Summer is a great time to introduce kids to new chapter book series. If a kid discovers a series they enjoy, they will often read the entire series. Here are fifteen fantastic early chapter book series for newly independent readers.
With summer reading, my main goal for my kids is to get them hooked on reading. I measure success not in terms of how many Newberry Award winners my kids have read but instead in terms of whether my kids are asking me to head to the library to check out new books. The fifteen early chapter book series below are best bets for turning newly independent readers into voracious readers this summer.
What early chapter book series have helped get your children excited about reading?
Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne. The Magic Tree House books have a solid track record of hooking kids. In this series, a brother and sister team, Jack and Annie, travel through time and space in their magic tree house to go on a variety of missions. The structure of these books is simple and very similar from one book to the next. Start with any one of the first 28 books in the series that looks interesting to your child. With every fourth book, Jack and Annie are sent on a new set of related missions. Thus, it makes sense to begin with Dinosaurs Before Dark (#1), Night of the Ninjas (#5), Dolphins at Daybreak (#9), Vacation Under the Volcano (#13), Tonight on the Titanic (#17), Civil War on Sunday (#21) or Stage Fright on a Summer Night (#25). Ages 5+
Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke. A truly unique early chapter book series about a girl named Anna Hibiscus who lives in “Africa, Amazing Africa.” Anna Hibiscus is a delightfully curious character who lives with her Canadian mother, African father, twin baby brothers Double and Trouble and close-knit extended family. Author Atinuke spent part of her childhood in Nigeria, and the Anna Hibiscus books are set in the Nigeria of Atinuke’s childhood. Atinuke’s lovely illustrations help bring this unfamiliar setting to life for young readers. Ages 5+
Judy Moody Was in a Mood and Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald and Peter Reynolds. The Judy Moody series stars a third grader who, as her name implies, experiences moods. The Judy Moody books generate mixed reactions among adults; while some think Judy Moody’s moody behavior is a bad influence on their kids, others think this series accurately captures the emotional roller coaster that many third graders experience. Megan McDonald has also written a spin-off series starring Stink, Judy Moody’s younger brother. My son really enjoys The Adventure of Stink cartoons at the end of each chapter in the Stink books. Ages 7+
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look. Alvin Ho is a scared of everything: the dark, camping, punctuation… In the first book in this series, Alvin Ho faces his fear of school. The Alvin Ho books are not graphic novels, but LeUyen Pham’s fantastic graphic novel-esque illustrations may entice young graphic novel fans to try reading this series. See also Lenore Look’s books starring Ruby Lu, an enthusiastic Chinese-American girl with a personality that is in many ways the exact opposite of Alvin Ho’s. Ages 6+
Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. An excellent graphic novel series. Kids will enjoy laughing at Bad Kitty’s antics. The Bad Kitty books will appeal to kids who want to try reading graphic novels for the first time as well as to die hard Captain Underpants fans. For more graphic novel fun, see Binky the Space Cat and other Binky adventures. Ages 6+
Jake Drake, Bully Buster by Andrew Clements (and other books by Andrew Clements). Andrew Clements is the king of school stories. (See e.g. Frindle and No Talking.) I like the Jake Drake books largely because they introduce young readers to Andrew Clements. Readers who enjoy the Jake Drake books will hopefully go on to enjoy Clements’ lengthier titles. The other books in the Jake Drake series are Jake Drake, Know-It-All, Jake Drake, Teacher’s Pet and Jake Drake, Class Clown. Ages 7+
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry. This early chapter book series by Lois Lowry stars Gooney Bird Greene, a second grader who enjoys standing out from the crowd. In the first book in this series, Gooney Bird Greene entertains her new classmates with her fantastic and “absolutely true” stories. Ages 6+
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol. In the first book of the Encyclopedia Brown series, 10-year-old Leroy (aka “Encyclopedia”) Brown realizes that he has a knack for helping his father, the town’s police chief, solve cases. Encyclopedia Brown solves ten cases in this book. Readers are invited to look for clues and try to solve the cases themselves. Answers to each case are provided in the back of the book. If your child enjoys mysteries, they may also enjoy the Nate the Great books, A to Z Mysteries, Cam Jansen books, and Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series. Ages 5+
The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet by Tony Abbott (and other Secret of Droon books). In this series, three kids — Eric, Julie, and Neal — discover an enchanted stairway in Eric’s basement, which turns out to be a portal to the magical world of Droon. In the world of Droon, the kids meet mythical creatures including wizards, sorcerers and dragons. The Secrets of Droon books will appeal to kids who enjoy suspense and fighting evil villains. The action in these books is tame enough share with young readers ages seven and up. Ages 7+
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Calvin and Hobbes cartoons are a wonderful choice for reluctant readers. Readers receive immediate gratification in three panels. Calvin and Hobbes cartoons are also fun to read aloud with kids. Watterson’s writing is smart and entertaining to adults as well as kids. Kids will laugh at Calvin’s over-the-top misbehavior, while adults will laugh at Watterson’s cleverly delivered bits of wisdom. Ages 7+
Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall. A series about the creative adventures of two friends, Ivy and Bean. Ivy is a well-behavied, independent thinker, while Bean is a bit of a trouble maker. Ivy and Bean are decidedly not girly. Their adventures, which include digging up dinosaur bones and trying to set world records, will entertain boys as well as girls. Ages 7+
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. Judy Blume’s stories of fourth grader Peter Hatcher and his two-year-old brother Fudge are just as funny today as they were when they were first written in 1972. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, in which Fudge throws a temper tantrum, smears mashed potatoes on the walls and scribbles on Peter’s homework, may hold special appeal for readers with younger brothers and sisters. Fast paced, with great dialog, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a fun book to read aloud. See also Fudge-a-Mania, Superfudge and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. Ages 7+
Meet Addy by Connie Rose Porter (and other books starring Addy). In this first book of a six-book series, Addy’s family escapes from slavery. This fictional story set in 1864 is one of many in the American Girl series. I long avoided these books because I was wary of books associated with expensive dolls. However, my daughter finally convinced me to read these aloud to her, and I am glad I did. If I had had the opportunity to read these books as a child, I would have loved them. The American Girl books are set at various times in American history ranging from Colonial times to World War II. Each story includes informational back matter about the time period during which the story is set. Begin with the series about Addy, Rebecca or Josephina. Ages 7+
The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney. A series of entertaining school stories told from the perspective of an observant and thoughtful hamster. Full of wisdom and humor, this series will appeal to a wide range of kids. Adventure According to Humphrey and Summer According to Humphrey are great picks for summer reading. Ages 6+