10 First Chapter Book Read Alouds

When your child reaches the age that they can sit and listen to a chapter book, it can be a bedtime game-changer. It's fun, magical and rewarding for you both. You will likely be looking forward to bedtime to see what happens with your favorite characters. Below are a few age-appropriate chapter books to get you started. You might remember some from your own childhood. These are appropriate for children ages 4 and up. Enjoy!

Amelia Bedelia by Herman Perish. With short and quick chapters, this series is a perfect fit for young children. Kids will laugh and it provides the opportunity for silly conversations about vocabulary words. A friend of mine recently made a lemon meringue pie with her kids just like Amelia Bedelia does in the first book after reading it. What a fun idea!


Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. With short chapters, engaging illustrations and an adorable pig named Mercy, these books are guaranteed to be a favorite with your kids. They act as a nice bridge between picture books and longer chapter books. 


The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Clearly. The story of a curious and adventurous mouse, Ralph finds trouble and fun when he arises to the challenge of driving a toy motorcycle. 


Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. You will feel sentimental while reading this innocent and classic book. The characters provide lots of opportunities for conversations about emotions and friendships. Plus, that Pooh bear is pretty wise and can teach a thing or two to adults.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Elmer Elevator runs away from his family to save a baby dragon. Kids love the boy's name, his goodhearted nature, and the adventurous storyline.


Stuart Little by E.B. White. We are currently in the middle of reading this book with my four-year-old. A mouse is born into a family of humans in New York City. The story is one of adventure and family bonding. Children will probably love Stuart's endearing character most of all. 


Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonaldMrs. Piggle-Wiggle has a way with children. She is able to help parents in the neighborhood when they don't know what to do with their child's behavior. Kids love the idea that a parent doesn't know what to do all of the time and you will both have a laugh at some typical preschool-aged problems like not wanting to go to bed or take a bath. Be aware that the book was written over fifty years ago and contains stark gender stereotypes. In order to get past the gender roles, I simply interchanged Mr. and Mrs. for the primary caretaker in every other chapter.


Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins. With a Toy Story feel, this book explores the friendship between three toys belonging to a little girl and their adventures.  


The Adventures of Sophie Mouse by Poppy Green. With lots of illustrations and easy to read language, these books are fun and engaging.


A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith. Named after Wolf Gang Amadeus, this little mouse loves music and learns that he has talent too! Through his talent and practice, he develops a skill but something even more important: a much-needed friendship. 


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Ten picture books for an epic childhood

How many times have you said, “When I was young, I just roamed outside. I could play all alone!" We are all learning together to do our best as parents and teachers in a very busy world. Regardless of whether you live in the country or the city, life can be busy.

We might not all have time to go to the bookstore for hours on end or let our kids roam but we can certainly take advantage of small moments. We can create a magical story time at bedtime or take a fun title along for the ride. The children's author, Emilie Buchwald, once said, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." It seems there is so much pressure today around the age at which a child begins to read that we forget the most important piece of reading is comprehension and enjoyment. All of the work we do on teaching skills will be lost in the long term if children aren’t having fun.

Below are ten books that are sure to create a childlike spirit in any adult, remind us to slow down and help our children do the same.

Corduroy by Don Freeman - Few of us remember dressing up nicely to go shopping but this story will make you long for that time period. It will bring to mind your favorite childhood lovey or stuffed animal. It's impossible to read this story without feeling cozy and warm.

Blueberries for Sal By Robert Mccloskey – This book is a breath of fresh air for busy families. The black and white images, old car and illustrations of the countryside will make you dream of simpler times. (Anyone else addicted to ‘We Bought the Farm’ on HGTV?) I love the fact that Sal isn’t dressed in tutus but simply in play clothes, enjoying the outdoors. The sounds of “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk,” as the blueberries drop into the pail is fun to read. Not to mention it reminds us to feel less guilty about all the work that comes along with parenting, as Sal plays and wanders while her mom works. 

All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure – McClure's illustrations are uniquely created and Rylant's words teach simplicity and gratitude. This book allows a fresh perspective to slow down. Rylant writes, "A day brings hope, and kindness, too/ A day is all its own/ You can make a wish, and start again,/  you can find your way back home."

Tell me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb - This is simply the sweetest book in our house. Timmy Bear and his mother recount the day before falling asleep. My daughter and I loved the idea so much that we started trying the same activity at bedtime. While we aren’t recounting a hike in the country or watching each sunset, I am still able to experience my child’s days through her eyes by listening. This activity usually reminds me how small she is and how big and magical the world seems through her eyes.

Home by Caron Ellis - It doesn’t matter where our home is found or what it looks like. Having a home is special and truly a gift. This book's illustrations appeal to both adults and kids and also help children imagine a life different than their own.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper - Because after reading it several times your children will be chanting, “I think I can, I think I can,” when doing something new for the first time. The book is one of our first lessons in “mind over matter” and the power of “positive thinking.” But it's also a classic! Kids love the blue engine with a wide smile (perhaps the original Thomas?).

