My daughter began reading at three. Thank you, Sesame Street. She started slowly, with occasional easy words, then began devouring picture books. By her fifth birthday, she was begging for something more. I knew she was capable of reading chapter books, but were there any appropriate for a five year old?
I searched the internet back and forth. I asked kindergarten teachers. I asked librarians. But, of course, I had the best luck with trial and error–searching the shelves at the library and reading the first few we found along with her. I'm going to share my findings with you, in case you're having the same (wonderful!) problem, or know a child ready for that next step.
I believe we started with the classic Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. She liked that one, so we continued with the Fudge series. Big parent note here: Look out for SuperFudge. There's a passage in that book in which the main characters discuss the existence of Santa Claus. Fortunately, I caught that and was able to direct the attention of my little believer away from that page. Otherwise, I felt the series was completely appropriate for a 5-year old.
From there we moved on to the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. In this series, sibling characters Jack and Annie move through time via their Magic Tree House portal and have adventures with all sorts of historical figures, from dinosaurs to Leonardo da Vinci. My little Sweetpea really latched on to this series. She has read all of them except for the newest one, #44. (Yes, forty four! I had to pull books from distant libraries to feed her voracious appetite.) The content of the books in this series is very wholesome and absolutely appropriate for the youngest readers. Best of all, most of the books have supplemental "Research Guides" so kids can learn more about the topic addressed.
Another one of our favorite series–although this would probably only interest the girls out there–is the Rainbow Magic Fairy books. They are simple and fun, and teach great lessons in friendship. There are several sub-series in this collection–flower fairies, dance fairies, pet fairies, music fairies, sport fairies–truly something for every interest. Each sub-series has seven books that follow sequential order, but are independent enough to be read out of order.
I kept her away from Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park until mid-kindergarten. Junie B. is in elementary school, so I wanted to make sure Sweetpea had a few of her own elementary experiences before she read about others. Also, Junie B. uses the creative words that young children often use, such as "runned." I didn't want Sweetpea to read those words in a book until she knew enough to tell the difference between proper words and "Junie B. words," which is what we called them.
And now, at six, she's reading The Baby Sitter's Club series by Ann M. Martin. I love this, because I read those when I was a child (though I believe I was a few years older than she is!).
My #1 Tip: Find a good series and stick with it as long as your child is interested. It definitely cuts down on subject-matter research time, and kids love becoming familiar with the characters and following their journeys.
Do you have questions on specific books/series that I didn't mention? Please ask–I may have researched them and forgot to include them here.
Do you have any suggestions I should add to this list? Please leave me a comment or email me. I would love for this to be a handy reference guide for parents of early readers.