It’s a thrilling moment when you introduce those first chapter books to read aloud to your child.
You’ve probably been waiting for this moment for years – all through those board book years and through millions of picture books and finally it looks like your child might be ready for some chapter books!
(It’ll vary what age your child is ready for first chapter books – many readers are ready around 3 or 4 but some may be younger or older. There’s no right age and there’s no rush!).
But picking the right first chapter books to read aloud matters!
You want chapter books to feel fun and exciting, not dull and confusing, and jumping into something too long can get things off to a rocky start.
(A famous story in my family is when my mom read me the first 50 pages of Little House in the Big Woods when I was four and when she asked if I had any questions, I replied, “Yes. Who is Laura?” She put it back on the shelf and revisited it a year later and that time I was old enough to really enjoy it).
The books on this list are perfect first chapter books to read aloud – they’re not too long, they have plenty of illustrations, and the storylines aren’t too complicated.
And, of course, introducing chapter books to your read aloud time doesn’t mean ditching picture books – keep those in the rotation for sure! They tend to have higher vocabulary because they’re intended for adults to read them aloud and they’re so fun, engaging and have so much variety.
I hope you’ll find a few books on this list that you’ll love reading together and will kick off years of chapter book reading together.
First Chapter Books to Read Aloud
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
The first one is the best, but we read all three and they are all excellent, about three beloved toys who live with a little girl. They’re around 150 pages with a lot of illustrations, so they’re a nice place to start with chapter books.
Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
This is the perfect introductory series, with full-color illustrations and about 80 pages each (for reference, a standard picture book is 40 pages long). Plus, they’re just so darn funny.
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Most of the time, she’s Princess Magnolia, prim and proper. But when her Monster Alarm rings, she transforms into the Princess in Black and no monster will get the better of her!
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
To me, this is the classic easy reader chapter book series. We have several of them on Audible and Star listens to them almost daily during quiet time. The stories are so clever and fun, even for adults.
Oliver & Amanda Pig by Jean Van Leeuwen, illustrated by Ann Schweninger
I grew up with this series and I still love it just as much today. This sweet pig family has every sort of adventure you can imagine, from first days of school to grandmother coming to visit. I own every holiday one and I never get tired of them. The illustrations are perfect and the stories are gentle and also amusing.
Ruby Red Shoes by Kate Knapp
If you love Beatrix Potter, you will love this one. Ruby Red Shoes loves living with her grandma who has a soft spot for all living things and is as sweet as they come. This sweet story is perfect to cozy up to.
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
This beloved Flat Stanley series is especially fun if your child is participating in a Flat Stanley project at school.
The Masterpiece Adventures by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
This is the first book of the series created for young readers. James is best friends with a beetle named Marvin. Marvin is very worried about what he will do when James goes on vacation, but actually finds himself getting into quite a few mishaps while James is gone.
The Fabled Stables by Jonathan Auxier, illustrated by Olga Demidova
If your beginning reader loves adventure, this book series is perfect. Auggie is the only one in charge of the one-of-a-kind Fabled Stables. In this installment Auggie is trying to help Willa the Wisp escape the torment of the Rook hunters on the island. This is fun and illustrated in full color!
Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay
A series with magical animals, science, and mystery? My girls were INSTANT fans of this book series where Zoey and her cat sidekick Sassafras help a magical animal using science.
Heartwood Hotel by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
I’m always on the lookout for chapter books with lots of illustrations for the 4-6 crowd. This one is about a little mouse who stumbles into a hotel in a storm and takes a job as a maid. (Full review here)
The Story Of: A Biography Series for New Readers by Susan B. Katz
I always love a good nonfiction book for kids, but they are hard to find for emerging readers. However, this series of biographies is fabulous!
Zoe’s Rescue Zoo by Amelia Cobb
A girl named Zoe has the secret power of being able to talk to animals. This comes in handy a lot when her uncle brings back lost and homeless animals to the zoo where Zoe’s mom works as a vet.
Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us by Lauren Castillo
Hedgehog lives all alone on a tiny island, except he does have his stuffed dog Mutty. Until a huge storm crashes the island and Mutty gets lost. Determined to find her best friend, Hedgehog sets out on a journey and discovers there are more friends on the island she never noticed.
Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Having a roommate can be bad enough, but getting a new roommate who is a skunk might be the worst thing that has ever happened to Badger. Can these two opposites ever become friends?
Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
Aside from Frog & Toad, this is the classic easy reader chapter book series in my opinion. There are SO MANY of them, and the adventures of this young boy and his massive somewhat-ill-behaved dog never get old.
Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
This easy reader chapter book series is a hit with so many preschoolers and early elementary schoolers – in this edition, Mr. Putter goes to the library for some new reading material. But the library might be less quiet and calm than they expect.
Triplet Trouble by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones, illustrated by John Speirs
The triplets in Mr. Parker’s class cannot wait for the upcoming bike race! Each one of the three thinks they are going to win the bike race, but their class thinks the outcome will not go in the favor of any of the triplets.
Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven, illustrated by Priscilla Burris
I knew when I picked up the first book in the series for Ella that Heidi turns out to be a witch, but she didn’t know that and when she reached the end of the first volume and made that incredible discovery for herself, she went berserk with excitement, leaping around the kitchen as she told me about how Heidi was actually a witch and had magical powers.
The Shark Report by Derek Anderson
This early read aloud book is full of fun, humorous illustrations along with a silly idea of a shark following a boy home from school.
Camila and the Record-Breaking Star by Alicia Salazar, illustrated by Thais Damiao
Camila really wants to be famous and what better way than through a video contest describing why her city, Los Angeles, is special to her.
The Journey of Ching Lai by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
Ching Lai and his cousin are playing when they notice a riderless donkey approaching. Ching Lai decides to hop aboard the donkey, but quickly regrets his decision when the donkey won’t stop and he is too fearful to get off. To make matters worse, the donkey never stops trotting making Ching Lai very far away from his home.
Freddy and Linda by Jane Quigg
Freddy is shocked one morning when his mom tells him that a new six year old girl is moving in next door. Freddy meets Linda soon after and the two of them become friends that are hard to separate.
The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski
Brother and sister, Alice and Roger, are missing their father who has been gone to France for the Crusades. He is supposed to be coming home shortly, but the duo decides to venture out to find their lost uncle, which turns into a bad idea as they get captured right away.
Lumber Camp Library by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, illustrated by James Bernardin
Ruby loves her lumberjack Pa fiercely and is sad when she can’t join him to lumber camp. Dreading going to school, Ruby surprisingly finds her love for books!
The Long Way to a New Land by Joan Sandin
Another nonfiction read aloud. This book depicts what life was life for the early European immigrants. Full of history and a compelling story that will keep any reader captivated.
In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Grandma’s attic is full of all sorts of keepsakes that spark the best stories from grandma. This is the first installment of this beloved series.
Kondo and Kezumi by David Goodner, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi
Kondo and Kezumi are best friends who live together on a deserted island loaded with fruit trees. They think they are all alone until a bottle washes ashore telling them otherwise, map included. Will Kondo and Kezumi leave the comforts of their fully stocked island to follow the map?
Violet Mackerel by Anna Branford, illustrated by Elanna Allen
This series has a very similar feel and charm to Beverly Cleary’s beloved Ramona books (think endearing mischief maker).
Cornbread and Poppy by Matthew Cordell
The perfect read aloud for readers who loved The Princess in Black or Mercy Watson books. Best friends, Cornbread and Poppy, have opposite personalities, and when winter comes they must work together to make sure they both have the food they need to be well stocked for winter.
The Chocolate Touch by I read this when I was little and I still remember it so clearly – the idea of everything you touched turning into chocolate is so exciting. Ella loved it too.
