The Long, Tough Journey to Chapter Books

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My niece Addison is a very smart cookie. She’s cute and rambunctious and she thinks she controls the world. She’s also in second grade which means she is now being pushed out of the comfortable den of picture books and into that of chapter books.

Every time I even attempt to buy her a chapter book she gives off a heavy sigh as if I were asking her to move mountains or count the stars. She says she doesn’t like the books I pull from the shelves before I can even finish telling her the titles. She then darts off, as seven year olds often do, and returns with yet another book with kittens on every page.

It’s nothing but an uphill battle with her. She has a stern look that she reserves for such confrontations and she wields it with expert precision. I imagine the Vizgoths had an easier time sacking Rome.

She once saw the manuscript for the book I wrote while I was knee deep in the editing process. She was five years old then and asked if I wrote it. I told her I had and she flipped through it in amazement. “You know a lot of words, Uncle Meemuk,” she said in awe.

I understand her frustration, though. It’s hard to step outside the boundaries of your own life and abandon the things you’ve grown accustomed to. Routine is important to everyone, especially children.

So now I take on the impossible task of trying to find just the right book to ease her into the exciting world of chapter books. I want it to be exciting and difficult(I plan on reading it to her), but I want the reward of a great plot waiting there in the pages for her.

I think back to the first books I read as a child. The Mouse and the Motorcycle comes to mind. A very cute little book with a mouse that rides a motorcycle … who could say no to that? Addie can and did.

Then you have Roald Dahl, a favorite of many, I imagine. From his mind sprouted Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. And then there is my favorite of his, The Witches.

It’s a great book where a boy stumbles upon a coven of witches while on vacation, and is turned into a little mouse for his troubles. I remember having nightmares because of that book. Roald Dahl became my personal Boogeyman that year.

But I don’t want to sick the creations of Mr. Dahl upon her just yet. I’m thinking of going a slightly more subtle route that still has elements of horror, but touches upon a gentler form of magic. I’m thinking of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

I’ve read it twice before and have yet to grow tired of it, and I’m a grown man. I read it the second time after finishing Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, having not had my fill of the wonderful worlds and people he creates. Perhaps I should simply read the latter to her, seeing how it has such strong, female characters.

I guess in the end I simply want my niece to grow up to be the sort of person that reads great books, and now is the time to begin her on the path towards that. It’s time for her to put away spot and the cat in the hat(though never to forget them), and take her first steps into the beautiful world of chapter books.

What book would you choose to read to your little ones?

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4 thoughts on “The Long, Tough Journey to Chapter Books

  1. Kay

    There’s only one book: Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell. Originally published in 1945, it’s a timeless tale of eternal love, about fairy kings and queens, their enemies the goblins, and mere mortals who have long since passed into memory. It all begins when Lucy, a young girl, finds a little white dog deep in the woods and follows it through a tunnel to emerge in an enchanted valley…currently available in reprint on numerous websites.

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  2. My daughter is only three and a half, but enjoys me reading more complex books to her. She doesn’t necessarily have to look at pictures to be engaged in a story. Roald Dahl will always be a hit with children when moving on to chapter books. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series were some of my favourite books when I was around seven.

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    • I agree. I think children can handle stories and books that most would consider too advanced for them. Besides, when we went book shopping when she was younger, too many books seemed too similar to me.

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