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I remember well the transition from picture books to early chapter books in my daughter’s reading life. After years of reading aloud to her, we had both grown to love snuggling together on the couch with a feast of picture books to enjoy. The stories and illustrations of the best picture books always captivated her, holding her normally squirrely attention for an impressively long time.
Now that she’s in middle school, she’s an incurable bookworm. I really do believe I have early chapter books (and their authors) to thank for that. While picture books are meant to be read aloud by adults to children, early chapter books are designed for children to accomplish the task all on their own. We still snuggled — still read the early chapter books together — except now she did most of the reading aloud. Eventually we moved up from these beginner readers to heftier chapter books until I found that she had gotten the knack and no longer needed me.
Below I’ve put together a list of early chapter books for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade, from classics to newer titles. Learning to read is so enjoyable if we let the child’s interest lead the way. Hopefully, your beginning reader can find something here to latch onto. Because many of these books are published in a series, the child can stick with the same characters through their journey of learning to read.
Diary of a Worm, Teacher’s Pet (I Can Read! Level 1) by Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Harry Bliss
If your child loved the picture book series Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Fly, and Diary of a Spider, this level 1 reader is perfect. They’ll laugh out loud as they sound out words and sentences because life from the perspective of a worm is just too funny.
Gigi and Ojiji (I Can Read! Level 3) by Melissa Iwai
This book’s main character is a biracial 6-year-old who learns about her Japanese culture from her grandfather.
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Henry and Mudge (Ready to Read Level 2) by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
This 28-book series from a Newbery Medalist features Henry and his lovable dog, Mudge.
Frog and Friends (I Am a Reader!) by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Josée Masse
Welcome to Frog’s world where life is simple and peaceful in the pond. Join Frog and his friends as he discovers new things, plans a party, makes unexpected friends, and more. This is an 8-book series.
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi, Illustrated by Hatem Aly
This 24-book series follows Yasmin, a creative 2nd-grader, as she solves small but realistic challenges at school, home, or out and about. Yasmin and her Pakistani American family are a joy to get to know.
Mouse and Mole by Wong Herbert Yee
Join Mouse and Mole as they go bird watching. In this delightful 7-book series, Mouse and Mole’s adventures are so much sweeter because of their friendship.
Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure by Jacqueline Jules, Illustrated by Kim Smith
Seven-year-old Sofia Martinez’s life is full of adventures in this 16-book series. The first book introduces readers to her family.
Your Friend, Parker (Ready-to-Read Level 1) by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry, Illustrated by Brittany Jackson and Tajae Keith
Join Parker as she writes her friend about the exciting things she sees on her road trip across America. Continue life with Paker in the 4-book series.
Frog and Toad (I Can Read Level 2) by Arnold Lobel
It’s hard to find anybody who has read Frog and Toad and not fallen in love with them! A classic for a very good reason.
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! (Passport to Reading Level 3) by Grace Lin
They’re identical twins but looks can be deceiving! Learn how Ling and Ting are each uniquely their own person. A totally charming series of 3 books.
Bread and Jam for Frances (I Can Read Level 2) by Russell Hoban, Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
In case you and your little readers haven’t met Frances yet, let me introduce you to the adorable badger! In this book, Frances decides that bread and jam is the only thing she will eat. Learn more about Frances in Bedtime for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances, and A Bargain for Frances – all classics not to be missed.
Sona Sharma, Very Best Big Sister, by Chitra Soundar, Illustrated by Jen Khatun
A great read-aloud, this chapter book introduces readers to a loving family in India and to Sona Sharma, who isn’t sure how she feels about the new baby on the way. We loved this book!
For some other suggestions on beginning readers and early chapter books for kids, take a look at Book Riot’s list of 50 Books for Beginning Readers.