Kitty series by Paula Harrison
My little girls were SO THRILLED by this story of a little girl who discovers she has cat skills (night vision, amazing balance, etc) and uses it to help rescue a tiny lost kitten.
Little Bear by
The Daily Bark by Laura James
After living in the city his entire life, Gizmo is moved to the country where he meets the dog next door, Jilly. Jilly confides in Gizmo and tells him her fear of her puppies being taken far away where she will never see them again. Gizmo takes matters into his own paws and decides to get the word out about the puppies by starting a newspaper, The Daily Bark.
Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
This animal tale is about untamed creatures and domesticated pets working together to help Stumpy the squirrel reunite with her newborn babies.
The Lighthouse Family by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Preston McDaniels
Pandora is all alone in a lighthouse, while Seabold is alone on a boat. That is until the sea does something amazing and puts the two together for some quests.
Good Dog series by Cam Higgins
Billie B. Brown by
This cute series has either word art or illustrations on every page, sure to keep your little reader engaged with you. Jump into Billie B. Brown’s attempt at becoming a professional ballerina when she starts her first ballet class!
Tales from Fern Hollow by John Patience
Fern Hollow is full of a gaggle of friendly animals. There are always happenings to follow them on or little mishaps they get themselves into.
Babe: The Gallant Pig by
I love all his books, but this is the best. Ella fell asleep during the last chapter on a road trip, and Bart asked me to finish reading it.
Polly Diamond by
Polly Diamond loves words, books, and writing stories. When a magic book appears that makes everything she writes into reality, she learns she has to be careful because what you write may not always be what you mean.
The Nine Lives of Aristotle by Dick King-Smith
Here’s Hank by
Isadora Moon by
Embarrassingly, I had never read a Poppleton book, but I’m hooked. And apparently I really love books featuring pigs.
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson, illustrated by Paul Howard
Plop is a baby barn owl and just like everyone else except he is afraid of the dark and refuses to go hunting at night with his parents. Will he be able to overcome his fear and step into his role as a nocturnal animal?
The Wish Library by
Raven’s best friend and presenting partner has just moved away, making it one of the worst weeks in her life. However, when she stumbles upon the Wish Library and begs for school to be canceled, she soon realizes that presenting by herself wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.
Mouse Scouts by
The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley
Starla Jean by
King & Kayla series by
Claude by Alex T. Smith
These short stories have been a huge hit with my girls. The antics of this goofball dog are endless entertaining. Everyone loves Claude.
Little Pilgrim’s Progress (Illustrated Edition) by
Calling all animal lovers! Little Pilgrim’s Progress follows a variety of woodland creatures with incredible images on every single page.
The Tales of Olga Da Polga by Michael Bond
You might be familiar with Michael Bond from his series Paddington. Instead of following a charming bear, this story recounts the adventures of an unusual guinea pig that specializes in tall tales.
Henry’s Awful Mistake by Robert Quackenbush
Henry the Duck is excited for his friend Clara to come over for lunch. But he quickly gets distracted by a pesky ant roaming around in the kitchen.
The Complete Brambly Hedge by
A treasury of the enduring Brambly Hedge, bringing together eight much-loved classic stories. This collection is full of sweet whimsical illustrations.
Mia Mayhem by
Penny by Kevin Henkes
This book has been a favorite for years at our house – every one of my girls has absolutely LOVED the adventures of Penny the mouse.
The Last Firehawk by
This series is full of magic and fantasy! With a great story line and text to keep your little one engaged, this is a great series to start if you have an adventure lover.
And if you’d like a printable copy of this list that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!
What have been some of your favorite first read aloud chapter books? I’d love to hear in the comments!
if you liked this post about first read aloud books, you might also like these other posts:
- 5 Tips for Kids Interrupting While You Read
- 10 Tips for a Successful Read Aloud Experience
- 30 Chapter Books to Read Aloud to Preschoolers