Why I Created this Guide
I strongly believe that adults should read books aloud to children as often as possible. Small books and tall books, yellow books and red books, picture books and chapter books. As a matter of fact, reading chapter books aloud allows young readers to be surrounded by words that surpass ones found in books at their own level. This kit contains resources for five personally curated chapter books that have been read aloud to and enjoyed by my own two boys. May the books create precious memories and warm your child’s literary heart.
General Information for Parents
Benefits of Reading Aloud
There is a major emphasis on early childhood literacy, and for good reason. Researchers show that children who hear books full of rich language have a clear advantage academically over those who do not. Those who are read to are exposed to more words (thus, adding to their oral vocabulary) and internalize the basic structure of narrative stories (setting, characters, problem, solution). Additionally, reading aloud increases a child’s attention span and listening comprehension abilities. In a world full of distractions, that’s a definite plus.
Reading aloud also opens up opportunities to talk with your child. The chapter books seen here, for instance, deal with varying emotions such as honesty, frustration, and fear, and cover topics like families, friendship, and identity. If you read a book about a child who tells fibs (like Julian below), you could talk to your child about why people may want to tell a lie and emphasize the importance of honesty. For articles about the benefits of reading aloud to your child, click here and here. You could also watch this video by psychologist Dr. Rene Hackney.
Finally, it’s important to set the tone when reading chapter books to your child, especially since the length of a chapter book is longer than a typical picture book. Here are some tips to help you along the way:
Comfort is key.Make this a special time with your child. Seek out comfy pillows, turn on a cozy lamp, and snuggle up.
Score an Oscar or Emmy.When reading aloud, it’s important to keep your child’s ears engaged. Try out different voices for each character. Speed up your reading when you come across an exciting part and slow down the reading when you get to a sad part. Let your inner actor out!
Establish a consistent reading time.A clear, established read aloud time allows your child to get into a reading routine and know what to expect. It’s a good idea to read aloud on consecutive days until the chapter book is complete. Since a chapter book carries events across a long stretch of pages, it’s crucial to not let too much time pass in between readings or else your child’s comprehension may be compromised.
Take a cue from Goldilocks.The amount of reading you do should be just right: not too much and not too little. It’s essential to factor in your child’s attention span and the book/chapter length when reading. For instance, if your 5-year-old is willing to listen attentively for ten minutes, do not force him/her to listen to an entire 15-page chapter. That being said, if your child does become fidgety and you need to stop reading, come to a good stopping point. Do not stop in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. There should be some sense of closure after each reading session.
Yesterday seems so far away.Get in the habit of quickly recapping what happened in the story during the prior day’s reading. A short sentence or two should be enough to activate your child’s memory. (i.e. Yesterday, Mark and his friends attended the town meeting and Fido chased Buddy.)
The chapter books in this guide are listed in order from easiest to most complex. This continuum is based on vocabulary words and depth of concept. Use your own judgment when deciding on which book to begin with.
General Information for Children
What makes a chapter book, a chapter book? Well, a chapter book is a story told through a series of chapters, or events, which usually stretch over 50+ pages. Although a chapter book often has illustrations, most of the pages are filled with text, or words, and rely on telling a story through those words. This is unlike a picture book, which conveys a story almost equally through words and images.
Kids like reading or listening to chapter books because it makes them feel older. Because a chapter book is longer than a picture book, you will have to listen very carefully to the reader because there will be a lot of important information to remember. For instance, you will have to remember the names of different characters, the problem the characters face, and how they are solved. But don’t worry. You could always ask the reader questions if you get confused. As a matter of fact, asking questions while reading is something that effective readers do because it means that they are paying attention to the story! It’s also useful to make a movie in your mind while you listen to the chapter book. Close your eyes and let the words flow over you. What do you see? What is the character doing? Is s/he laughing or smiling? Mental pictures, or visualizations, are wonderful because they help us to remember what happens in a story.
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
This beginning chapter book has been selected as a 2nd-3rd-grade exemplar text by the Common Core State Standards. This distinction is bestowed to books that exemplify the complexity and quality that students need to be exposed to in order to build reading and interpretative skills. The Stories Julian Tells, the first in a series of books, is told in short chapters each containing one of Julian’s stories. Readers soon discover that although Julian’s stories are not always completely accurate (ahem), they stem from a good-hearted boy, full of imagination. Unfortunately for Julian and his little brother, Huey, these stories often get them in trouble, like when they ate their dad’s pudding without permission. Reading this book aloud to your child will emphasize the power of storytelling and the reason why tall tales have been around for decades.
In this story, Julian makes up wild, crazy stories called tall tales. When a storyteller tells a tall tale (try saying that quickly six times!), s/he adds unbelievable elements to a story in a way that sounds true and factual. Look at the Table of Contents page and read the six chapter titles. What tall tales do you think Julian will make up based on the titles?
