Whether your four or five-year-old is ready for some longer read-alouds at bedtime, or your elementary-aged child has discovered the wonder of reading to themselves and cannot get enough, this special book list has you covered. The following chapter books are timeless and well-loved by children and their parents alike. Enjoy!
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett
This beautiful tale is told by a narrator reflecting on his father’s childhood. The father, named Elmer Elevator, befriends a stray cat who helps him embark on an epic adventure to rescue a baby dragon. Elmer’s creativity, courage, and clever wit help him find his way across the ocean and two islands. He outsmarts warthogs, tigers, monkeys, a lion, and a makes his way across the backs of swimming alligators using nothing but lollipops and rubber bands. As a bonus, this is the first book in a trilogy, so fans of Elmer and the dragon can continue the adventure if they wish!
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao
Applegate is a brilliant storyteller, and this tale is full of emotion and hope. Narrated by the main character, Ivan (a captive gorilla), the story tells about his life in a shopping mall enclosure. He shares the space with an old elephant and a stray dog; when they are joined by a baby elephant, Ivan’s perspective and tolerance for his maltreatment begins to shift. With the help of some human friends and Ivan’s intelligence and creativity, they work together to find a better life for the animals. This book would be enjoyed by independent readers ages 8 and up, but younger elementary-aged children would appreciate the story as a read aloud.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Edward Tulane is a toy china rabbit. He has a lovely life and is cherished by a little girl, until everything changes. He takes incredible journey, bringing him to new places and meeting new people, until it all comes full circle. Newbery winner DiCamillo shares a beautiful tale of how to love, even when our love has been lost.
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
This classic book that many of us enjoyed when we were young continues to be loved by children today. Ramona experiences the joys and frustrations of being 8 years old, making this book very relatable for children of the same age group. Getting older means more responsibilities, but it also means more fun!
Frindle by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Brian Selznick
Sometimes inspiration can strike at the most unexpected moment. Young Nick is the type of child who is bored by the monotony of traditional school and does his best to make it interesting. His new teacher, Mrs. Granger, loves the dictionary and the power of words. When Nick learns about how words are created and evolve, he decides to start calling his pen a ‘frindle’. Not only does the word catch on with his classmates; it becomes a much larger phenomenon, and Nick gains a whole new perspective.
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner, illustrated by Greg Hargreaves
This is a powerful story that is a perfect hook for new chapter book readers. Little Willy and his grandfather live on a farm in Wyoming. Willy’s grandfather becomes too ill to work, and Willy discovers they are on the verge of losing their farm. His only hope is to enter the local dogsled race and win the prize money. The problem? Native man Stone Fox has never lost the race. Willy and his dog Searchlight work hard to strive for their goal. Our age guidance is also a spoiler: Searchlight dies at the end of the story, making this less appropriate for younger children. We recommend it for kids 8 and up.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
This Newbury Honor book has been loved by generations of readers. A little girl who wears the same faded, worn dress to school each day is teased, even though she often talks about her closet full of beautiful clothes. The girl moves away, and the other children are left without an opportunity to apologize for their harsh words. This is a story that touches on poverty, bullying, and how it is possible to learn from our mistakes and become better people.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
If there’s one recognizable title on this list, it’s this one, but we would be remiss to leave it out! Young Fern saves a runt pig who eventually goes to live on her uncle’s farm. Like most pigs, Wilbur is destined to become dinner, that is until he meets his new friend, Charlotte. Charlotte is a tiny spider who lives in the barn, and her talented web-weaving skills, combined with Wilbur’s radiant personality, help him to become a sensation.
The Van Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant
Clara’s dad owns the Van Gogh Cafe. When she’s not at school, she’s usually there hanging out or helping out. People say the Cafe is full of magic, and each chapter details an event that makes the reader wonder of that might possibly be true…
This book would be best appreciated by children elementary aged and older.
Matilda by Roald Dahl, illustrations by Quentin Blake
Young Matilda Wormwood was born into a family that doesn’t appreciate her. She longs for learning and friendship, while her parents and brother are more interested in television and finding ways to cheat others. Fortunately, Matilda is supported by a friendly librarian, her first grade teacher, and her new friends. Throughout this ridiculous story they find ways to avoid the terrible school headmaster, Miss Trunchbull, and find their happily-ever-after.
We hope these titles introduce your child to new authors, ideas, and reading adventures! What other chapter books would you add to the list?