Since we are so close to summer vacation I thought it might be nice to put together a list of chapter book recommendations for those of you with little girls. Obviously many of these books will certainly work for boys too.
I have a 6 year old emerging reader and a 7 year old reader and the difference between the two is so dramatic. Usually we don’t see chapter books until second grade but my Kindergartner absolutely loves to read so we have stared with chapter books a little early.
My second grader on the other hand, has struggled with reading and we have had an uphill battle with her reading until the end of First Grade when she started reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in class. That book started to turn a corner for her as she was really excited for reading time each day and would rush home to tell me what happened to Charlie. In the summer between 1st and 2nd grade we took a trip to Universal Studios, Florida and started reading the Harry Potter series. That has really made a profound difference for her as she absolutely loves the books! We are on book 4 now and she looks forward to reading time every single night. She is still excited about the stories and although I do the majority of the reading to her, I am thrilled to see she is discovering how magical books can be.
So if you have an advanced reader, hopefully many of these suggestions will appeal to them and if you have a struggling reader don’t give up! I can’t even begin to say how frustrated I felt (and still do) but I think the key is to just keep trying different things until you find the book that finally clicks for your child and opens up the magical world of reading for them.
Oh and the advice I received, if you have a struggling reader you might consider getting them into a series of books. A series is nice because the main character will become like an old friend. They will learn the author’s writing style and get comfortable understanding the characters so they can focus on comprehension and not trying to understand the language and style of a new author.
1. The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne– this is a fantastic series for kids and there are 51 books in the series. The two main characters travel to different places and back in time to have an adventure with each book. You can read these in order (we read about 29 of the books) or you can choose the ones that will appeal to your child. You will find everything from Swimming with Sharks, to Ancient Egypt to Pirate Adventures. These are chapter books but you can get through them very quickly- we would grab 2-3 at a time from the library. I like to come back to these from time to time depending on what they are studying in school- for example I just grabbed the Abe Lincoln book during our Civil War unit of study.
2. The Little House Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder- I am sure lots of us loved these books as kids (and the TV show too!). My little girl liked these books but there were some sections of the book that required a lot of extra conversations- such as incidents with Indians and there are many tragedies in pioneer life that need to be explained.
3. Ramona series by Beverly Cleary– there are numerous Ramona books that are fun to read. Ramona and Beezus or Ramona the Pest is a great starting place for younger readers and then you can move up to Ramona Quimby, Age 8 for older readers.
4. Ella Enchanted Series by Gail Carson Levine- My Girls loved the Ella Enchanted movie and I think they would also like the books. The original Ella Enchanted is a Newbury Award winner and these have excellent reviews.
5. Junie B Jones by Barbara Park– these are perfect books for about 1st grade as Junie B is silly and fun and gets into all sorts of adventures (similar to Ramona). The books are thin and you can get through them very quickly however the author writes in a very specific style that won’t appeal to everyone. Junie B. often uses poor grammar (such as “I ain’t gonna do that!”) and it would drive me nuts. I usually corrected the language as I read- I know I am a party pooper- but they are still cute stories and worth picking up. Oh and she does say Hate and Stupid and a few other strong words that you might choose to change or omit when reading 🙂
6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling– I read these books years and years ago and loved them and now my oldest child is completely riveted by these books. The first two books in the series are not as scary but you will have spiders and witches and wizards and magic to discuss and explain and things do get scarier as the books progress so the other volumes of the books might not be appropriate for every child. My daughter is not quite ready to read these herself but we do have other kids in her Second Grade class that are reading these on their own. These are LONG books- 700 pages- so a bit of a commitment but one of my daughter’s 7 year old friends has read books 1-3 all by herself and is moving into book 4.
7. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker– this is a series about a girl named Clementine. We haven’t started this series yet but the reviews on these books are excellent and it looks like Clementine learns a lot of valuable lessons in her adventures. These are probably best suited for 1-3rd graders. (There is a free teaching guide here with points of discussion and such if you want to work with your reader this summer.)
8. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket– these books are probably best suited for older children (8-9) as there is some content that might be scary to little ones. If you have seen the Lemony Snicket movies you might be familiar with the crazy and incredible world that Lemony Snicket creates for three little orphans.
9. Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows– these are cute books about two opposites that become best friends- Ivy and Bean. This was one of the first chapter books we started reading in First Grade. They are cute little stories but one of the books is about ghosts and my little girl got scared and then didn’t want to touch these books again. I wouldn’t say they are scary at all and I thought they were cute so I will try again with my youngest this summer and see what she thinks. (And yes this is the same child that loves the Harry Potter books so go figure.)
10. Nancy Clancy by Jane O’Conner– these are perfect for little ones that enjoyed the Fancy Nancy series. These books have cute little stories and are very easy to read- perfect for First Graders.
11. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner- we haven’t started this series yet but it is one that is great for older children- second to third grade. This is a classic series and I am so embarrassed to say I never did read these as a kid. This is the story of four children who become orphans and live in an old Boxcar in the woods and the adventures they have. The reviews on these are excellent so pick them up and see what you think.
12. Nancy Drew Series by Carolyne Keene– oh boy I LOVED these books as a kid. My friend had a collection of the original mysteries and her Mom was kind enough to let me read through the entire collection. I was probably in 4th grade or so and they were somewhat difficult books to read but I loved them! There is a newer series of books that are in the Sleuth collection that would be perfect for younger readers to get started.
