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7 tips for choosing first chapter books

7 tips for choosing first chapter books

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.

What to read after Harry Potter if his friendships captured your heart.

What to read after Harry Potter if his friendships captured your heart.

It is not easy to find the next book for your child after Harry Potter. It is a series that takes the reader on a magical journey, immersing them so deeply in its world that the story stays with them for life. ​ You might have a reader who wants to move on to a fantasy adventure series or a historical quest (see my 7 perfect books for Harry Potter fans to read next post). However, they might want something that captures their heart in the same way Harry's friendships did. If so, here are four books they will want to read next. A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan Age: 8-12 ​ A creepy adventure story packed with twists that hook you in from the beginning and keep you guessing until the very end. The lead characters are thoughtful and beautifully developed. If your reader enjoyed how Harry, Hermione and Ron pieced together facts and made plans, this is a perfect read for them. ​ One of those books you think about when you're not reading it and can't wait to find out what happens next. –(Tom Fletcher 2017 Book Club) Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll Age: 9-12 ​ "We weren't supposed to be going to the pictures that night. We weren't even meant to be outside, not in a blackout, and definitely not when German bombs had been falling on London all month like pennies from a jar.'" ​ Olive is determined to solve the mystery and find out what happened to her elder sister, Sukie on the night of the air raid. This is one of my favourite reads this year; my daughter and I were gripped from the start. Despite being a historical novel set in World War II England, the themes of refugees, prejudice and belonging are relevant to the world we live in today. It has fast become a favourite amongst junior school teachers as it is a perfect platform for discussion. The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell Age: 9-12 ​ A story of adventure, revolution and standing up for the things you believe in. It is about the power of the underdog and fighting back. And, of course, wolves. A heroine so magnificent and strong, she is worthy of comparison to Lyra Belacqua. Readers who relish a fast-paced page-turner will quickly get lost in this snowy, Russian fantasy tale. Katherine Rundell is infamous for her beautiful and purposeful use of prose. For children looking to read as a writer and enjoy a cracking yarn, this is a must-read. Ruby Redfort by Lauren Child (Children's Laureate 2017 – 2019) Age: 10-13 ​ Set in our world, Ruby Redfort appeals to readers who are not drawn into Harry Potter by the fantasy genre but by the problem solving action-packed narrative. As a teenage James Bond/Alex Rider character, Ruby is intelligent, smart and, in lots of ways, a typical teenager. She plays it cool but likes to win. Many boys who are reluctant to read a book with a female lead have been pleasantly surprised and called back for Book 2 in the series.

The ultimate guide to Comfy Reading at home.

The ultimate guide to Comfy Reading at home.

When growing a reader, you need to let your child get really comfy. Comfy clothes, comfy position and comfy things around them. No one likes to read sitting at a table where it feels like work -if we want children to get lost in a book then the right place to read is important. You need to know your reader and be flexible. Where this takes place might change, some days your child may want to hide away, curl up and get stuck into a good book, others they might want to be sat in hub of it reading away. With a little effort, you can create an appealing and relaxing place that your children will want to spend time in. Here are four simple tips to get you started: 1. Keep it simple. You will need somewhere to store books, seating (such as a bean bag or cosy armchair) blankets and lighting. That’s it. 2. Keep your child in mind. Let your child lead the way as every child will be drawn to a different kind of space. My eldest will often be found lounging on the radiator with a stack of comics in the winter, whereas my daughter likes to hide out in a small den somewhere in the house with a box to keep her props in so she can move it quickly from one place to another. 3. Keep it central. It might be tempting to set up a reading area in a quiet, hidden corner somewhere,  but often the most used book nooks are the ones situated in the busiest areas of the house. My book nook is usually built in the lounge, where everyone hangs out, and I can easily join them for a story. 4. Make it appealing.  Your book nook needs to be attractive, exciting and well looked after.  Updating your book nook every now and again will maintain interest. This might mean adding some new books, swapping a blanket or cushion or changing the layout slightly. I hope you enjoy creating your own, unique Book Nook! I would love to see some photographs or hear your ideas. Click on the link to see 20 Book Nook ideas from

5 reasons your child will read at home.

5 reasons your child will read at home.

How can you make your home somewhere where children read? Children copy what they see so you have to let your child see you reading books. This can take some effort as they need to see you reading for pleasure and talking about books on a regular basis (an annual read on your summer holiday won’t suffice!) If reading is part of your life, it will become part of theirs too. Read to your child. Build in 5 or 10 minutes each day to read to your child. Choose a book you both want to read so you can enjoy talking about the characters and making predictions about what might happen next. You can start to get a feel for the books your child really likes, this makes it easier to recommend books and for them to start to trust your book choices. Read books that your child is reading or might like to read. You can then talk to them about characters and bond over favourite scenes. They will begin to see that talking about stories and books is an enjoyable thing to do. Value all the books your child chooses equally, don’t be tempted to only see the classics or challenging texts as worthwhile reads. When you know and respect each other’s tastes, you can trust each other’s recommendations. Listen to audiobooks. If you are on the school run or ferrying children to after-school activities, choose a story to listen to on the way.  This will be something you can enjoy and talk about together. It may also get them interested in particular authors or genres. Create a ‘book nook.’  This should be a quiet, cosy and appealing area of the house designated for reading. It should be somewhere they want to spend time in and a place they relax and unwind with a book

Books for kids who are just ready for chapter books.

