From Picture Books to Chapter Books: A Family Journey

by On June 24, 2013 in Childrens Books, General, Reading

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A reading shift has taken place at our home.

From her diaper days to age 5, we’ve read three picture books to our daughter Hope each night. While picture books still enchant, bedtime now finds Hope asking “can I have the next chapter?” from chapter books with lots of text and an occasional illustration every ten pages or so.

The transition has left this mama a little misty-eyed.

flight-from-bear-canyon-anita-daher-paperback-cover-artYes, I realize this is a developmentally appropriate turn of events. Reading specialists remind us that:

There’s just one little thing that’s bothering me.

This past week our family has gathered nightly to work our way through the 13 chapter, 128-page Bookboard title, Flight From Bear Canyon (Anita Dahler, Orca Book Publishers). ?Here’s what I noticed:

  • Night 1: Hope cuddled next to me, listening intently and staring at the book out of story-time habit, interested in the story and eager for the random illustration.
  • Night 2: Hope sat near me, not touching, but listening intently. She stopped looking at the book unless I said, “picture!”
  • Night 3: Hope snuggled under a blanket at the far end of the couch, hanging on my words but not on me. (Sniffle. Cue violins.)

Yup, there’s the rub. This “nothing to see here” distancing factor with chapter books leaves me a little sad!

Still, reading these books as a family offers a different kind of fun. We gather each night to hear how Kaylee and Jazz are making their way through Bear Canyon, braving the elements to save an uncle injured in a helicopter crash. We all think the story is exciting, and we’ve all learned some new facts (about helicopter operations, caves, and grizzly bears).

We pause along the way to tackle challenging key vocabulary words in the story. (Hope is now fascinated with the term “Mayday!”) Yet we’re learning it’s OK to read some of the hard passages without stopping unless Hope asks for clarification, watching her glean the overall logic of the narrative.

It’s also fun seeing Hope experience that “I wish I could stay awake for one more chapter” feeling and the “I can’t wait to get back to my book” feeling. These are exactly the kinds of feelings that can motivate young readers.

Bottom line, she’s engaged and challenged and I’m proud of her. But I’m secretly glad she still wants to get lost in picture books, too, at least for a little while longer. We’ve got to snuggle close together for those.




Diana is a sociologist, freelance writer and mom, though rarely in that order. Her writing spans topics from parenting joys and challenges to prevention education. She writes a monthly parenting blog for Yahoo and has published feature articles on adoption, family rituals and the childcare industry for parenting publications. Diana earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. These days find her hanging with her husband and book-loving six year old in the San Francisco Bay Area, while happily blogging and serving as a reading advocate for Bookboard.

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