- Nancy Drew Diaries- this series is best suited for ages 8-12
- Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew- starter books for children aged 6-9
13. The Never Girls Collection– Any Tinkerbell fans? These are cute books about four friends that are magically transported to Neverland to join Tinkerbell and her friends.
14. American Girl books by various authors– if you have American Girl fans at home, you probably have several of these books already. My girls aren’t into American Girl dolls but they have enjoyed a few of these movies and a few of the books. Our favorites are probably Saige Paints the Sky, Isabelle and McKenna. There are a bunch to choose from based on the different dolls. Some of the dolls have multiple books (like Grace and Saige) and some just have one book.
15. The Baby- Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin– oh how I loved these books as a kid! My BFF and I even started a BabySitter’s Club of our own in 6th grade (lesson- do not pack a kit full of toys to take to baby sit toddlers as the book suggests. Toddlers do not like to give back the toys and games when you are ready to leave- LOL.) There are a ton of books in this series and they are probably best suited to 2nd-3rd grade readers.
16. Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski– we haven’t started this series but I know these are really popular with little people. These are modern twists on some classic fairy tales like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. My second graders best friend is obsessed with these books so they will be on our summer list for sure. A good series to start before jumping into things like Ever After High.
17. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery- There are 12 books in this classic series and many of you will probably remember these from your own childhood. The story of Anne, an orphan, living in Canada and the adventures she has living with her sister and a bachelor farmer. I loved to read as a kid and I don’t think I ever did pick these books up but I do remember watching the TV series and enjoying it.
18. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald- we haven’t read these but a teacher recently recommended these to me. Mrs Piggle Wiggle has all sorts of magical solutions for common problems so these are wonderful imaginative stories for little ones. This is the first series I am going to start with my 6 year old.
19. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan– This might be an option for those of you not quite ready to jump into Harry Potter books. These books are blockbusters that take you on an adventure back into Greek Mythology. These books are best suited for kiddos about 7-10 years old. We haven’t read these books but look at this adorable review from a 10 year old on Amazon: “I promise if you are a good reader and love books that are fun and exiting you will love this series! I have read this series 3 times (and my friend read it 28 times! no kidding!)”
20. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren- Do you remember Pippi as a kid? Both of my girls loved this book- ages 5 and 7. We read the original book and then watched some of the older Pippi Longstocking shows on Amazon and my girls got a real kick out of her. There are several books in the series if your children take a liking to them as well.
21. Rainbow Magic Fairies by Daisy Meadows– We have picked these up a few times and my girls haven’t really gotten into the series but they are always drawn in by the pretty covers to the books. These are very thin chapter books so perfect for about 6-7 years old and each story takes you on a magical adventure with fairies in Fairyland.
22. A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy– another option for those that loved the Magic Tree House books. These are children that take off on exciting adventures, find themselves in predictaments and then have to figure out how to get out of the situation and resolve the problem. Great for 1-3 grade readers.
23. Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald– These are a fun step up from Junie B. Jones and an alternative to Ramona. The books are well suited for 1-2 grade readers. These are great light reads and you won’t need to worry about inappropriate content or adult topics.
24. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl- most people will probably just read the first book but technically this is a series. There are two books- the original and the second book, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. As I mentioned above my daughter LOVED this book in First Grade and we actually bought both of the movies (the original and Johnny Depp version) to really bring the book to life.
25. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl– We didn’t like this one quite as much as Charlie but it is a magical adventure starting when magic crystals are dropped by an old Peach tree causing it to grow as big as a house.
26. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- Again an absolute classic and probably best for older children or as a read aloud book. I love these types of books to open up discussions about how fortunate my girls’ are to have the life they have. We started this book when my daughter was just turning 7 and it was a little too much for her but I do plan to revisit this one again.
27. Winnie the Pooh series by A.A. Milne- I probably enjoy these books more than the kids do but how wonderful is Winnie the Pooh? When my little one was in preschool she used to call him “Windy the Pooh” so I love pulling these stories out when I feel like the kids are getting too big too fast. Just sit down and listen to the brilliance that is Windy.
28. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White– this is a bit of a sad story (please tell me others cry when Charlotte dies and it isn’t just me) and you will have to discuss unpleasant topics such as “Yes darling this is where bacon comes from…” Better suited to older readers- 2 and 3rd grade but such a classic and a book everyone should read.
29. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale– these are great books for little ones still into Princesses but probably better suited for older readers 8-9 years. The heroine of the story comes from a small town and finds herself in an academy to learn to become a Princess. We have not read these books but from the reviews it sounds like they are more complex stories not silly Princess stories.
30. Daisy Dawson by Steve Voake- these are fun books for younger readers. Daisy has lots of interesting adventures on a farm, at the beach, at the pool and more. These are fun, light stories with good lessons in morality for the little ones.
Whew! I hope you and your children enjoy these books as much as we have! Please leave your own favorites in the comments below- I know lots of other families would love to expand their reading lists this summer with great books.
And here are a few other posts you might enjoy:
20 Awesome Toddler books (these make great gifts)
And don’t forget the Free Summer Reading programs for kids- they can earn prizes and books by reading!