Inside: When your little one graduates from beginning readers, it’s time for easy chapter books, of course! And these are some of the best. Check out these fantastic first grade books your kids will LOVE!
Easy Chapter Books for the Win!
I love when my students venture into the library and come up to ask me a quiet question: “Ms. B, do you think I can try a chapter book today?”
They are always a bit shy when they ask for the first time, always a bit nervous to try something different than a picture book or a kindergarten book or another beginning reader with large, simple text, but the looks on their faces when I pair them with what I hope is a perfect story are simply priceless.
The leap from beginning readers to easy chapter books is amazing, but challenging! After all, building reading skills is a key component of the first grade curriculum.
Set Your New Reader Up for Success with Appropriate First Grade Books!
Parents and teachers often have a tough time with this genre, but no worries – Happily Ever Elephants has got you covered when it comes to fabulous easy chapter books for your new readers, particularly those of you looking for great first grade books with which your kiddos will fall in love.
When selecting books for your child, especially when they are just venturing into the world of chapter books, we want to set them up for success — thus, start off easy to let them build confidence and fluency. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE challenging my students — but we don’t want to give our new readers Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and expect them to be cool with it!. In the beginning, our goal is to create positive and enjoyable reading experiences. This is what keeps them coming back for more!
There are so many fantastic stories out there for emerging and newly independent readers, and here are some of our very favorite stand alone books and awesome series. The series books I’ve shared below go in order from easiest to more complex. Always make sure to view a few pages of these books before handing them over to your child. Remember, you know your reader best, and we want them to be excited to pick up their new book, not frustrated!
Easy Chapter Books: Stand Alone Stories!
Princess Cora and the Crocodile, by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca: A brave princess who wants to climb trees, get dirty, and have a wild adventure? If that sounds like your kids or students, look no further. Written by a Newbery award winner, this easy chapter book has humor and heart, great illustrations, and a large, easy to read font which makes this one of our favorite first grade books. For our full review of Princess Cora and the Crocodile, click here!
The Story of Diva and Flea, by Mo Willems and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi: Flea is an alley cat living on the streets of Paris, and Diva is a pampered dog who lives inside an apartment. When their paths unexpectedly cross one day, their lives are forever changed. Ooh, la, la, is this easy chapter book a winner!
Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us, by Lauren Castillo: Stellar writing, quality story, and complex characters? Count me in! These characteristics are not easy to find in an easy chapter book, and I fell in love with this one immediately. In this darling book, Hedgehog lives on a small island with her stuffed dog, Mutty, as her only company. But when a big storm comes and Mutty disappears, its going to take courage — and maybe some new pals — to find Mutty and bring her home. This one is such a joy!
Easy Chapter Books: Beloved Series, Including Beloved First Grade Books!
Snail & Worm: Three Stories About Two Friends, by Tina Kugler: Oh my goodness. You and your kids will laugh out loud with both this one and its sequel, Snail & Worm Again. Not only is this a fabulous easy chapter book for your new readers (the second book won a Geisel honor!) but you will love the way the illustrations elevate the text to a whole new level. Your kids will be laughing nonstop when they realize how ironic and just plain silly the images are when read in combination with the text. Snail and Worm falls into both the best books for beginning readers and easy chapter book categories. For our full review of Snail & Worm, click here! (3 in series)
Charlie and Mouse, by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Emily Hughes: Charlie and Mouse contains four short stories about two brothers, and it will have your kids simultaneously reading and giggling in delight. With its gold Geisel Award (an award given annually to the most distinguished American book of the year for beginning readers), this is another perfect first “chapter” book. Like Snail and Worm above, Charlie and Mouse also falls into both the best books for beginning readers and easy chapter book categories. (3 in series)
Fergus and Zeke, by Kate Messner and illustrated by Heather Ross: Fergus is a good little pet in Miss Maxwell’s classroom who typically gets to do everything the students do. But when Miss Maxwell plans a field trip to the museum and Fergus isn’t invited, he finds a way there — and along the way meets a new friend to show him the ropes. Broken up into four chapters, the text is approachable, the vocabulary is accessible and the illustrations make this one a winner. (2 in series)
Mercy Watson, by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen: Kate DiCamillo is simply brilliant, and the Mercy Watson series is a must for your new readers. This is a New York Times best selling series for a reason, about the beloved “porcine wonder,” his hilarious escapades, and his owners. Once your kids read the first book, they will be begging for the next five — and some buttered toast. This series of first grade books is one that is on constant rotation in our school library! (6 in series)
The Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, and illustrated by LeUyen Pham: If you thought princesses only wear fancy pink dresses and sparkly tiaras, think again! If your little ones like their heroines to go undercover, dress in black and fight off evil monsters, then this series is a must for your kiddos. (6 in series)
Owl Diaries, by Rebecca Elliott: This is the other series I cannot keep on our shelves – the books are checked out as quickly as they are checked in. Owl Diaries is part of Scholastic’s fantastic early chapter book line, Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. The Owl Diaries series focuses on Eva Wingdale and her friends, and it is written as her diary. The text is engaging, there are adorable illustrations on every page, and the plots are fast paced and high interest. Your kid will be begging for the next book in the series as soon as she finishes the one in her hands. (11 in series)
Monster and Boy, by Hannah Barnaby and illustrated by Anoosha Syed: I can’t tell you much I love this book. This is the story of a monster (who lives under a bed) and a boy (who sleeps in the bed), and what happens when the two meet for the very first time. The boy screams, of course, so the monster swallows him… and thus, an incredible, beautiful friendship is born. I love the pitch perfect and FUN narration. I love the constant nods to the reader and the way the narrator continually talks to the audience and thus “breaks the fourth wall” (which is so unique for this age group). I love the humor, wit and irreverence. And I am SO beyond excited that this is the first book in a SERIES.
Zoey and Sassafras, by Asia Citro and Marion Lindsay: Zoey and Sassafras has it all – magic, science, adventure and lots of animals. In the first book, Zoey learns a shocking discovery— wounded magical animal’s find their way to her backyard! Each story in this series of easy chapter books thus features a new magical animal – and discusses how science can help solve each problem. (7 in series)
Dragon Masters, by Tracey West: This is another series in Scholastic’s branches line, and another favorite among my students. A dragon, a king, a wizard and magic. Need I say more? Again, illustrations on every page, short chapters, and easy to read text make this a winning series for newly independent readers. (11 in series)
Infamous Ratsos, by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Matt Myers: Another Geisel Honor, this hilarious chapter book revolves around brothers Louie and Raphie who are tough, tough, tough — or so they think. Yet, every time they set out to show the world how tough they are, the Ratso brothers end up doing really good deeds. I loved this easy chapter book so much. It’s the perfect mix of humor and heart! (3 in series)
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon: Dory may just be my favorite fictional character, and if you know me, that says a lot. But this series of books, about a little girl with a big imagination who desperately seeks the attention of her older siblings, has made me laugh in ways that so few books actually can. I cannot keep these out of my students’ hands. And I can’t get enough of them either. For our full review of the first book in the series, click here! This may just be my favorite first grade book series. (4 in series)
The Chicken Squad, by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Kevin Cornell: Doreen Cronin never hits a sour note. In the Chicken Squad, another delightful chapter book series, four little chicks– Dirt, Sugar, Poppy and Sweetie — spend their days solving mysteries and fighting crime, and will leave your kids in stitches — and quite possibly “hatching” up their own plans. (6 in series)
Meet Yasmin, by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Hatem Ali: Yasmin is a spunky second grade student from a Pakistatni family who always uses her big imagination and creativity to solve her greatest challenges. She has no shortage of fears, but Yasmin always finds original ways in which to conquer them. Yasmin is spirited, sassy and imaginative, and readers will love her! (5 in series)
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree, by Ellen Potter and illustrated by Qin Leng: Piper Green has a fairy tree in her front yard. She lives on Peek-A-Book island and she rides a lobster boat to school. And…. there’s some magic. What else does a little one need? (5 in series)
Fantastic Frame, by Lin Oliver: When Tiger Brooks and his family move into a new house, he quickly discovers that things are strange — very, very strange. Strange enough to include a talking pig in a top hat and a reclusive neighbor with a magical frame that allows Brooks to get pulled in to the world’s greatest paintings. A fabulous series for your easy chapter book readers! (4 in series)
Magic Tree House, Mary Pope Osborne: Jack and his little sister, Annie, are just plain old regular kids. But one day, the siblings discover a tree house in the woods… and that’s when the magic happens! The two kids are whisked on a series of adventures every time they visit the tree house, visiting dinosaurs and pirates along the way! (50+ books in series)
Warren and Dragon, by Ariel Bernstein and illustrated by Mike Malbrough: Warren and Dragon are best friends, which is interesting because Warren is a seven year old kid and Dragon is a 122 year old dragon. Most people think Dragon is just a stuffed animal — but readers quickly learn that looks can be deceiving, and Dragon may be real after all! If you or your kids ever loved Calvin and Hobbes comics, this will be a winner in your home, (4 in series)