What “story” does Julian tell and what are the consequences?
Why does Huey believe Julian’s stories so easily?
Think about Julian and how he treats his brother. Do you think Julian makes a good big brother? Why or why not?
Which one of Julian’s stories did you like best? What did you love about it?
Five Wishes and a Kite
In the book, Julian writes down five wishes then sends them flying on his kite. Ask your child to write or draw five of his/her own wishes to fly on an easy-to-make kite. For this activity, gather:
A plain piece of paper
A wooden skewer or straight drinking straw
Kite string or fishing line
Let your child use crayons to write or draw five different wishes on the paper.
Place the same paper so the longer sides are at the top and bottom and the shorter sides are on the left and right.
Fold it in half by bringing the left side to the right (a hamburger fold, as they say in Kindergarten).
Mark a point on the top of the paper, 1 inch from the fold.
Mark a point on the bottom of the paper, about 1 inch from the open side.
Draw a diagonal line connecting these two dots.
Fold the top corner of the paper down along the line that you just drew.
Flip the paper over.
Fold down the other side to match the side you just folded in Step 7.
Flip the paper back over so it looks like it did in Step 7 and tape along the middle seam.
Keeping the seam open, place the skewer across the two top corners of the kite and tape it into place.
Flip the kit back over and straighten the spine.
Make a dot about 1/3 of the way down the spine, ½ an inch from the edge. Put tape over the mark for reinforcement.
Use the scissors to make a hole in this spot, then tie the kite string through the hole.
Tape ribbon to the bottom of the kite on the back.
Take your kite outdoors and fly!
Tell Me a Story
Children love to hear stories about what they were like as youngsters, especially funny incidents and silly anecdotes. My son, for instance, is constantly asking me to tell him the story of how he was obsessed with the song “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga as a 3-year-old and wanted us to play the song over and over and over…and…over. (Insert bleeding ears here). The story’s kicker: When prompted by his pre-school teacher during circle time for a word that began with the letter p, my son shouted out, “Paparazzi!” Sigh. Pop culture: My son’s first teacher. Anyway, it’s a great idea to share your own memorable stories with your child to reinforce the idea that life is a series of stories strung together through time. Sometimes looking through old photos helps launch stories. Encourage your child to tell you a story of something that happened in his/her daily life. Storytelling not only strengthens emotions bonds, but also enhances speaking and listening skills.
Storyline Online (Videos)
Continue with the storytelling spirit by visiting storylineonline. We use this free site in my school as a way to engage readers in the storytelling process. Storyline Online has well-known actors reading popular children’s books, such as Harry the Dirty Dog (read by Betty White) and Guji Guji (read by Robert Guillaume). The actors sure know how to bring the characters to life through with powerful voices and amazing acting abilities! My personal go-to video is Enemy Pie, read by Camryn Manheim.
Sock Puppets (App for iOS)
The children at my school LOVE using the Sock Puppets app! It’s a virtual puppet show that gives users to access to various backgrounds, puppets, and props to create 30-second stories. Users record their own voices and the puppets lip sync to the audio. Let your child use the app to retell one of Julian’s stories or recreate a favorite scene between Julian and Huey. If your child is feeling inspired, let him/her develop an original story or tall tale and perform it through the app.
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Zoobean’s Chief Mom, Jordan, is currently reading My Father’s Dragon aloud to her 4-year-old who just adores the book. In this classic story, a boy recounts a story of his father, Elmer Elevator, who goes on an adventure to rescue a flying baby dragon from the evils of Wild Island. A cat tells Elmer to pack an array of items in his knapsack (i.e. chewing gum, hair ribbons, toothpaste, etc.), which Elmer uses to overcome wild obstacles along his journey. My own boys loved listening to Elmer’s tale and often imagined what it would be like to try to find a baby dragon. In fact, my boys enjoyed the book so much that we immediately purchased the other books in the trilogy, Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland. (Note: The entire text of My Father’s Dragon can be downloaded for free via Project Gutenberg.)
What kinds of animals live in the jungle or on an island?
What do you already know about dragons? Are they real or fantasy? Have you ever read other stories about dragons?
Close your eyes and picture Wild Island in your head. Describe it. What sights do you see? What noises do you hear?
Name the animals that Elmer encounters on Wild Island. How does Elmer escape from each animal?
What do you think Elmer and the dragon will do now that they are free from Wild Island?
What was your favorite part of the story? Why did you like that part the most?
Why not pick up some dragon-centered picture books to read to your child? Dragons have seen a huge surge in popularity lately, with library bookshelves definitely reflecting this trend. After you read each title, ask your child to compare it to My Father’s Dragon. Were there any elements that were the same? Different?
