Jump to content


Favorite 'first reader' chapter books that aren't annoying?


Recommended Posts

I think all early chapter books are twaddle, but they're twaddle with a purpose. ;)


We used Magic Tree House, Star Wars, and some easy reader type chapter books. Soon, the kid was ready for real chapter books.


You might check the Sonlight readers, as they have some early chapter books that would be enjoyable. I'm guessing it would be the grade 2-3 readers?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

FWIW, the twaddle serves a purpose. There are two importance aspects of reading: fluency, and comprehension. Fluency means being about to read the words quickly and easily, comprehension means being able to understand the meaning behind the sentences and the story.




Books like the fairy books are indeed twaddle. The characters and places and story in each book are basically exactly the same. The characters don't grow or change. Nothing really happens that you can't see coming. Once you read one or two, there is very little comprehension needed. Instead, the child can concentrate on fluency. After the child is comfortable reading fluently, it will be much more enjoyable for her to move on to other, better, books.


FWIW, most kids also go through a similar phase during the transition from kids to adult books. That's why these sorts of series pop up in that age range too: and before the YA series became popular, schlocky romances or fantasy (not saying all romance or fantasy is schlock... but look back to what you and your peers were reading for fun in middle school, and you'll think of what I mean) were a perennial favorite.


So I understand the hesitation to get a kid hooked on these sorts of books when there are so many other wonderful books out there. But, believe it or not, starting with the twaddle can help a child get off on the right foot with better books.


Now, to actually answer your question, I've had really interesting luck finding those textbook "readers" that public schools often use. You can find samples of most of the current ones online if you go to the publishers' page. They sometimes have entire shorter stories, or excerpts from longer ones. They're all very well chosen fiction and non-fiction, just at the right reading level. Many of them I was familiar with, but several others were unexpected treasures. I'm not suggesting you buy the textbooks (though I've gotten a few used for extremely cheap that I also use), but you can take a look at the table of contents and get a nice little reading list from there. I've been using the Harcourt "Collections" series, and a Silver Burdett & Ginn series from the 80s... not due to any research or anything, but just because those are the ones I've bought for a few dollars each.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My ds loved Nate the Great. I would check out the list from SL 2/3 readers and HOD emerging readers and then maybe even some of the Sonlight A read alouds we have used as readers also. DS loves NF books on animals too. Library usually has alot of good ones, but you may want to preread some. Also, Life of Fred elementary books my ds loves to read...he is somewhere around 3 or 4th grade reading level.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Take a look at the last few books in HOD Emergent Reader set and their level 2 book pack and level 3 book pack. My ds enjoyed all of those and I didn't find them annoying. Some other short chapter books: The White Stallion, The Apple and the Arrow, The Sword in the Tree, A lion to Guard Us, Phoebe the Spy, Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims, The Story of Thomas Alva Edison, Helen Keller(Davidson), Louise Braille The Boy Who Invented Books for the Blind, Flat Stanley(probably twaddle but fun), Burgess books such as The Adventures of Reddy Fox etc. I also have a list of early readers on my blog but they may be a bit easier than you want. Some of the level 3 and 4 Step Into Reading would still be good for that level.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Totally agree with Momma2three! 🙂 Below is a list of ideas; lots of "stepped readers" in there.

I found that Stepped Readers at the higher end were VERY useful at this stage -- still illustrations to keep it from feeling overwhelming to a new reader, and lots of non-fiction if you have a child who prefers that.

One of our DSs really loved mysteries/detective, and the Nate the Great, then the Jigsaw Jones series was great for that -- formulaic enough for fluency, but not really twaddle.

 More ideas: a big plug here for The Robinson Crusoe Reader (by Cowles), an abridged version of the classic. My boys were absolutely fascinated by the shipwreck/survival story. You may also want to take a look at the Great Classics Illustrated series -- abridged versions of the classics, with a page of text next to a full-page illustration to keep it from feeling overwhelming.

