If your child ages 6, 7, or 8 (first – third grade) is working hard to become a reader, you’ll want to provide them with enticing beginning chapter books that get them reading, reading, reading. I love finding newly published books to help with just that. Here are some of the latest books that may be just perfect for your growing reader in the early elementary grades.
Also, I’m THRILLED to see so more 2017 & 2018 titles with diversity! Books, in my opinion, need to represent all the people that are reading them and that are in the world. Not just skin color but also neurological and other diversity as well. Glad to see some improvement!
Now clearly not all beginning chapter books are at the same reading level. You can glance through the sample chapter online to see how many words are on the page, the size of the text, and the density of illustrations. These three indicators should give you a clue about the reading level. (Compare it to books your child is already reading.) Bigger text with more illustrations are on the easier comprehension levels. Closer packed text with less illustrations are usually in books that are harder to read. Or use the five finger test to estimate if the book is a good fit for your child. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but too challenging books often lead to frustration and giving up. You know your child. If a book is to hard and frustrating, save it for a later time.
Find all my beginning chapter book recommendations separated by age (and grade) –>
I LOVED the wry humor in this beginning, hilarious chapter book. It pairs two of the most unlikely of traveling companions together– a worm and a bird. The bird, Laurence, thinks he’s a flamingo and wants to journey to Lake Nakuru National Park where the other flamingos live. The worm, Marcus, besides worrying he’s about to be breakfast, thinks that Laurence looks like a chicken. What do you the reader think? Never the less, in hopes that Laurence WON’T eat him for breakfast, Marcus offers to help Laurence navigate to Lake Nakuru. As they travel “the world”, the two develop an unexpected, lovely friendship. The reader will crack up at Laurence’s mistaken landmark sighting (is it the Eiffel Tower or a power line tower?) Your growing readers will crack up while reading this fun adventure.
Jasmine is so jealous that the older kids in her family have important jobs on the mochi making day — she wants to do what the older boys and men are doing, pound the mochi rice. Her understanding father figures out a way for Jasmine to join in. And even though it didn’t work out how she wanted, her family is proud of her and decide it’s okay to break some rules like who gets to pound the rice. Not only is the story’s message very sweet, you’ll love how Jasmine’s Japanese-American culture and warm family community shine throughout.
Once again, the Zoey and Sassafras series doesn’t disappoint. This latest adventure is Zoey helping cute little creatures called “caterflies” who have hidden their eggs in a cave that is frozen over. Zoey uses science and creativity to help her new friends. Sassafras plays a starring role, too because the caterflies LOVE how warm Sassafras coat keeps them. You’ll learn about the scientific method, the freezing point of water, plants, and the life cycle of butterflies as you read this exciting adventure.
Ava and Rosie are not excited to move to the zoo for the summer with their brother, writer mom, and teacher dad. But once they arrive, they change their minds quickly. Now they’re really worried about the missing pronghorns and the suspicious trucks just outside the fences. With the help of their brother Ethan, the siblings must figure out what’s happening and how to keep the animals safe. Throughout the book, you’ll find pages with activities like puzzles and mazes as well as information about the animals at the zoo. You’ll love both the mystery story and the factual sections of information. It’s really well done! Also in the series: Puppy Rescue Riddle.
Ellie, Engineer is a fun, well-written adventure that makes engineering seem enticing and creative! After a disastrous “french braid machine” tangles her best friend’s hair, Ellie, who already considers herself as an engineer, plans to make her BFF a new birthday present — a dog house. She gets help from a neighbor boy and a group of girls from school who are bitter rivals until Ellie helps them work together. It’s a perfect, pro-STEM story for readers ages 7 – 9.
Wallace and Grace and the Lost Puppy by Heather Alexander, illustrated by Laura Zarrin
Owl friends, Wallace and Grace, are on a scavenger hunt when they find a lost puppy in the woods. The friends, who also run a detective agency, ask the puppy named Jasper for details on what he can remember. They put together the clues, ask for help from other forest friends, and return Jasper safely home. Easy to read and charming, this story looks just right for 6- and 7- year- old readers who are just starting chapter books.
Fly seems like Wolfie’s total opposite — he’s talkative and likes to use his imagination. Wolfie prefers to be alone and never use her imagination. The reader will delight as Fly “helps” Wolfie’s imagination swim as he suggests fun details to expand her submarine –rockets, food, engines, a port hole and more. She might not admit Fly is her friend but together they have a lot of fun. So she’s willing to do it again tomorrow. Absolutely charming.
Squishy excited to have discovered a boy hiding from the police in the basement of her apartment building. She wants to keep it a secret from her step-sisters but one thing leads to another, and the twins find out. Surprisingly, they are really nice. Together, the three help feed the boy until discovering who he really is which changes everything. All the while, Squishy begins to think of her sisters as bonus, not step, sisters, making her feel a lot better about living with them. I really enjoyed this big-hearted mystery.
Spy Toys by Mark Powers, illustrated by Tim Wesson
I love it when beginning chapter books are FUN to read! And Spy Toys surprised me with how fun it was… So-called defective smart toys are the heroes of this story. Dan, the too-strong cuddle bear, Arabella, a doll with a temper, and Flax, a police robot rabbit, are recruited to guard a senator’s son named Sam from being kidnapped. They’re already in disguise as well, toys. So when Sam is kidnapped on a skiing trip, the toys are there to thwart the evil clown-elephant. Catchy illustrations throughout! Perfect for ages 6 – 9.
Slug Days by Sara Leach, illustrations by Rebecca Bender
Slug Days is a first person slice-of-life story about a girl named Lauren who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She’s a big fan of insects so she describes how her days feel by relating them to insects — slugs or butterflies. We see her struggle to manage her behavior at school where she has a plan to help her stay calm and learn in her own way. The first person voice helps readers understand what Lauren experiences throughout the day, the range of emotions she, like all of us, feel. I like any book that helps kids put themselves in another person’s shoes which this book does well. Added to: Books for Kids with Characters on the Autism Spectrum
Shai and her two friends are preparing for a dance contest. Regrettably, Shai makes an impulsive bet with a rival team. Now she’s pushing her friends harder than ever to be perfect instead of having fun. But her friends are irritated and things aren’t looking good for the competition when Shai sprains her ankle. Time for her to learn what’s important and what isn’t. Relatable, appealing plot and characters. Written by the movie star of Annie!
Large print and illustrations paired with a ghost adventure are sure to entice readers into this easiest beginning chapter book. Andres moves to a new house next to a kid named Desmond who specializes in catching ghosts — of which Andres happens to have in his house!! Something you need to know about Andres, he’s scared of everything!! Luckily, Desmond isn’t. Once they trap the ghost, Desmond and Andres discover that the ghost is lonely and just wants a place to live forever. Now what will they do?
Kitty’s Magic: Misty the Scared Kitten by Ella Moonheart
Cat lovers will love that the main character named Kitty turns into a cat with a magical necklace / collar. It’s magic that runs in her family. At first, Kitty is really confused but her new cat friend, Misty, helps her learn what to do. Kitty returns the favor, helping Misty by solving the problem of Fang, a cat bully. Now that Kitty knows the truth, her Grandma wants Kitty to take her place on the Guardian of the Cat Council which sets up more books to come in the series. ADDED to: Favorite Cat Books for Kids
Loosely based on the author’s own childhood, 3rd grader Stella is very, very quiet in both Spanish and English.
She feels separate, just like the word alien that describes her green card status being born in Mexico and moving to Chicago as a baby. A big fish research project for school helps Stella find her voice and overcome her fears, including making a new friend. Many children will be able to relate to Stella’s fears and feelings of differentness.
Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, teacher, author, and freelance writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Sylvan Learning, Random House, USA Today Health, The Writer, and Scholastic Parent and Child.