The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola
Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse
When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton
Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen
The Animals of Wild Island
Wild Island is inhabited by lots of different animals, which makes it a perfect vehicle to practice graphing skills. Use a piece of graph paper that is at least nine rows across and twenty rows high. If possible, have your child write the numbers 1-20 along the y-axis and the types of animals along the x-axis. Then go through each chapter and graph the respective number of animals on Wild Island (i.e. 17 crocodiles), using a different color for each animal. When your graph is complete, give it an appropriate title and discuss the results with your child. Which animal has the highest population on Wild Island? The lowest? Are there any animals that have the same number?
Dragon Tales (TV Show)
Dragon Tales is a kid-friendly animated show that showcases the different adventures of 6-year-old Emmy and her 4-year-old brother Max, who magically teleport to Dragon Land to visit their dragon friends. They find themselves problem-solving age-appropriate situations, such as learning how to take turns, losing a prized possession, and missing a sibling who goes away to camp. This show was a favorite in my household.
DragonBox Algebra 5+ (App for iOS and Android)
To keep with the dragon theme, download DragonBox Algebra5+, an award-winning app that secretly teaches young children algebra through discovery and experimentation. Users as young as 4-years-old solve equations by dragging and dropping “cards” onto two trays on the screen. The goal is to isolate a box on one side of the equation (like solving for x) and keep your dragon growing. Bit by bit, the cards are replaced with numbers and variables, transferring learned skills into traditional mathematical visuals. I know that my son is learning fundamental algebraic concepts through this app, but he simply thinks it is a fun puzzle game!
Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer
My youngest son and I just finished this chapter book and oh my goodness, the feels. It’s a lyrically beautiful tale about a boy, a dog, and a misunderstood older man. Each chapter, formed in verses rather than paragraphs, reveals the separate but intersected stories of these three characters and their quest for love. My son and I would often stop mid-chapter to talk about the author’s word choices and, more often than not, I found myself hugging this book to my chest just to be closer to it. This novel is a keeper, for sure.
In this story, one of the main characters, Mark, really wants a dog and thinks about it day and night. Have you ever wanted something that much that you thought about it all the time? If so, what was it and why did you want it?
Read the title of the book. What do you think this book will be about? What information could you gather from looking at the illustration on the cover?
What words would you use to describe Buddy? What happens in the story to make you chose those words?
Many of the kids and adults of Erthly think of Charles Larue as a very mysterious man. Erthly is a small town where people know a lot about one another…but why don’t people know much about Charles Larue’s life?
What did you think about Charles Larue at the beginning of the story compared to the end? Did your opinion change? Why or why not?
Tell what you think will happen to Mark, Buddy, and/or Charles Larue after the “story” ends.
Lola and Lucy’s Big Adventure (App for iOS)
Follow bulldogs Lola and Lucy on their adventure as they traipse across the United States. This adorable interactive eBook dives into the bond between pets and their owners and reminds kids that home is where the heart (and pet) is. What’s more, this app also has an encyclopedia of dog breeds, which can be used to learn more about the wonderful world of dogs. This story is great for all reading levels, as it gives readers a choice of a “Picture Book” or “Chapter Book” narrative.
Pretty Please, with a Cherry on Top?
Persuasion is used when a person wants to convince someone to agree to something. Throughout the novel, Mark wants to get a dog as a pet but his mom says no. Pretend you are Mark and create a list of reasons why “you” should have a dog. Be sure to include specific reasons that would appeal to an adult. For instance, “Because I want one” is not very convincing, but “A dog will cheer me up when I’m sad” may be a better choice. Help your child create the list and have him/her role-play each reason with you. For an added bonus, check out the hilarious picture book, I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff. This text is a series of letters written back and forth between a boy who wants a pet iguana and his mom who needs to be persuaded. Use the book to talk about strong persuasive reasons vs. weak ones.
The author does a lovely job of describing the town of Erthly in detail. Go back to chapter 7 and reread the description to your child (the description starts on page 32 in my version). Then, using a piece of paper, crayons, and the information presented in the book, create a drawing or map that illustrates what you think Erthly looks like. If desired, your child may only want to include the major landmarks like Charles Larue’s mansion, the park, Walnut street, etc. Bring it all to life by adding vivid colors, the main characters, and Buddy’s airplane ears!
