Find them all here –> early chapter books.
(Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Cobble Street Cousins by Cynthia Rylant. Three cousins live with their aunt while their professional dancer-parents (all 6 of them!) are touring the world. Lily, Tess and Rosie have lots of wholesome neighborhood adventures like baking and selling cookies and putting on theatricals. For parents who want to avoid sassy characters, this is a good series; lauded author Cynthia Rylant has a talent for writing stories which are simultaneously modern and old-fashioned.
Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows. This series has become wildly popular and probably needs no introduction. Two quirky girls let their imagination run wild in this stellar early chapter book series about friends. Sophie Blackall’s black and white illustrations are just as good as the writing.
The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo. Judy Blume’s 1969 short chapter book is a classic and still a wonderful read. (It was also her first published book!) Middle kid Freddie wants to stand out from the pack and takes a chance in a school play. It all pans out and Freddie scores a win for middle children everywhere. Terrific.
The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume. The first book reads as a long picture book with a larger format, chapter divisions and full-color illustrations. That makes it a nice introduction and will entice kids to pick up the more traditional early chapter book installments which continue the adventures of brother (the Pain) and sister (the Great One). The stories are told in alternating views. As the sister of a younger brother I completely relate to these books and I appreciate that Blume paints a realistic picture of sibling life!
Nikki and Deja. Karen English’s lovely series about two friends was a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year. It’s funny, sweet, and all girls who have a BFF will be able to relate to Nikki and Deja’s friendship and the lessons they learn.
Magical Mix Up series by Lynne Jonell. I read the second book, Grasshopper Magic out loud to my then-6 year old, and he quite liked it and asked for more. There was is quite a bit of age appropriate humor and it’s a very friendly sort of book series. In each book four siblings encounter a bit of magic, whose source is beneath their lawn and they rally around each other to undo the magical mix up.
Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban. This is a lovely book about a boy who enjoys spending time with his dad. While not heavy headed, it is clear that Max’s parents are separated and readers follow Max as he begins to learn that his dad’s home is his home, too.
Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Julianna Swaney. The Book Uncle is a friendly gentlemen who helps children in India find just the right book at the street corner lending library he runs. This is a terrific story about one girl’s determination to stand up and protest corrupt politicians who threaten to put Book Uncle out of business. Yasmin’s story will inspire your kids to work towards a goal and learn about the value of community involvement.
Only One Year by Andrea Cheng. Sharon’s baby brother DiDi is being sent to China to live with their grandparents for a year, while their mother goes back to work. Over the year, Sharon and her sister, Mary keep up with DiDi through photographs until he returns. A lovely, gentle story that will give kids a new look at family life.
Gone Fishing, and Gone Camping by Tamera Will Wissinger. I adore these two books, written in verse, about families spending time together. In the first, Sam and his father head out to fish when his sister, Lucy, tags along. In Gone Camping, Lucy camps with her Sam and grandfather. The books are easy to read and cover a variety of poetic forms. Wonderfully unique and a great way to get kids to read poetry.
Ruby and the Booker Boys (series) by Derrick Barnes. Ruby is 8 and has three popular older brothers. But the cheerful, upbeat Ruby is determined to hold her own in this sweet early chapter book series about a loving, if mischievous family.
Shelter Pet Squad (series)by Cynthia Lord. Suzannah is not allowed to have a pet in her apartment, so she decides to volunteer at the local pet shelter. Suzannah and her friends work together to take care of the animals. I love the way the books also include facts about the animals as well as crafts!
Zigzag Kids by Patricia Reilly Giff. Ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade, a diverse group of kids come together for an after school program where they engage in fun learning experiences. Each early chapter book about friends focuses on a different kid and his or her challenges and triumphs.
In addition to Zigzag Kids, prolific and award winning author Patricia Reilly Giff also wrote the extensive The Kids of the Polk Street School, the The New Kids of Polk Street School, and the Polk Street Mysteries! I like these books because although the characters learn realistic life lessons about things like how to be a good friend and student, the stories do not come off as preachy.
Double Trouble by Abby Klein. This series, chronicling the adventures of twins Kelly and Kasey, is a spin-off of the popular Ready, Freddy! books. Twins are not as rare as they used to be, and the comedy will appeal to a lot of young readers. The books end with an activity page.
The Elevator Family by Douglas Evans. This is a funny trio of books about a kooky family who takes up residence in the elevator of a hotel building. A bit odd, yes, but their cheerful dispositions and unfailing kindness are contagious to everyone they meet.
Riverside Kids by Johanna Hurwitz is one of my favorite series. Set in an apartment building in New York City’s Upper West Side, groups of siblings live in neighboring apartments. The two main families consist of Nora and her brother Teddy, and Russell and his sister Elisa. The children have lovely big city adventures and, unlike in many series, the kids age up as the series continues. As far as I can tell, Busybody Nora is the only one still in print but I’m delighted to see that many of the books are available as Kindle versions. And of course, check your local library.
Beans on the Roof. Newbery author, Byars wrote this cheerful book about a group of siblings and their parents who write poetry on the roof of their apartment building. (How many families can you say that about?) I really enjoyed the loving relationship between parents and children as George struggles with writer’s block and Anna suffers a disappointment.
More book lists to love: