Yes, there is more to life than chapter books! They are only a stepping stone on the way to fluent reading. Certainly, none of us would want children to “get stuck” in chapter book land and never move on.

But what can we do to encourage that movement onward?Stock Photo of Children Discovering Reading

First, as adults, we need to relax a bit. If a child is reading chapter books and is enjoying them and wants more of the same, find them! Even if they are “on the same level.” Developing reading fluency is hard work. Kids need to spend some “down time” with books. If they pick it a book  and they are enjoying it, life is good. Their reading will develop. At this stage, it’s the number of words read that’s the critical factor, not the level. And never, never, never forget how important the enjoyment factor is.

(As an aside, since I can’t remember the source,  a study was done that showed that older gifted students who were extremely proficient readers had pretty consistently all read some “fluff” stuff extensively in elementary grades–Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, comic books, etc.).

Second, during this stage it’s an immeasurable help to read aloud. Great stories are extremely motivating. Yet most great stories cannot be written in simple early reader language. You fill that critical gap by reading aloud those great, marvelous, fun, engaging stories to your child. They hear what awaits them. They want to keep working so they too can one day read those stories. But they have to hear them to know what lies ahead.

So what can you read aloud during this in-between stage? Here’s a few ideas:

  • The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (The Books of Three is the first)
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (my teacher read this aloud to us in 5th grade)
  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (yes, the same Little House author but boys love this story)
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum
  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Banks
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques

And finally here are a few series other than The Magic Tree House:

  • Time Spies by Candace Ransom
  • Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobol
  • Soup by Robert Newton Peck (these are hysterical!)
  • Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew
  • Chet Gecko by Bruce Hale
  • Calvin & Hobbes (yes, the comic, I know many a child who developed fluency, and a great vocabulary, reading these)

Finally, if you have an older elementary aged child, you might want to read about the differences between middle grade and young adult fiction.

Let me know what I’ve missed or if you need more!