Homeward Bound (Movie)
This heartfelt movie tells the story of three pets left with a family friend while, unbeknownst to the animals, the family goes on vacation. The pets are determined to find their way back home and go on an unforgettable journey, complete with rivers, bears, and a little lost girl. Have your child focus on the pets’ feelings of being separated from their owners and connect them to the emotions Buddy expressed in the book.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Oh, this book. Oh, oh, this book. I absolutely love it with all of my heart. Edward Tulane is, by far, my favorite book by the amazing Kate DiCamillo. I was in New York City when I finished this book and oh, how I cried as I sat in the middle of Union Square Park, complete with overflowing tears and audible sobs. I probably looked crazy but I didn’t care because this book was just that good. Sure to become a classic, Edward Tulane is the heart-wrenching tale of a haughty stuffed rabbit named Edward who is adored by his owner, Abilene. Readers soon come to see that Edward does not return the love, as he is too self-absorbed to care about anyone beyond himself. Fate intervenes and Edward finds himself falling overboard the Queen Mary, thus beginning his journey from the bottom of the ocean to different caretakers. Told over the course of many years, Edward finally realizes that his love for his original owner runs deep and, just like Charles LaRue and Buddy in Little Dog Lost, longs to experience genuine love once again.
Look at the cover illustration. What is unusual about this image? What elements are real and what are obviously made up? (i.e. Real = setting, door, house, etc.; Made up = a rabbit wearing clothes; a rabbit walking like a human)
Read the title. Tell your child that the word “miraculous” means “amazing” or “incredible”, and “journey” is another word for “trip” or “voyage”. What kind of amazing journey do you predict this rabbit will go on?
How does Abilene treat Edward? What does this tell you about her feelings for Edward?
How does Edward change throughout the story?
Who is the little girl that Edward meets at the end of the story? What clue does the mom hold that proves who the girl is?
What are some lessons that Edward learns on his many journeys?
The Velveteen Rabbit (Movie)
Many people compare The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to its predecessor, The Velveteen Rabbit, as they both tell the tale of a personified toy rabbit in search of love. The 2009 film adaptation of The Velveteen Rabbit explores the question of reality and love’s rightful place as the answer. As you watch, ask your child to compare Abilene’s love for Edward and Toby’s adoration for the velveteen rabbit he finds in his grandmother’s attic.
My Very Own Edward
Aren’t bunny rabbits just the cutest things? Create your own easy-to-sew bunny with this tutorial from Crafty Cupboard. Involve your child in this project by letting him/her choose the fabric and assist with the stuffing. To start, you’ll need:
A sewing machine (or a needle and thread if you’d prefer to do it by hand)
First, trace the template onto the fabric and cut out two bunnies.
Next, place the bunnies on top of one another, making sure the fabric’s “outsides” are pressed together. Since you will be sewing the insides of the bunny together, you should see the “inside out” of the bunny facing you.
Use stickpins to pin all around the bunny, leaving a gap at the bottom to fill with stuffing later.
Sew around the perimeter of the bunny with a ¼” seam, being mindful of the gap for stuffing. Backstitch well at the beginning and end to reinforce the stitch.
Turn your bunny right side out. Using an eraser end of a pencil, stick the eraser into the gap at the bottom and poke out all the seams of the rabbit to make it as full as possible.
Quickly iron the fabric to make it flat.
Fill the bunny with stuffing. You may want to use the eraser end of the pencil to push the stuffing into hard to reach places (i.e. the ears, nose).
Fold the fabric near the gap slightly to crease a nice closure. Hand stitch the opening shut.
Viola! Your child now has his/her own Edward Tulane.
Edward experiences a wide range of feelings on his many journeys, which eventually lead him to become aware of the power of love. To help your child keep track of the emotions and changes in Edward’s life from beginning to end, make a feelings journal for Edward using plain white paper and crayons. Fold a piece of paper into quarters to create four boxes. Let your child draw a scene of Edward with each “owner” and label it with a feelings word. Talk about what causes him to feel this way. Continue with each “owner”, adding pages and boxes as needed. Once it is complete, look back over Edward’s entire journey and ask your child to comment on how Edward has changed throughout as a result of his encounters with different people.
Postagram Postcards (App for iOS and Android)
When people go on journeys of their own, they often send postcards to loved ones. The Postagram Postcards app blends personalized postcards and technology in a way that’s really cool and easy to use. All you have to do is select a photo from your Instagram, Facebook, or Dropbox account. Next, add a 140-character message to the postcard. Finally, select the date that you want the postcard to be mailed ($0.99 within the US) and the company will print out and mail a thick, glossy postcard on your behalf. What’s great is that the recipient could pop out the 3x3inch photo from the postcard as a keepsake! As a tie in with Edward Tulane, you could harness one of these ideas:
Take a photo of your child’s favorite stuffed animal/toy and construct a very special message to your child on its behalf. Your child will love receiving a Postagram Postcard that brings his/her toy to “life”!
Construct a postcard through the eyes of Edward from any of his many homes throughout the course of the novel.
Have your child send a postcard to a special family member or friend expressing his/her love.
About Sheila F.
Sheila is a Jersey girl (or should we say "mom"), with a passion for teaching and literacy. She is Jersey bred, currently living in Montclair. Sheila has 16+ years working as a teacher and reading specialist and recently completed her dissertation on children's literature and technology. We "met" Sheila through her blog, teachingliteracy.tumblr.com.