Preschooler chapter books

One problem with having a high reading level is that the interest level often does not match that reading level.  Jokes that are hilarious to an elementary schooler just aren’t funny to a preschooler.  Without getting the jokes, a lot of these top elementary school-level books are just boring.  So no Stink, no Horrible Harry, etc.

The local children’s librarian was a bit hostile when I asked her for recommendations (for the small child to my right who I claimed was reading and loving Magic Treehouse books) and kept recommending books at a much lower reading level.  We do love Mo Willems, but we’ve been loving all the Pigeon books (and Knuffle Bunny, and Piggie and Elephant) for many years now.  We are aware of Mo Willems and many other books at that level.  When pushed, she went to the internet and did a “If you like the Magic Treehouse, maybe you will also like…” but the Boxcar Kids didn’t work for us, nor the other suggestions.

I thought we would fix the problem with Bill Peet books, but apparently not.  Still too high of an interest level.  BUT, we did rediscover Arnold Lobel!  DC was willing to spend hir own pocket money to get more of Frog and Toad, which is always a good thing.  And DC’s favorite Mouse Tale was also my favorite (the one where the mouse wears out his feet)!  We’ve also gotten some mixed reactions to Maurice Sendek.  I always felt mixed towards Maurice Sendek too.  I need to remember to pick up some Danny and the Dinosaur type books next time we’re at the library… that’s another avenue to try, though (s)he seems to have lost interest in Go Dog Go and earlier Seuss.  I suppose we should try for Bartholomew Cubbins and other story-driven Seuss.  (S)He does like Horton quite a bit.

I also thought mystery novels would work out well– so we have all 26 A-Z mysteries, Cam Jansens, Encyclopedia Brown… no dice.  I’m hoping in a few years (s)he’ll gain interest in the above.  In the mean time they’ve just fueled my Scholastic addiction.

So what’s been working for us are what I called “magic books” growing up.  We cannot get enough of these.

The Magic Treehouse (we’re well into the Merlin Misisons now!)

Everything we can find by Ruth Chew (I wish they were still in print!!!)

The Oz books.  I was much older when I first read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and had seen the movie many times.  It’s amazing watching DC discover it in the original L. Frank Baum version for the first time.  What a wonderful book and I’m so glad it’s only part of a long series!

For us doing nighttime reading, I wonder if ze would be interested in Anne of Green Gables.  At about this age, my mom read me Peter Pan and Pinocchio and Bambi and all sorts of children’s classics, but I don’t think I could handle going through such sad and horrible books again… once in preschool was enough.  I suppose DH could do the reading.  They’re reading a lot of E.B. White at school so we don’t really need to introduce those.  We could also try Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle again.  Or Pippi Longstocking!

This forum thread has more suggestions for early readers.

I ILL’d this book on books for gifted kids. It gets a big meh.  Lots and lots of what we call in technical parlance, “touchy-feely” books.  There are some good books in there, but they’re all Newberry and Caldecott winners that are on most lists.  In any case, DC has not been impressed thus far with their picks for age 0-5, give or take.  Ze takes after hir mommy, I guess.  And how can you have suggestions for older kids without having Ender’s Game on the list (or Matilda)?  Really other than the usual suspects (Wrinkle in Time, The Dark is Rising, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh), there really weren’t a whole lot of fantasy choices.  Of course, the newest edition may have caught onto the Harry Potter craze, as this edition predated it… but not so far back that there are no options!

Do you have any good book recommendations?

39 Responses to “Preschooler chapter books”

  1. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    One of my favorite books as a preschooler was that one about those people whose airplane crashed in the Andes mountains and who eventually were forced to eat the frozen dead bodies of their fellow passengers who died in the crash to survive.

  2. First Gen American Says:

    I’m struggling right now as well. The books are either “too easy” or “too hard.” Just like he wants to be perfect at a new hobby or sport right away, it’s also the same with books. I think it’ll come with time as he builds some confidence.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    My daughter loved the Little House on the Prairie series when she was 3 and 4. The Swallows and Amazons series was a favorite when she was older. Also, check out a book called Reading for the Love of It by Michele Landsberg. She has a chapter of recommendations for young fluent readers.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I hadn’t heard of the Swallows and Amazons. I will have to look that up. I will definitely check out Reading for the Love of it. Hopefully it’s got better recommendations in it than Some of my Best Friends are Books did.

      Edit: I totally remember these Swallows and Amazons books. I LOVED them. Also Horatio Hornblower… I did a seafaring kick.

  4. Liz @ LiveWithAbundance Says:

    I was a “gifted” kid, too, and struggled with finding things to read. It might have been about third grade I was introduced to the Redwall series. Perhaps that’s an option? It gets a little repetitive, like most fiction/fantasy series that go on for too long, but I must have read at least 15 of them, some more than once. I also loved the Roald Dahl books like the BFG, and the Witches, and James and the Giant Peach. (But since Matilda’s off the list, perhaps your house isn’t a fan?) Good luck with the reading list!

    • Liz @ LiveWithAbundance Says:

      I think earlier than that I must’ve had a book of Aesop’s fables that I thought was neat. And a “My first bible” book that was interesting, too – not that I’m trying to push religion into this. I just remember really enjoying the stories as they were presented in that picture-enhanced/abridged book.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Hahaha…I couldn’t ever get through Redwall at any age.

      No no, we LOVE Matilda (it’s a bit old for hir– ze’s only in preschool). It’s just not in the stupid book on books for gifted kids that I checked out from the library. They’re pushing books in which the dog (or childhood friend) dies in the end instead. I think the author of that book is much more into children celebrating each other than in allowing the gifted kid to feel like maybe sometimes it’s ok to be different.

      I did read James and the Giant Peach in 1st grade, so maybe we should get a copy of that. The Witches freaked me out and gave me nightmares until I was in middle school. But DC loves The Gruffalo, so perhaps ze is made of sterner stuff. Though the Merlin Missions are getting a bit scary for hir. We’ve got the BFG but the print is too small and reading level still a bit high.

  5. Holly Says:

    I guess Beatrix Potter is a bit too easy for hir (and may be geared more toward a female audience, so not too good of a choice if your hir is a him);

    Maybe just a great mix of fables from Hans Christian Anderson and Aesop? Too verbose or too mature? But I guess you have done/tried those … I used to read them over and over, so many times that I could practically recite them.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ve set Beatrix Potter out, but so far ze hasn’t bitten. I’m not sure why not. I sure loved it at hir age, and the Wind in the Willows too (though come to think of it, maybe I was 6). We love Aesop’s fables– we have two copies… one has an audio cd, but the other is illustrated by Eric Carle.

  6. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom Says:

    Here’s another list of lists:

    Kids that love to read will read what’s available won’t they? We didn’t go to the library or buy children’s books when I was growing up so we were forced into reading adult books. Don’t little kids that enjoy reading read stuff like David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn ? I really enjoyed them at that age. My oldest was more of a Goosebumps fan but only reads philosophy, science and political books now. The younger one just hates reading period. :-(

    Penguin has graded readers too – adapted for reading level:

    Click to access 2010_catalog_US_readers.pdf

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thanks for the links! No… somehow I don’t think our preschooler would pick David Copperfield given the other options available. (But I may be projecting since I never got all the way through it.) Plus ze tends to avoid small type. Maybe Tom Sawyer. We briefly tried The Christmas Carol over Christmas, but maybe next year.

  7. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Man I’m going through something really similar and kind of feel like a jerk. My son is 7 and in the first grade. I don’t know, I guess I just completely underestimated him. He was always in the Advanced Reading groups in his school but I figured it wasn’t REALLY advanced. Imagine my freak-out when his aunt gave him the first three percy jackson books for Christmas and he didn’t just read them– he inhaled them. I’m looking at this website and the Bookalike feature is really interesting:
    His reading appetite is voracious. I have no idea how I’m going to keep up besides abusing the heck out of my library!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Libraries are AWESOME. Thanks for the link!

      Ooh, the link is suggesting a series called “Sister Magic”… I’ll have to see if our library has it before going whole hog with Scholastic. It also reminds me that DC loves the Magic School bus and has their new chapter books series coming if and when our January order ever arrives.

      edit: update: Sister magic was lame. Lots of “oh how do I deal with my sister being special” and very little action. Definitely for older kids.

      • MutantSupermodel Says:

        I need to learn about this reading level v. interest level thing. It’s telling me Percy Jackson is a 6-8 interest level but he adores it. SO confusing! LOL! BTW thanks for your suggestions. I was a huge Wrinkle in Time fan too and Dahl. I was a huge reader too I’m just drawing a blank on what I was into besides Babysitter’s Club!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I bet you were into Trixie Belden! (‘Cuz I sure was…) He might like the Artemis Fowl books… #2 and I have been enjoying them as adults but they’re really kids books.

        Yeah, the interest level is a bit jacked, but it’s still better than the reading level based on our experience. We’re just going to have to do trial and error. Thank goodness for libraries.

  8. Suzita @ Says:

    I second your idea of Pippi Longstocking books. Both boys and girls have loved to be read those books at our house (Are there three of them? I think so.) How about Cam Jansen books to read by her or himself?

    Basically, we need more Magic Treehouse books. We made it all the way through the series and I wanted to cry when it was over because for a certain age and ability level, these are simply just right.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think we actually have four Pippi Longstocking books, but I don’t think Pippi on the Run is actually canon. (Wikipedia says it is one of 3 picture books, so I guess it actually is.)

      Wizard of Oz is hitting that Magic Treehouse sweet spot perfectly for us. We’re partway through #2. Ruth Chew books are also at that sweetspot.

