5 Chapter Books to Read to Preschoolers Plus Tips for Reading Aloud to Younger Readers

Preschoolers are notoriously squirmy and wiggly; nothing holds their attention for long. Yet Jona has always been captivated by stories and will happily sit and read a book even (sometimes especially) if it's on the long side. When he was just shy of four I decided to try reading a chapter book aloud to him to see if it would keep him interested. Since chapter books typically have very few pictures, I wasn't sure he would like it. As kids often do though, he surprised me by really enjoying it, and a new read-aloud habit began.

Here are 5 chapter books that we've read together, all of which I think are excellent for preschool-aged listeners. Additionally I'm sharing a few tips for reading chapter books with young kids.

{5 Chapter Books to Read Aloud to Preschoolers}

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. I love Roald Dahl. Matilda still stands out to me as a childhood favorite. However, I remember James and the Giant Peach was the first of Dahl's that I read, and I thought it would be a hit with Jona. A little boy who hangs around on a huge peach with giant talking bugs? It's pretty much a preschooler's dream, right? Of the ones we've read, this one remains Jona's favorite.

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. I loved this classic as a child and couldn't wait to experience it again as a mom. It's an obvious choice for little animal lovers, but I think there's really something in it for everyone. Jona particularly enjoyed Templeton the rat.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. This is another one I remember from childhood, and it was the first one we read together. A boy befriends a mouse and shares his toy motorcycle with him. With mostly short chapters and a lot of action, this one kept his attention pretty well.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. This one is great for little ones because it's really just a book of short stories featuring Christopher Robin and his friends in the Hundred Acre Woods. Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and the rest go on lots of adventures together, like hunting for Heffalumps and finding Eeyore's lost tail.

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins. A bit like Toy Story, in this short book a little girl's toys come alive and have all sorts of adventures together. For instance, Lumphy the Buffalo has a run-in with some peanut butter and has to face the washing machine, and Plastic goes to the beach and and encounters a possible shark.

{Tips for Reading Chapter Books to Younger Kids}

- Let them do something else while they listen. Don't expect preschoolers to sit perfectly still and listen to a story. Let them color, play with legos, or do a puzzle while they listen. They're probably getting more out of the story if their hands are occupied.

- Keep it short. You know your kids and can probably get a feel for when they're losing interest. Stop there or even just before that, even if it means you won't finish the chapter. That's hard for me to do sometimes, but it's better than trying to read to a kid who is no longer paying attention.

- Give overviews. It's helpful to let your child know a basic idea of what the story is about before you read it; that will help him follow along. Also, it may be helpful to do a quick review of where you left off the last time you read, especially if it's been a few days. You could ask your child to see what they remember.

- Expect interruptions. If you have other children, especially younger ones, of course you'll get interrupted, but that's not what I'm talking about. If your kid is anything like mine he'll stop you while you're reading to ask about a million questions. Or to make some comment about what's going on. I try to find a balance between answering his questions (what a word means, for example) and reminding him that if we're going to get through the story, he has to listen.

- Remember your purpose. Chances are you're not planning to give your child a pop quiz after the book, so don't worry too much about what he's getting from the story. Keep it fun and laid-back, and keep the focus on what he does remember and want to talk about, rather than what he may have missed. The end goal (or at least mine) is that you want your child to see reading as a wonderful, positive experience.

Are there any chapter books you love to read aloud? What were some of your childhood favorites? 

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