One of parents’ proudest moments is when their children learn to read. It’s right up there with learning to crawl, walking and saying their first words. But once the kids start reading, what kinds of books can parents find for their young readers?

Fortunately, authors, publishers and libraries have created a world of books in different styles—such as picture books, learn-to-read books, and chapter/early chapter books—that are designed to captivate and teach your children the joys of reading.

Our libraries have lots of good books for kids, but my family and I are on a mission to stock them specifically with more “early-chapter” books (simple, short, illustrated fiction designed to help newly independent readers build reading stamina and strengthen their confidence).

Harper and Barbee Libraries and FOLSOI have joined the quest, and I hope you’ll join us. More about those books later, but first here’s a quick “book review”:

Starting Out

Typically kids learn to read around the ages of six or seven. It takes effort both for the child and the adults who teach them all about books, sounds, letters, and words. After reading countless books together (often the same one over and over) and lots of singing the ABCs, it’s momentous for everyone when all these pieces come together.

Picture Books

Even at six or seven years old, there’s still a lot of joy in reading a great picture book. Some wonderful picture books in the Brunswick County library system include: Mo Willems’s Elephant & Piggie and Don’t Let the Pigeon series; P.D Eastman’s Go, Dog, Go, Are You My Mother and others; Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish  or Hop on Pop ; as well as many of Eric Carl’s books like Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?

Kids might start to pull away from things that seem babyish like picture books. Picture books also are not always synonymous with being early readers. Usually meant to be read aloud by an adult, they can have some BIG words in them. This can lead to frustration for beginning readers who attempt to read them.

Learn-to-Read Books

Specifically designed for learning to read, these books are filled with words that rhyme, that can be sounded out phonetically, and that still have some pictures to keep kids’ attention. 

Many series such as Step into Reading, Penguin Young Readers, or Scholastic Readers  have leveled books for readers at different stages. Level one books are usually for emergent readers or kids who are just starting to sound out words. They focus on simple vocabulary, repetition, and familiar themes. As the levels progress, so does the vocabulary and complexity of the storyline.

Early Chapter Books

What a great thrill it is for a child to read a big-kid chapter book! For some kids, the accomplishment is akin to learning to ride a bike. I know it was for my boys. I remember their excitement like it was just yesterday, even though it was several years ago.

Young readers at this stage can now truly dive into books with character development and storylines with depth. Plus, chapter books often come in series so that when kids find one they like, they get hooked! And the journey to becoming a life-long reader begins!

Most chapter books, however, are too difficult and the content too mature for their age. Fortunately, the book industry has realized there was a gap in this level of book and new early chapter books are coming out each year. Our local libraries have a few great series and the librarians can help match them to your child’s reading level and interests. They include: Fly Guy, Bink & Gollie, Puppy Place, Owl Diaries, Judy Moody, Nancy Clancy, Bad Kitty, Black Lagoon, Cam Jansen, Horrible Harry, A to Z Mysteries, Magic Treehouse, The Princess in Black, and Weird School.

Bringing More Early Chapter Books to Our Libraries

There are lots of great titles at our libraries but we need more. I’m on a mission to stock up our libraries with the best of these series in order to encourage a new generation of enthusiastic readers. My family and I have donated a few library-bound books to start the collection.

The Harper and Barbee library managers have created wish lists on Amazon for anyone who would like to join the effort:

(Please note there are other books on the wish list that are not in the Early Chapter book genre but would still be greatly appreciated by the libraries.)

Donors can order books off the wish lists, drop them off at the libraries or ship directly to:

Barbee Library, 8200 E Oak Island Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465

Harper Library, 109 W Moore St, Southport, NC 28461.

Or simply make a donation on the FOLSOI website and indicate which library collection you would like to support and in the Additional Comments field, type in “please use for Early Chapter Book collection.”


Gail Sawchuk is the Membership Chair of FOLSOI. She is passionate about early literacy and is proud to be a lifelong reader of fiction and non-fiction books.