      We’ve got Cam Jansen, but ze just hasn’t been interested in mysteries. We’ve also got the A to Z mysteries and they cannot compete with Merlin and Morgan and the tin woodman etc. We got about a third of the way through letter A’s book about the abducted author (and then the scholastic shipment with the next 20 magic treehouse books came in).

  9. TSS Says:

    Have you tried Cynthia Rylant? The Mr. Putter and Tabby series ones are about an elderly man and his cat having “adventures”–baking a cake for the neighbor, taking a train ride, painting the porch, and so on–and the Henry and Mudge series ones are about a boy (maybe a nine-year-old or so) and his enormous dog. Some of them (about “Puppy Mudge”) are written for younger kids and might be too easy, but the others would, I think, work for a young kid who reads above grade level. They’re very much about everyday life, though; if your kiddo is a real fantasy nut, they may be too mundane for hir.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We have not! We do have the first in some puppy series from scholastic and can’t get hir to even pick it up, but ze’ll probably be more willing to try new things again when we’re completely out of magic treehouse books (sometime in the next two weeks). We’ll be hitting the library tomorrow morning for supplies (and the Feb Scholastic order is almost due).

  10. darchole Says:

    Hmm, I don’t really remember what I was reading at that stage. I didn’t actually spend very long on ‘children’ books, it seems I basically went straight from Babysitter’s club/Oz/Choose your Own Adventure staight to adults books by grade 3/4 or so.

    If the Boxcar children didn’t fly, then the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard (disclaimer has some Christian themes) probably won’t either. Scott O’Dell and Jean Craighead George are probably a little too advance at this stage. You could try the Ratha series by Clare Bell, the characters are senitent cats, based on prehistoric animals. Choose your Own Adventure series maybe?

  11. claudia jane Says:

    How about Geronimo Stilton, about a mouse; lots of pictures; translated from the Italian?

    Or Mrs. Pepperpot (about a woman who shrinks at inconvenient times): small print, translated from the Norwegian, simple line drawings, good for read aloud.

    Or, My Naughty Little Sister (five books, each chapter is a stand alone story, British).

    Or Milly-Molly-Mandy (collection of stories, each story is stand alone, British).

    Or My Side of the Mountain (Jean George) and her books as a book to read to your child.

    All were topically interesting to my daughters prior to kindergarten but written at a much higher reading level.

  12. everyday tips Says:

    My son and I LOVED the Wizard of Oz books, and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series. ( I had no idea until I was looking for things to read to my son that there were a ton of Oz books. He moved on to reading them on his own, but I read those to him when he was 2.)

    He also loved the Hardy Boys, and I could buy them in packs of at Sam’s Club. His vocabulary got quite funny from those books because of the words that were popular back when those books were written.

    From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler is a good one too.

    BFG from Roald Dahl

    Gosh there are a lot of great ones out there!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I discovered the Wizard of Oz books relatively late too, though for me it was middle school, I believe. Old enough to appreciate the dishes made out of radioactive glass in one of the later books. The Narnia chronicles I devoured in third grade. Too young to appreciate the religious overtones, but old enough to think the ending to the series was stupid (and that there’s something wrong about growing up and then going back to being a kid). I used to love Nancy Drew too.

      EL Koningsberg has another great series for older gifted kids… it’s the one with Blair in it… let me see if google can get me some titles… oh, maybe that was Zilpha Keatley Snyder… The Stanley Family Series. I should totally reread that sometime. Just the right about of creepy. Ooh, and I wonder who wrote the Bagthorpes and if I can even get those in print anymore… those are by Helen Cresswell and quite delightful.

  13. brokeprofessionals Says:

    Abridged classics might be a good way to go. Unless that just offends you as an academic. Which it might. But if it doesn’t, might be a good introduction and can’t be any worse than the box car kids, I presume.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, abridged classics (except like, the Bible, which I’m just as happy for our preschooler to not read the dirty bits) are kind of like, “What’s the point?” Ze might as well read the good stuff when ze’s ready.

  14. darchole Says:

    Here’s another that I only remembered after seeing that a movie based on the book is coming out this summer/fall:
    Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater

  15. First Gen American Says:

    Hmm…I have some lobel in my amazon shopping cart and was wondering what else you’d recommend for summer reading…nice to know my gut instinct about him was correct. I think I’ll just load up on this one author for now. Thanks for these. I do like going back to your book review posts from time to time when I’m book shopping.

  16. Books for 3 year olds | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

    […] most kids aren’t reading, much less reading third grade level.  We do have a post on what books a three year old who is reading chapter books would enjoy, but that’s probably not what you’re looking for.  The Magic School Bus […]

  17. RBOC | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] exercise.  But DC2 is ok with but not crazy about Magic books (like The Magic Treehouse), unlike DC1 at this stage, and zie isn’t yet into mysteries… so if one wants DC2 to eagerly read chapter books, […]

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