Starting in summer 2012, when my son was 3.5, I started reading chapter books to him, a chapter or two a night. Before we started chapter books, it was always easy to find good books to read to them (from board books upwards). Now though, I struggled finding good chapter books for this age group.
I’ve collected a list of the ones we tried, in order, with notes if appropriate. I’m linking all the books to Amazon to be clear which book it was, but we got most from our local library.
Jason’s Quest – A lovely book to start with. A wonderful adventure, which never gets too frightening, or too hard to follow, and the good folks win in a good way.
Fantastic Mr. Fox – Might have been a little too frightening at the beginning, with the mean farmers trying to kill the fox. In retrospect I would have saved it till he was a few months older.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
— He turned four around here
We tried Harry Potter, but aborted it after a few chapters. Some parts were too scary, but mainly it was too socially advanced. The story relies on understand relationships between people that were beyond a four year old.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – this was definitely a favorite. We watched the movie (the original, with Gene Wilder) the weekend after we finished the book.
Stuart Little – I found this one a bit boring, although we finished it and it seemed to keep his interest.
George’s Marvelous Medicine – Short and really fun. Some laugh out loud moments.
James and the Giant Peach – Strangely I don’t remember liking this one when I was a kid, but my son loved it. He particularly liked the evil aunts getting squished, and the insect characters are a lot of fun.
How to Train Your Dragon – Clearly written for older kids (Harry Potter age), but he had no trouble following it, and it never got too scary. It has dragons and vikings and little kids saving their tribe.
Pippi Longstocking – Who doesn’t love Pippi! I wished this one would have kept on going.
We tried How to be a Pirate, the sequel to How To Train Your Dragon, but aborted rapidly, it was too violent.
A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home – I thought this would be too boring, but it turned out to be quite exciting. Fantastic pencil drawings too.
— From here on he was reading parts of these books himself during the day
The Big Big Big Book of Tashi – also a definite favorite. We bought this one, and he has re-read it several times. Some parts are a little scary, but they always resolve nicely. Tashi defeats pretty much every fear a child could have – quite cathartic.
How to Save Your Tail – on the importance of cookies and story telling.
The 2nd Big Big Book of Tashi – More of the same, Tashi is a clever fellow!
Toys Go Out – sweet and entertaining. We would have read this when he was younger if I’d known about it.
A Mouse Called Wolf – A mouse with a brilliant singing voice, and an old lady piano player. Lovely.
The Unicorn’s Tale (Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist, Book 4) – I’ve no idea why we started with book 4, we should have started at 1. Oh well, it was engaging and exciting anyway.
My Father’s Dragon – Would also have read this when he was younger if I’d know. Still enjoyable at this age.
Flight of the Phoenix (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book I) – We went back to book one to continue his adventures.
Treasure Island – Disappointing. I had fond memories from my Dad reading it to me in my youth, but I think it had grown in my mind. There’s not a whole lot of pirate type adventures here, and it hasn’t aged particularly well.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – we both loved this. Talking animals, a bad witch, swords and shields, and Father Christmas.
Prince Caspian I’ll update this page as we read more.