At some point young readers start to find short stories just don’t suffice. Justine Wall chooses some of the best proper chapter books to engage keen readers and develop their love of reading.
When you get to the stage when your children are staying awake past bedtime and you’re having to wrestle a book out of their hands in order to get them to sleep, they are probably reading proper chapter books. Longer stories help children develop a sense of linear narrative as well as being great for building the vocabulary and developing tenacity by sticking with the story.
Here are six of the most engaging and enduring proper chapter books to encourage keen readers, most of which you will have read as a child yourself.
The lines between reality and Barney’s imagined world are blurred in Stig of the Dump: I still can’t put my finger on the exact interpretation of the narrative, and I see that as a positive. The text encourages readers to adventure outdoors and explore the natural world independently. The Puffin Classic version is a favourite of mine, with Edward Ardizzone’s beautiful sketches assisting the narrative, the font is manageable, and the chapters are fairly lengthy but not too overwhelming.
David Walliams is a great writer: some of his vocabulary choices won’t be immediately accessible to newly independent readers, but don’t let that put you off offering his books to your child. Encourage them to sound out, ask or simply skip over it, instead of missing out. The narrative is particularly endearing and readers can identify with both Chloe and Mr Stink, allowing their empathetic skills to develop.
Almost all children love a story based in miniature worlds, and The Borrowers remains a favourite for many. Published almost 70 years ago, it is a story of tiny creatures living in a house, it’s the names of the characters and the unusual use of vocabulary that inspires children to experiment with words themselves: Pod, Homily, Arriety and Hendreary Clock and of course the superbly named Lupy (Rain-Pipe Harpsichord) Clock. It’s sure to grab young readers’ attention.
Anything by Roald Dahl is going to make children of this age laugh out loud, but this one is particularly revolting. A great book to encourage children to read dialogue in voices – you will have to model this – and practising different character personas. If they enjoy the role-play, look out for The Twits: Play, adapted adapted by David Wood, great for budding thespians.
A much overlooked classic, which will have children eager to sit down and read. The anthropomorphic narrative, where very clever rats who have been scientifically altered in a laboratory make a daring escape, find themselves needed in the farming community, is a heart-warming tale of daring adventure, love and reconciliation: although it never loses sight of its main message – animal welfare and genetic modification.
A wonderful way to introduce children to Blyton’s more grown-up narratives, The Secret Seven series, available as a box set, provides hours of adventure and innocent but exciting capers. Stories include a group of young sleuths retrieving stolen pearls, exploring castle ruins and solving mysterious disappearances. Old-fashioned fun.