(All of these books would also be great choices for beginner readers to read on their own. Most of them are about 1st to 2nd grade reading level.)
I started reading chapter books with my son when he was three years old due to finding some awesome ones that were perfect for his age and attention span. It was so much fun to get more in depth with the stories I read with him and we were both hooked and have been constantly on the lookout for great new read aloud books since then. Our requirements for a good read aloud were/are: lots of pictures, not too much text per page, and an engaging plot. And we discovered some amazing books that fit the bill! Some of these took us a while to find, so I hope sharing this list will be helpful for other people who are searching.
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If you are reading chapter books aloud with your child for the first time I would recommend starting with one of these three series:
They are perfect for transitioning from picture books to chapter books, because there are full color illustrations on every page and not too much text per page. It really feels like you’re reading a longer picture book that’s broken up into chapters.
Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo:
I have a special place in my heart for this series since it’s the first one I ever read with my son and was the one that made my start searching for anything else like it. I love the bright, animated illustrations and fun, quirky characters. There are 6 books in this series.
The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale
I wish this series existed when I was a kid! A princess who lives in a castle and wears pretty dresses and then chooses to sneak out in disguise to fight crime too? Yes please! Luckily I still get to enjoy them through my kids. Don’t count boys out on this one just because it has Princess in the title. It has a very superhero feel to it. This was the second series I read with my son and he loved it so much we read the whole thing in one sitting and then he asked to read it again shortly after. There are 5 books out so far and the next book is coming out this Fall!
The Adventures of Caveboy by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
This series is part of the Bloomsbury Read and Bloom line which are designed for newly independent readers. These books could easily be read in one or two sittings. I’ve read most of the books in the line with my son, but this series was his favorite. There are 3 books in the series right now.
These next books feel less like picture books since they don’t all contain full color illustrations and they have a little more text per page. They are still very attainable for kids’ attention span though and have plenty of pictures.
These are Usborne series so you can also find them through your favorite Usborne consultant. I was able to check them out from the library. They are very quick reads that you could easily do in one sitting. I think they are actually the shortest books on this list, but they do have black and white illustrations. The two series are companion series because the characters from each series are best friends and show up in each others’ books, but you don’t have read one to understand the other. I read the whole Hey Jack! series (13 books) with my son and he really liked them. Each book has a kind of message or life lesson that Jack has to learn.
The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn
I posted about this series on my Instagram account a couple months ago and it is definitely the book I have got the most positive response about! It has made me so happy to hear about so many kids discovering and loving this series that somehow seems to have slipped under the radar. The illustrations are black and white, but very frequent and so beautiful. They are my favorite illustrations of all the books in this list! My two year old daughter actually likes to sit and flip through all the pages just so she can see the pictures. And there is a detailed map in the front of the book that my son loves referring back to as different areas of the kingdom are explored. There are 12 books in the series out right now and the next one comes out in a month!
The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Wilems
I love the Parisian setting of this story which is captured in the gorgeous illustrations. It gave me a very similar vibe to the Disney movie “The Aristocats.” It’s a sweet story of friendship between two animals from different walks of life who help push each other out of their comfort zones. I haven’t heard anything about any sequels yet, but I’m really hoping I’ll get to see more of these characters!
The Kung Pow Chicken series by Cyndi Marko
My son loved this series about an ordinary chicken and his little brother who fall into a mysterious substance and become a superhero and sidekick. They keep their identity secret and try to fight crime. The books are full of silly puns and superhero adventures. The format is kind of between a graphic novel and a chapter book and the illustrations are all in color. There are 4 books in the series. This book and the next one are part of the Scholastic Branches line of books which are geared toward new readers and all feature fast paced plots and illustrations on every page. They have a bunch of different series you should look into if you’re looking for more ideas!
Dragon Masters series by Tracey West
This series is about a boy who gets taken from his farm to the castle where he is told he will start training as a Dragon Master. Along with three other kids he must train and learn how to connect with his dragon and discover what his dragon’s special ability is. My son was really interested in the story and especially hearing about the different dragons and their abilities. There are 9 books out now and the next book is coming out this summer.
When your kids are ready for more text to a page and fewer illustrations (although there are still plenty!) I would try one of these:
Zoey and Sassafrass series by Asia Citro
It is about a daughter of a scientist who discovers she can see magical animals that need her help. Using research and experiments she discovers how to best help them. I love how the series basically shows how to do scientific analysis (hypothesis, experiments, eliminating variables, etc) but in a very fun way that never feels forced. My son learned a lot from that and was making hypotheses right along with the main character. He learned some new scientific vocabulary and concepts as well- and all while reading a fun story! The 5th book in the series comes out in a couple days and the next after that will be out this Fall.
Tales from Deckawoo Drive series by Kate DiCamillo
This is a spin-off series to Mercy Watson. Each book in the series features a minor character from Mercy Watson and expands on their story. It has the same, very talented illustrator, but in this series the illustrations are in black and white and are not quite as frequent. It was really fun to see familiar faces in the stories. There are 4 books out and I’m not sure whether or not there will more.
I hope you find something on this list to get excited about! Let me know in the comments any books you would add to this list!