Books for kids who are just ready for chapter books.

I think picture books should always have a place on a child’s bookshelf, regardless of age, as with the right questions they can challenge thinking and develop inference skills in a way that classic print texts can’t.
However, an exciting but often tricky stage is when a child is ready to move from reading books from a reading scheme or picture books to reading longer, more developed narratives, with more words and fewer pictures.
Choosing the right book needs careful consideration to excite your child and make them feel like independent and capable readers.

Five things to consider when choosing the right book: Make sure the balance of print and pictures is right, as too many words to start off with will be overwhelming. Print size may need to be the same size or a bit bigger than the reading scheme or picture books they have been reading. Short chapters are a must, as children need to build up reading stamina over time, and it is important they experience being able to finish a chapter before putting the book down. Asking – is it a book my child will enjoy? If they like funny books, then it needs to be funny, if they love animals, then they need to be in the story. Just being a simple chapter book is not enough if we want our children not just to learn to read, but to learn to love reading. Look out for a good series as children get confidence from reading about characters they already know and love. There are lots of recommendations in the what to read next section.

How to get the most out of reading with your child.

How to get the most out of reading with your child.

Reading at home with your child can make a huge, massive, significant difference. But with our increasingly busy lifestyles it is often the first thing that goes, especially if it isn't a particularly enjoyable experience. As parents, it can be hard to know how to make it fun or what your role is beyond listening to your child read then asking a few questions. But there is so much more you can do to get the most out of this time, and the good news is it isn't going to need lots of your time or resources to make it happen. Here are my 5 top tips: Tip 1 - Context, context, context. Before you open a book, begin by asking yourself questions such as: What do you need to know to understand this text? What vocabulary might be tricky to read? Does my child understand what these words mean? Then you can ask your child questions about the front cover and the blurb on the back to make sure they know the book's context. Finding out what your child already knows makes a significant difference. You can then fill in any gaps and provide knowledge that might be a barrier for your child decoding or understanding the book. Knowing the book's context means your child can have an informed guess if they can't read a word (this is a great reading strategy). Or you might have noticed that sometimes your child can fluently read a few pages but struggles to recall events and has little understanding about what happened. This is because they don't have the life experience or knowledge needed. Your job is to give them this information. Tip 2 - Decide what you want to get from a book. When focused on how a text can further reading skills rather than hearing your child read and asking some questions, you will see more progress. Be clear about how you can maximise learning and enjoyment and decide what you want to get from a book. You could ask yourself some of the following questions: Is it a book your child has been asked to read from school or a free choice? Is your child interested in the book? Is it a book they will get a lot from, or is it a quick read? Is it a comfort read they can read independently and build up independence or develop fluency and stamina? Is it a challenging text where you need to take the lead by reading to your child, reading paragraphs together, discussing the events and vocabulary? Do you need to discuss the characters' feelings and actions? Will your child need to talk events through so it makes sense? Do you need to make links to stories they have read before? Tip 3 - When to read. Make sure your child is reading at the right time of the day for them. When to read is not set in stone. When your child can focus and be receptive will vary from child to child and change over time. If screens are a barrier, it is essential that reading is not directly after screen time. The best time of the day depends on your routines and whether your child is an early riser, up with the joys of spring, or an evening - night owl. We often think about reading as a before-bed activity, but it can be a great start to the day if your child is fresher in the morning or a good straight after school activity with a snack and a drink. A routine where your child reads at a set time each day can help if your child needs to know what is happening and when. Over time, a set reading time can also help eliminate discussion and debate about your child reading with you. And remember if your child is focused, five minutes of reading a day is far more effective and enjoyable than ten minutes of cajoling, bribing and pleading. Stamina builds over time and has to happen at least three to four times a week for your child to make progress. Tip 4 - Finding the right place to read. Again it will differ from child to child and day-to-day as readers must be comfy and content. It needs to be somewhere quiet and away from distractions, such as the TV or siblings playing. Some children like to be sat at a table, others on the sofa or in bed. It doesn't matter as long as reading is a relaxed and positive experience. Building a Reading Den can be a great way to encourage reading and create something exciting and different. Have a look at my blog Comfy Reading for more ideas. Tip 5 - Mix it up A healthy reading diet for your child needs to be led by them, so they enjoy reading. Your job is to provide a range of carefully chosen books based on what your child can read and enjoy and be enthusiastic about their book choices. Sometimes it might be a re-read ( we know how they can love the same book over and over again) or a book their teacher has provided. Also, the library can be an excellent place to take a chance on a book without the cost. I hope you have found these tips useful. I would love to hear how you are getting on reading at home. If you want to find out more please check out the workshops on knowyourkids.co.uk.