1 March 2010 10:02 AM

Children and Chapter Books

by Dr. Rick

Today's blog about chapter books runs on just the right date.  Tomorrow is the annual NEA’s Read Across America. Families all over our great country will be spending quality time reading fun stories together, talking about what they've read, and sharing favorite memories about books.


Want to participate in a fun reading activity?  The company I work for, Sylvan Learning, created a cool microsite that kids and their parents can enjoy.  Motivate your child's reading by pledging to read tomorrow -- together as a family, individually, or both.  It's easy.  Just go here and get started. On this day last year I wrote about reading suggestions you can use at home.  Re-read it here.


Also, in celebration of National Reading Month, Random House will award one winner a library of Sylvan Learning language arts workbooks!  The workbooks and multi-media learning kits help students in grades K-5 build confidence and develop a love of learning.  To browse the workbooks that will be awarded, visit www.SylvanLearningBookstore.com. To enter the giveaway, please email your name, mailing address, email address, phone number, and choice of grade level to [email protected]  by 5pm EST on Tuesday, March 2, 2010.  One winner will be randomly chosen and announced in an upcoming blog!  For complete details, see official rules.


Now, on to today's topic: chapter books.


A few days ago a reporter asked me about the benefits of reading “chapter books” to younger children.   Are there benefits?  If so, what are they?  What age should kids graduate from “Good Night Moon” to chapter books?  Any guidelines?  

Kids love feeling “grown up.”  They see their older siblings and parents reading books for pleasure (one hopes), and they want to do the same thing.  Some kids are ready at an earlier age than others, so use your own knowledge of your child.  If she’s able to hang in there for a long Disney movie, for example, and can follow – more or less – the complicated plot, then maybe it’s time for the nightly bedtime story to become a new routine – a chapter a night from a favorite book.


If you think the time is right, here are some reasons to “graduate” to chapter books and also some thoughts to keep in mind.

  1. Routine building is critical at any age.  Reading age-appropriate, chapter books with compelling stories can help establish important routines.  A chapter a night, at bedtime, is a good incentive to brush those teeth, get ready for bed, and enjoy some "quality time" with you.

  2. Stimulate higher order thinking skills.  Chapter books help children enjoy a long story, follow plot and character development, put events in proper order (we teachers call this skill "sequencing"), and try their hand at predicting what comes next, especially when a chapter ends on an exciting note.

  3. Take time for discussion.  At the end of each chapter, just before the final tuck-in, prayers, and kisses, talk for a minute or two about the story so far.  What’s his favorite part?  Favorite character?  What would he do in such a situation?  What would you do?

  4. Encourage new interests.  Chapter books can whet kids' appetites for new interests and discoveries.  Reading about an interesting historical figure, a favorite athlete, or trying a new type of story?  Introduce him to other historical or sports contemporaries as well as new story types like mysteries, biographies, science fiction, fantasy, or humor.

  5. Learn about new authors.  Chapter books can enable children to discover different authors' and illustrators' styles.  (I’m partial to Jerdine Nolen and Kadir Nelson's collaborations, like the tall tale trilogy of Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life, Big Jabe, and Thunder Rose.  I read them to elementary age kids all the time.)  Soon the kids will be looking for more books from a favorite author and recognizing a favorite illustrator’s style.

  6. Feel “grown up.”  Chapter books help little ones feel as if they’re reading on a higher level now, just like their older siblings and friends.  This increased confidence, in turn, helps encourages them to read more.  It’s a virtuous cycle.

  7. Share your favorites.  Everyone remembers his or her first chapter book !  Talk about your first chapter book.  Tell why you remember it, why it made such an impression on you, how old you were when you read it.  Kids love to hear about our experiences – as long as we don’t overdo it.

  8. Be a good role model.  Kids learn from us, and more often than not they do what we do, if not always what we say.  So, let them see you reading for information, for directions on how to do something, or – my favorite – for the pure pleasure of reading.  Make time in your family’s schedule and routines for reading.

  9. Talk about what you’re reading now.  A good dinnertime conversation can center on what exciting, interesting, or funny book you’re reading right now.  When books are a favorite family conversation, you’re giving your child a lifelong gift – a healthy reading habit.

  10. Be positive.  If your child isn’t ready for a chapter book yet, don’t make a big deal about it.  Go back to the favorite one-sitting books with joy and cheer.  He’ll be ready one day.  Enjoy the childhood as long as you can.



English | Opinion


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