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton - Almost every Virginia Lee Burton book looks as if it should be in an Anthropologie. They are quaint, charming and sentimental. The Little House tells the story of how the big city was built around a tiny home and how the house finds its way back to the country. It shows kids how times change but something’s will always be the same. No doubt this book will have some adults remembering a special family home. My kids and I have read it more times than I could count. 

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats - What a magical feeling to wake up to freshly fallen snow outside of your window! This book captures that feeling and the collage images are so engaging for young kids. Ezra Jack Keats is considered revolutionary in the teaching and library (and also nerdy reading specialist) world because he created diverse characters. Considering recent research on the lack of diversity in picture books, it gives us all the more reason to add this one to our children’s library.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey - This book will make any child “awe” at the baby ducks trying to keep up with their mama duck. The story of how a duck family finally decides on the perfect home and then must figure out how to navigate their way there will probably resonate deeply with most young parents.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn - We each have memories of missing our family at school or maybe at our first sleep over. This sweet, sweet book helps parents come up with new ideas to comfort your child during these times. In the book Mrs. Racoon makes up a family secret called the Kissing Hand when Chester Racoon is nervous to go to school. 

What are the books that defined your childhood? What are your favorite titles to read to your children or students?

Happy Reading!


5 Reasons to Read Wordless Picture Books to Any Age (Plus a Few Great Titles)

As a reading teacher, I most often get the question, "What's it say?" So when I help a child pick out a wordless picture book I can turn the tables and ask, "What do you see?" These books are typically given to young children but they can be utilized in creative ways for almost any age, even teenagers. 

Here are some reasons to pick one up: 

1. To teach a love of books to any child, even reluctant readers. 

Sometimes parents say their child just doesn't like books and often teachers say they just haven't found the right ones yet. There are lots of reasons that parents and teachers struggle to help children love reading but most kids are easily captivated by beautiful images. For struggling and new readers, wordless picture books take the pressure off and help them gain confidence when they learn that reading the pictures is too a form of reading. Wordless picture books engage emerging readers who can tell a detailed story about the images. And for developed readers, picture books make them feel young again. Allowing older children to read wordless picture books can evoke a cozy and nostalgic feeling or a sense that they are "getting away" with something by studying a kid's book. 

2. To teach story structure.

Through wordless picture books, children are gaining an appreciation for story structure (the beginning, middle, and ending of a story). When they go to school these skills are formalized into concepts like the story mountain, or plot, sequence, conflict, and resolution. These skills are carried into high school and even college. When children understand structure just by enjoying read-alouds at a young age they are way ahead of the game. 

3. To encourage writing and story-telling. 

Developed readers are able to tell a detailed story using descriptive language and enhanced vocabulary. Older students can have fun with wordless picture books by comparing their version of a story to that of a classmate's or writing a detailed text to go with the book. 

4. To engage children who speak multiple languages

Maybe storytelling is so meaningful to all age groups because it's universal. Recent research also shows that wordless books are great for bilingual students. By allowing teachers and tutors to use wordless picture books, children may speak their native language to tell a story, which in turn teaches universal pre-reading skills while protecting the students' language. 

5. Simply…to have fun. 

Marilyn Jager Adams is a goddess to nerdy reading teachers like myself. In her book, Beginning To Read, she explains that,

It is not just reading to children that makes the difference, it is enjoying the books with them and reflecting on their form and content. It is developing and supporting the children’s curiosity about text and the meaning it conveys...And it is showing the children that we value and enjoy reading and that we hope they will too.

Here are some of great titles to get your search started:

Flora and the Flamingo By Molly Idle. Flora and the Flamingo play together as they attempt to mimic each other's moves. The interactive flaps in this book make their dance and sequence, even more, fun for the reader. 


Wave by Suzy Lee. A fun story of a little girl's day at the beach. She dances and plays with the ocean as its waves crash and recede. The colors and images create a calming and nostalgic feel. 



The Girl and The Bicycle by Mark Pett. An incredibly endearing story about a girl who wants a new shiny bicycle she spots in a store window. She must earn the money for the bike. To do so, she befriends an older woman who gives her odd jobs. The story teaches kindness and hard work while giving the reader a surprise ending. 

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. A classic. This humorous book tells the story of an old woman who is determined to enjoy a pancake breakfast.


Flashlight by Lizi Boyd. The images and artistic cutouts in this book are outstanding. The story is of a boy's walk to his tent in the dark during a camping trip. 


Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage. This silly story shows a clever walrus who escapes from the zoo. The zookeeper is looking for him and follows him on his adventures throughout the city. 



David Wiesner books. Tuesday, Flotsam and Sector 7 are all highly creative and unique stories of adventure and imagination. Each has very bold, detailed images which capture mature readers and would make create writing prompts.