And for more ideas of school readers -- the vintage (early 1960s) Ginn Basic Readers were *great* here -- a series of short stories, many were abridgements of classics, plus poems, liberally sprinkled with illustrations, all added up to a lot of success in early chapter book reading. LOVED Roads to Everywhere -- probably among my favorites (we've collected the grade 3-6 volumes). Amazon used books has these all the time, usually about $5 + shipping.

Vintage Ginn Basic Reader series:

2nd Grade:
- We Are Neighbors (1st semester reader)
- Around the Corner (2nd semester reader)
- Ranches and Rainbows (enrichment) 

3rd Grade
- Finding New Neighbors (1st semester reader)
- Friends Far and Near (2nd semester 1reader)
- Fun and Fancy (enrichment)

4th Grade
- Roads to Everywhere (reader)
- Down Story Roads (enrichment)

5th Grade
- Trails to Treasure (reader)
- Doorways to Discovery (reader)
- Along Story Trails (enrichment)

6th Grade
- Wings to Adventure (reader)
- Windows on the World (reader)
- On Story Wings (enrichment)

ANIMALS (real)

2nd grade reading level
- Billy and Blaze series (Anderson)
- Buddy, the First Seeing Eye Dog (Moore)
- Barry, the Bravest St. Bernard (Hall)
- The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto (Standiford)
- Balto and the Great Race (Kimmel)
- Five True Dog Stories (Davidson)
- Seven True Horse Stories (Davidson)
- Nine True Dolphin Stories (Davidson)

2nd/3rd grade reading level
- Thornton Burgess series
- Animals Do The Strangest Things (Hornblow)
- Birds Do The Strangest Things (Hornblow)
- Insects Do The Strangest Things (Hornblow
- Fish Do The Strangest Things (Hornblow)
- Reptiles Do The Strangest Things (Hornblow)
- Follow My Leader (Garfield)
- Dolphin Adventure; Dolphin Treasure; Dolphins and Me (Grover)
- Horse Heroes (Petty)
- Man O'War: The Best Racehorse Ever (Mckerly)
- Horse Named Seabiscuit (Duvowski)
- Jumbo (Worth) -- famous PT Barnum circus elephant  

3rd grade reading level
- The Bears on Hemlock Mountain (Dalgliesh)
- Christian Liberty Nature Readers
- Dolphin Adventure; Dolphin Treasure; Dolphins and Me (Grover) 

ANIMALS (talking)

 2nd/3rd grade reading level
- Catwings (series) (LeGuin) 

3rd grade reading level
- My Father's Dragon (Gannett)
- Mr. Popper's Penguins (Atwater)
- The Cricket in Times Square (Selden)
- Chester Cricket series (Selden) 

3rd/4th grade reading level
- Charlotte's Web (White)
- Trumpet of the Swan (White)
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle (McCleary)
- The Rescuers, Miss Bianca, The Turret, Miss Bianca in the Salt Mines, Miss Bianca in the Orient (Sharpe) -- wonderful OOP series; lots of lovely illustrations, great writing, great vocabulary! 


 2nd grade reading level
- Toots and the Upside Down House (Hughes)
- Moongobble and Me (series) (Coville)
- Dragonslayer Academy (series) (McMullan)
- The Littles series (Peterson)
- Catwings series (LeGuin) 

3rd grade reading level
- The Borrowers (series) (Norton)
- My Father's Dragon (and sequels) (Gannett)
- Charlie & the Chocolate Factory; Great Glass Elevator (Dahl) 


2nd/3rd grade reading level
- Billy and Blaze series (Anderson)
- Light at Tern Rock (Sauer)
- Follow My Leader (Garfield) 

3rd grade reading level
- Understood Betsy (Fisher)
- B is for Betsy (Haywood)
- Betsy and Tacy series (Lovelace)
- The Moffats series (Estes)
- Grandma's Attic series (Richardson)
- The Hundred Dresses (Estes)
- The Toothpaste Millionaire (Merrill)
- Henry Huggins (series) (McCleary)
- The Robinson Crusoe Reader (Cowles)
- Stone Fox (Gardiner) -- WARNING! DOG DIES!
- House on Rocky Ridge (Macbride) -- series following Laura Ingalls Wilder's descendants 


 2nd/3rd grade reading level
- The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the War (Little)
- The Trojan Horse: The World's Greatest Adventure (Davies)
- Viking Adventure (Bulla) -- Vikings
- The Arrow and the Apple (Buff)
- The Sword in the Tree (Bulla) -- Medieval England
- The Minstrel in the Tower (Skurzynski) -- Medieval England
- Pocahontas and the Strangers (Bulla) -- Colonial
- The First Thanksgiving (Hayward)
- Small Wolf (Benchley)
- Finding Providence (Avi)
- A Lion to Guard Us (Bulla) -- Colonial US
- Phoebe the Spy (Griffin) --American Revolution - true story
- Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride (Amstel) -- true story of a female Paul Revere
- Secret Soldier: Story Of Deborah Sampson (McGovern) -- Revolutionary War female hero
- Toliver's Secret (Brady) -- Revolutionary War
- Buttons for General Washington (Roop) -- Revolutionary War spy
- The Drinking Gourd (Monjo) -- Underground Railroad
- The Secret Valley (Bulla) -- Gold Rush/pioneers
- Chang's Paper Pony (Coerr) -- Gold Rush/Chinese immigrant
- Abe Lincoln's Hat (Brenner)
- Riding the Pony Express (Bulla) -- Pony Express, 1861
- The Long Way to a New Land (Sandin) -- immigrants
- The Long Way Westward (Sandin) -- immigrants go west
- Wagon Wheels (Brenner) -- true story of a black pioneer family
- The Josefina Story Quilt (Coerr) -- true story of a wagon train
- Snowshoe Thompson (Levinson) -- mailman to the pioneers of the west
- Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie (Roop) -- girl keeps lighthouse going
- The Big Balloon Race (Coerr) -- 1890s European hot air balloons 

3rd grade reading level
- Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky (Schiller) -- Viking times
- Robin Hood: Tale of the Great Outlaw Hero (Bull)
- Robinson Crusoe Reader (Cowles) -- adaptation of the classic story
- Marco Polo (Graves)
- Pirates: Raiders of the High Seas (Maynard)
- Days of the Knights: A Tale of Castles and Battles (Maynard)
- The Cabin Faced West (Fritz) -- Colonial Pioneer
- Skippack School (de Angeli) -- Colonial
- The Courage of Sarah Noble (Dalgliesh) -- Colonial US
- Sarah Plain and Tall; Skylark; Caleb's Story (MacLachlan) -- US - pioneer times
- Hannah (Whelan) -- blind pioneer girl
- Silver (Whelan) -- daughter of an Alaskan "musher" gets a sled dog puppy
- Pioneer Cat (Hooks) -- pioneer girl and her cat travel west in a wagon train
- The Little Riders (Shemin) -- WWII occupied Europe
- Clouds of Terror (Welch) -- 1870s US prairie grasshopper plagues
- The Copper Lady (Ross) -- building of the Statue of Liberty
- Dust for Dinner (Turner) -- Dust Bowl/Depresssion 

3rd/4th grade reading level
- The Kite Fighters (Park) -- 1400s Korea
- The Cabin Faced West (Fritz) -- pioneer times US
- Twenty and Ten (Bishop) -- WWII French children hide Jewish children 


2nd/3rd grade reading level
- Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie (Roop)
- The Story of Thomas Alva Edison (Davidson)
- Helen Keller (Davidson)
- Helen Keller's Teacher (Davidson)
- Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark (Hurwitz)
- Louis Braille (Davidson)
- Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride (Amstel)
- Christopher Columbus (Krensky)
- Johnny Appleseed: My Story (Harrison)
- George Washington's Mother (Fritz)
- Great Black Heroes: Five Brilliant Scientists (Jones/Garnet)
- Great Black Heroes: Five Notable Inventors (Hudson/Garnet) 

