Early Chapter Books

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka

It is vital for early elementary aged children to read introductory chapter books that they enjoy.  Reading is fun, but when you’re just learning sometimes you need encouragement that the hard work is worth it!   Even if your young person isn’t ready to tackle the following books independently, they are great read alouds that you both will enjoy while reinforcing the message that--you guessed it--reading is fun!

Remember “Little Golden Books,” those sweet stories that frequently idealized the world of an adorable, furry animal. Leave it to Jon Scieszka, along with co-author Mac Barnett, to turn them upside down and create the perfect spoof.  “Battle Bunny” has one layer of text reminiscent of these classic tales, but certain key words are marked through and enhanced, turning the “Birthday Bunny” into “Battle Bunny.”  While Birthday Bunny writes of a special birthday breakfast featuring “carrot juice and a bowl of Carrot Crispies,” Battle Bunny enjoys “brain juice and a bowl of greasy guts.”  While Birthday Bunny looks forward to his birthday because he receives “super birthday presents” from his friends, Battle Bunny enjoys “super birthday powers” over all of his enemies.  The laugh out loud dichotomy even stretches to the illustrations making this a delightful read for all.

When the school principal announces a reading contest in “Kelsey Green, Reading Queen” by Claudia Mills, Kelsey is confident that she will win the prize for most books read.  Imagine her surprise when classmate Simon Ellis pulls ahead and stays there!  Convinced that he is cheating, she and her friends begin to investigate.  There’s also a class prize at stake and when Kelsey realizes that Cody Harmon hasn’t read a single book, she intervenes.  Recognizing that he’s not the strongest reader, she helps him and with each book he finishes, his confidence grows.  As the contest draws to a close, Kelsey realizes that helping her classmate is worthwhile and that winning isn’t everything.   

Don’t let the size of “The Year of Billy Miller” by Kevin Henkes fool you; it’s essentially a super-sized beginning reader with more text than pictures.  Billy Miller has many worries.  On  summer vacation his hat blew off and when he reached out to get it, he fell over the railing to the ground below.  As school begins, he overhears his mother expressing concern that he might have permanent damage.  Billy starts to worry too, and with 2nd grade starting, he’s not sure he’s ready.  When his teacher tells him it’s the Year of the Rabbit, his dad reassures Billy that it’s the Year of Billy Miller and it’s going to be outstanding.  Each of the following chapters, focus on a different family member and how Billy is able to help each of them in a small, but important way.  This is an uplifting book about a loving family and a determined young man experiencing age appropriate concerns.

When Lulu goes on vacation in “Lulu and the Dog from the Sea” by Hilary McKay everyone in town warns her family to watch out for the abandoned dog that’s wandering the streets, stealing food and outsmarting the dogcatcher.  Lulu is immediately mesmerized by the troublesome stray.  When their trash can is turned over in the middle of the night, Lulu’s father is irritated, but Lulu is excited that the dog came to visit.  It’s not long before Lulu’s persistence pays off and she makes a new friend.  Now if she can just convince everyone else that the dog from the sea is worthy!

Originally published in the 3/10/14 Free Lance-Star newspaper.