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Gentle Chapter Books for Preschool Read Alouds

The shift from picture books to chapter books is an exciting one! It means your child is ready for more complex language, has a longer attention span, and can follow longer story lines. Oftentimes, children are ready for longer stories in preschool, between the ages of three and five. But it can be challenging to find high quality chapter books that are engaging for younger children and that are actually enjoyable to read as an adult!

I’ve been reading chapter books to my girls since my oldest was a young four year old. She has Down syndrome, so colorful pictures help her follow story lines and funny stories keep her engaged. Now that she’s seven, she’s ready for more complex themes but I have a three year old who joins us for read aloud time, so I still need chapter books that appeal to younger children! That's a tall order - but the books I'm sharing here fit the bill!

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We first started our foray into longer books during mealtime, by reading classics like Frog and Toad and Little Bear, and quickly moved onto these favorites:

Charlie & Mouse series: by Laura Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

The Charlie and Mouse series features sweet and silly stories about two brothers and their neighborhood explorations, mischief and family adventures. Each book follows a story arc with short chapters and colorful, vintage illustrations on every page. We love these books.

Mercy Watson series: by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris VanDussen

Mercy Watson is a pig who lives in a house, loves toast, and has lots of adventures. My girls laugh out loud at her hijinks in these and ask to read the books again immediately. These are perfect for early readers, as well.

Cornbread and Poppy by Matthew Cordell

This early reader series has serious Frog and Toad vibes. Cornbread and Poppy are two mice who are best friends - and couldn’t be more different from one another! We love Matthew Cordell’s illustrations in this story of friendship, and they are the perfect first longer read aloud. There are currently 3 books in the series with a 4th slated for release next summer.

Our Friend Hedgehog by Lauren Castillo

Join Hedgehog as she searches for her lost stuffed animal best friend, Mutty, and meets many new real animal and human friends along the way. Our Friend Hedgehog: A Place To Call Home captured our hearts so quickly and unexpectedly! This one is a bit longer than easy reader chapter books, but still features colorful illustrations and a sweet, simple storyline.

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina

Juana is a little girl who lives in Bogato, Columbia. She loves futbol, her neighborhood, the view from her window, and especially her dog Lucas. This book has so many sweet details on huge full color page spreads and is peppered with Spanish words. The first book features a trip to Disney World, and each book that follows features a more difficult subject in an accessible and gentle way (mother remarrying, baby sibling born early and in the NICU). You will fall in love with Juana!

Once we were ready for less pictures and more of a story line, we moved onto books like these:

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Laura Tobias

Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa, amazing Africa - and shares stories about her intergenerational family home, her twin brothers (double and trouble), her Canadian Grandparents and more. The stories shared in these books are funny, heartwarming, and expose children to so much. We love them!

The Adventures of Sophie Mouse by Poppy Green, illustrated by Jennifer Bell

These easy reader chapter books are so cute! Follow curious Sophie Mouse, who loves painting and making friends, as she has adventures in Silver Lake Forest. The chapters in these books are short and the language is simple, making them the perfect read aloud for preschoolers or first chapter book for 1st or 2nd grade readers.

Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay

Science AND mythical creatures? A curious cat and a science journal? Zoey and Sassafras checks so many of my kids’ interests and keeps us turning the pages! Each book features a different mythical creature and a problem that Zoey must solve. There are experiments, research, trial and error, a scientist mom, and lots of pictures.

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett

Published in 1948, My Father’s Dragon (and the follow up books, Elmer and the Dragons and The Dragons of Blueland), are a great introduction to adventurous stories. Elmer meets a talking cat and learns about a dragon that is trapped on an island of wild animals. Elmer goes on a long journey to rescue the dragon, having lots of adventures along the way. The language in this book is a bit older but it is still a simple story for kids to follow!

These first favorites have paved the way for many more read aloud experiences. You can see all of our favorite first read alouds here. What are your favorite chapter books to read aloud as a family?

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