7 tips for choosing first chapter books

Updated: Mar 29

Helping Your Child Become a Confident Reader

An exciting but often tricky stage is when your child is ready to move on to reading chapter books. We want your reader to enjoy the challenge and all the benefits short chapter books provide without knocking your kid's confidence. When you know what to look for, you can match the right book to your reader, and your kids will become increasingly independent and capable.

If you are unsure of the signs, look at '3 signs your child is ready for first chapter books'.

7 things to consider when choosing first chapter books:

1. Print size and how much print is on a page.

The size of the print and space between each line is important. It will often need to be bigger than the reading scheme or picture books they have been reading.

2. The balance of print and pictures.

A whole page of text can be overwhelming. Books with lots of illustrations, diagrams, and pictures that help the reader decode and understand what is going on are perfect.

3. Short chapters.

Kids need to build up reading stamina over time; it's good if they can experience finishing a chapter before putting the book down.

4. It has to look like a real book.

For Kids, it is all about seeing yourself as a reader and feeling like a reader. Just like in everything else, they want to copy other kids and grownups. Our kids, especially Developing Readers, want to read books that look like proper chapter books in their eyes. I am sure this is why so many children love Tom Gates because the books are chunky, funny, and they have lots of pictures and pages full of quick wins.

5. There are plenty of books in a series.

A set of books in a series your child likes is perfect. They have the same character names and setting, and often the pattern of the story similar. This will support your child to decode as well as understand the book.

6. Gradually let your child take the lead.

Remember you can read the first book to your child or read bits to each other if it makes it more enjoyable, then gradually let your child take over when they are ready. They don't need to be able to tackle the whole book by themselves.

7. Choose a topic you know your kid loves.

There are short chapter books for everyone, from pirates to pets and dinosaurs to detectives. A perk of reading chapter books is that children get more choice about what they want to read.

Look at the book lists below or go to knowyourkids.co.uk and choose by genre if you need more inspiration for the right first-chapter books for your reader.

First chapter books for the animal lover:

  • Fabio and the missing hippos by Laura James,

  • Cowboy Pug by Laura James

  • Rabbit and Bear series by Julian Gough (Read a great review in the Guardian)

  • Claude Series by Alex T Smith

  • Squishy McFluff by Pip Jones

First chapter books for the detective adventurer:

  • Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (a brilliantly written series with fact files at the end of the book and recipes to do together)

  • The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope. Once you have read one of these together, the characters, language, and format of the story remain the same, making it a great first chapter book.

First chapter books for those who love pirate tales:

  • Pirate Blunderbeard series by Amy Sparks and Ben Cort.

  • Captain Pug by Laura James.

  • The Legend of Captain Crow's Teeth by Eoin Colfer

First chapter books for those who love to laugh:

All of the above have some humour and will entertain, however some books are written to make you and your child laugh out loud, and these are three of my favourites .

  • The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey Series.

  • The Adventures of Dogman is a hilarious graphic novel with lots of kudos with older kids, as it is wonderfully written and looks and feels like a big chapter book.

  • Rabbit and Bear by Julian Gough.

If you have any first chapter books you can recommend, or if you want to find the perfect next read for your kids, you can join my Facebook group 'This is a great book if your child likes...' we would love you to be part of the Know Your Kids book community.

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