Chapter Books for Transitional Readers (and/or Early Readalouds)

Transitional readers are children who are moving out of early reader books, (usually books that are part of a phonics and sight word scheme,) but not fully confident, independent readers ready to read novels. This is the in-between bit.

There are massive entire series of books dedicated to this group of readers – my eldest went through about six months of reading Beastquest novels, and I know children who did the same with the Rainbow Magic books. These are easy to digest books, that have a similar enough structure and plot to keep the reader interested, but also make them aware of where they are in the process of ‘consuming’ the book. This makes them easy to get through, and builds confidence that chapter books are ‘do-able’, even for them.

(I still have a distinct memory of looking at books my parents owned and announcing that I was never going to read books like that, because they were boring, and all words! Never underestimate how intimidating chapter books full of only words are to the uninitiated.)

But for some children those big series don’t really work, or there isn’t one that lights a spark in them. So they need lots of other books instead.

(A short word here about the idea of ‘twaddle‘. There is a longer post that I want to write about my thoughts on twaddle, but the short version is that especially while your child is building confidence, if reading about their favourite film or cartoon characters encourages them to read, then we should just go with it. Especially since we – as home educators – are in a position to expose our children to great writing that they are not ready to read independently, through reading those books aloud.)

This is a selection of books from my own shelves that I used with my children. Some we used as early readalouds, some are parts of short series – I’ll try to add in the details as we go along. I have included photos of inside each book so that you can see if the ratio of words to images would work for your child, and to give you a better idea of what each book is like.

Comic Strips and Graphic Novels:

I truly believe that we are living in a golden ages of graphic novels for children. These are the ones that have worked well for the younger ones in my household.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson are classic comic strips that the whole family can enjoy, but for younger children they can introduce the idea of a story in four panels. Short reading sessions can easily grow as they ‘just read one more…’

The Hilda Series by Luke Pearson is a fantastic series of (mostly) standalone graphic novels about Hilda’s adventures in the wild areas around the city where she lives. There is a bigger story here about the effect of cities on the nature around them. The Netflix cartoon series has kept very close to the spirit of the books if you have seen that, and liked it, you’ll probably love the books too.

The three books that make up the Chronicles of Claudette by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Augusto Aguirre are some of my second child’s favourite books full stop, and I have to agree with her. If there had somehow been about a dozen or so more (which is too tall an ask), then she would have progressed as a reader much more quickly. Telling the tale of an adventurous young girl, her brother and her best friend (a diplomat in training), fighting monsters in a medieval-fantasy world, there is loads going on in these books. The conclusion to the trilogy is particularly satisfying.

The Unicorn series by Dana Simpson is another firm family favourite that is a mixture of comic strips and slightly longer graphic novel stories, depending on which books you get. (I think it’s good to have books that work as transitional books and that the whole family enjoys, so that the child feels like they are doing something more grown up. Little children often want to keep up with people who are older than them, and books like this give them the opportunity to do so.)

The Captain Underpants books by Dave Pilkey are a good mixture of text, illustrations and graphic novels. A jokes about pants. 🙂

I am really glad that some of the King Rollo books by David McKee are still in print. (This copy was mine as a was a child.) Easy to read, and no less delightful for it. Also you can still find the animations on youtube.

Novels and Novel Series:

The Frog and Toad stories by Arnold Lobel are classic transitional readers, and make my heart happy.

The Ivy and Bean books by Annie Barrows, Sophie Blackall are a great series about two best friends, and the adventures they get up to.

The Lulu series by Hilary McKay are short transitional readers that still contain all the heart and care of her longer novels. I really loved them when I read them.

The Violet Mackerel series by Anna Branford are lovely little books that delight in the small details of life.

The Jolley-Rogers Series by Jonny Duddle are a fantastic series about a family of pirates. Cue sea monsters and sill jokes.

The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale and Uyen Pham are rollicking masked superhero adventures, written especially for transitional readers. They are great fun!

Dick King Smith wrote a lot of books that could be considered transitional novels – The Sheep Pig, and the Sophie series are famous examples of his work. This is my childhood copy of Tumbleweed, the story of a cowardly knight, which I have always really enjoyed.

The Mango and Bambang series by Clara Vulliamy have a Paddington-y feel. However there is sometimes a bit of peril that sensitive children might find worrying. It always turns out ok though.

The Claude series by Alex T. Smith are a wonderfully silly series about a small dog called Claude and his best friend Sir Bobblysock.

The Anna Hibiscus series by Aninuke are lovely, family-filled stories set in an unspecified country in West Africa.

Pugs of the Frozen North is one of a series of standalone illustrated novels by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. All the books I’ve read are full of adventure, silliness and imaginative characters.

The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll by Aingelda and Edward Ardizzone is a short illustrated novel about a girl who is trying to help a tiny doll she finds in a supermarket freezer. I love this books so much.

What books would you suggest for transitional readers?

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