3rd grade reading level
- Brendan the Navigator (Fritz)
- The Wright Brothers (Reynolds)
- Joan of Arc (Corey)
- Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky
- The Secret Soldier: The Story Of Deborah Sampson (McGovern)
- The Daring Escape of Ellen Craft (Moore)
- The Wright Brothers (Reynolds)
- Little Sure Shot: Annie Oakley (Spinner)
- Robert Fulton, Boy Craftsman (Henry)
- Dinosaur Hunter (Alphin)
- The Great Houdini: World Famous Magician (Kulling)
- The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth (Patrick)
- Flying Ace: Story of Amelia Earhart (Bull)
- Vanished! Mysterious Disappearance of Amelia Earhart (Kulling)
- Can't You Make Them Behave, King George? (Fritz)
- What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? (Fritz)
- And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? (Fritz)
- Paul Revere's Ride (Corey) 

3rd/4th grade reading level
- The Daring Escape of Ellen Craft (Moore)
- The Great Houdini: World Famous Magician & Escape Artist (Kulling)
- Escape North! Story of Harriet Tubman (Kulling)
- Eat My Dust! Henry Ford's First Race (Kulling) 

SCIENCE -- many are level 3, 4, 5 stepped readers
- Magic School Bus chapter book series
- True Tales chapter book series
- Magic School Bus series
- Usborne science titles
- Let's Read and Find Out About Science series
- science books by Gail Gibbon
- Greg's Microscope (Selsam)
- Hill of Fire (Lewis)
- Volcanoes! (Arnold)
- Quakes (McMorrow)
- Storm Chasers (Herman)
- Twisters! (Hayden)
- Lightning: It's Electrifying (Dussling)
- The Animal Rescue Club (Himmelman)
- Dinosaur Hunter (Alphin)
- Dinosaur Hunters (McMullan)
- Dancing with Manatees (McNulty)
- Plants Bite Back (Platt)
- Pompeii... Buried Alive! (Davis)
- Ice Mummy: Discovery of a 3,000 year old Man (Dubowski)
- The Titanic: Lost and Found (Donnelly)
- Tut's Mummy: Lost and Found (Donnelly)
- To The Top! Climbing the World's Highest Mountain (Kramer)
- Mountain Climbing: Scaling the World's Highest Peaks (Martin)
- Civil War Sub: Mystery of the Hunley (Jerome)
- USS Monitor: Iron Warship That Changed the World (Thompson)
- Race Into Space (Arnold)
- Moonwalk (Donnelly) 


2nd grade reading level
- Nate the Great series (Sharmat)
- High Rise Private Eyes series (Rylant) 

2nd/3rd grade reading level
- Invisible Inc. series (Levy)
- A to Z Mysteries (Roy)
- Jigsaw Jones series (Prellar)
- Cam Jansen series (Adler)
- Third Grade Detective series (Stanley) 

3rd grade reading level
- Boxcar Children series (Warner)  


2nd/3rd grade reading level
- The Blind Men and the Elephant (Backstein/Mitra)
- Sim-Chung and the River Dragon (Schecter)
- The Warrior Maiden (Schecter)
- A Grain of Rice (Pittman)
- Aladdin (Mistry)

3rd grade reading level
- Tales of Robin Hood (Claybourne)

3rd/4th grade reading level
- Mermaid Tales from Around the World (Osborne)
- Beauty and the Beast (Osborne)
- Tenggren's Golden Tales from the Arabian Nights (Tenggren)
- Tales from the Ballet (Barber)
- The Tall Book of Christmas (Smith)
- Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury (Brett)
- The World's Best Fairy Tales (Sideman) -- a Reader's Digest Anthology 


 2nd grade reading level
- Commander Toad series (Yolan)
- Fly on the Ceiling (Glass)
- Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares (Murphy/Walz)
- A Grain of Rice (Pittman)
- Riddle series (Eisenberg & Hall) -- book after book of riddles, each on a related topic (i.e., puppies; rabbits; etc.) 

2nd/3rd grade reading level
- Flat Stanley series
- The Bears on Hemlock Mountain (Dalgliesh)
- The Whipping Boy (Fleischman)
- McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm (Fleischman) 

3rd grade reading level
- Pippi Longstockings; Pippi in the South Seas (Astrid)
- Ben and Me; Mr. Revere and I (Lawson)
- Miss Pickerell (series) (MacGregor) -- tall tale adventure with humor 

Edited by Lori D.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...