How to Start Reading Chapter Books With Your Preschooler or Kindergartner

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credit: Asier Romero/ Shutterstock

It’s an exciting moment when your child is old enough to start reading chapter books with you.

Of course, reading a chapter book is really different from reading a picture book, and it takes time to develop the skill of listening to a longer book.

In the past year and a half, my almost 5-year-old daughter and I have read several dozen chapter books together, and we’ve gotten better at it as we’ve gone along. Here are a few of our best tips for starting out:

1. Introduce the book before you start. I find it very helpful to give my daughter an overview of the book before we start. Then she knows who the main characters are and what the basic plot is, especially since there aren’t usually a lot of pictures to guide her like there are in a picture book.

2. If the book isn’t working, try something else. There’s no shame in giving up on a book that isn’t capturing your child’s attention. It’s better to make sure you’re having a good experience reading together than to try to power through a book they aren’t enjoying.

3. Let them do something while they listen. Since there aren’t usually very many pictures to look at, a lot of children can get fidgety sitting still. My daughter often likes to color or play with Legos or do stickers while I read aloud to her. When her hands are busy, her attention span is much longer.

4. Don’t be a slave to the chapters. Some books have really long chapters and trying to get through an entire chapter in a single sitting may be too much. Feel free to read half a chapter or a quarter of a chapter a day. Of course, if they want to read a whole chapter or more, go for it!

5. When you start up each day, do a quick review of what happened last time. This helps a small child remember the plot line and the characters’ names when the reading is stretched out over a long period of time.

6. Keep a record of the books you read. At our house, we have a big paper bookworm where we record the books we’ve read together. My daughter loves seeing it grow and remembering the books we’ve finished.