It’s such a joy when our children learn to read independently. Picture books never lose their appeal, but from around 5 years old many kids are keen to try books with short chapters, fewer images and more complex subjects. Open their minds to the world of early chapter books with some of these suggestions!
Books about peers and playgrounds
This is a key age for learning to negotiate social boundaries and playground politics. The Stuff Happens series is written by various popular authors, including Andrew Daddo and Phillip Gwynne. Each book follows a different main character through common school yard scenarios, like following rules that don’t always make sense or friendships that go awry.
In a similar vein, N J Gemmell’s bold and boisterous Coco Banjo endures peer pressure, head lice and school camp craziness in a series of comical adventures. Plenty of illustrations make this a great series for transitioning readers who can come for the funny, but stay for the poignant view of the world from a kid’s perspective.
Books about brothers and sisters
Many novels for this age group are created as series, inviting readers to get to know the characters as they interact across different situations. Kids also love to collect things and books are no exception! Get your girls started on Ella & Olivia for a charming take on sibling love and rivalry. There are plenty of titles, including seasonal special editions, to add to their book collection. Try the terrible twins of the Double Trouble series for boys.
Books about super sleuths and action heroes
Many young readers love books about solving mysteries. Perhaps because reading itself is a puzzle they’re still working out? Books with independent heroes (who don’t need Mum’s permission to have an adventure) help them play out different imaginary identities. Emma Jacks, spy-in-training, is a favourite for beginner readers starting our with early chapter books. Children can progress from EJ Spy School to the more advanced EJ12 series as their reading improves.
The Wheelnuts series is Wacky Races meets I’m A Celebrity, with quirky competitors going head to head on an epic obstacle course. Young readers will enjoy barracking for their favourites and following the race maps, which traverse every terrain from beach to bush, underwater and outerspace!
Books for animal lovers
Animal loving kids have a special relationships with their pets – and they want to read about kids who feel the same way! Juliet (Nearly A Vet) is a vet’s daughter, who studiously observes the habits of animals in her care. This early chapter books series is perfect for extending animal-related vocabulary as each book includes snap shots of Juliet’s field notes and real world tips and tricks for pet care.
Try Pine Valley Ponies for another charming series that blends friendship stories with animal antics. Maddy and her pony Snowy begin riding lessons at the Pine Valley Ranch. There, they meet new friends and curious enemies, with dangerous trail rides and brave rescues along the way.
Books for sports nuts
Sporty kids are not forgotten in the latest crop of engaging early reader titles. Socceroos legend Tim Cahill brings us Tiny Timmy, a young boy short in stature but big on ambition when it comes to the footy field! Plenty of illustrations and clear text make this ideal for active kids who find it hard to sit down with a wordy text.
Matty’s Comeback by Anita Heiss also puts the football field in focus, showcasing the way sport helps kids learn about strengths, trust and teamwork. A respected author and academic, Heiss’ books for young readers put Indigenous Australian kids in the lead roles, responding to increasing demand for better representation of diversity in early readers.
Books for jokers
If there’s one guaranteed way to get a child interested in reading, it’s to fill a book with jokes – even better if they’re in bad taste! Aaron Blabey’s Bad Guys series is laugh-out-loud funny for adults and kids alike. Take some of the scariest figures in a child’s imagination – the big, bad wolf, a hairy tarantula, a man-eating shark – and imagine that they’re actually just misunderstood. They long to be the GOOD guys in a story for a change. Will they pull it off?
Comedian Anh Do taps into his own childhood memories for his comic series Weir Do. Cheeky kids will love the outrageous school shenanigans, embarrassing relatives and bodily expulsions that lend humour to challenging situations in this series.
Books for history buffs
For children who take life a little more seriously, historical novels offer depth and plenty of food for thought. Two prominent series Our Australian Girl and Do you Dare? bring history to life via accessible stories. Your child may discover that they share many of the same fears and passions as a convict girl in colonial times or a cricket-loving boy in 1930s Australia. This is an early chapter books series for more confident readers ready for a challenge or ideal to read with your child as their language skills develop.
Lara Cain Gray is a freelance writer and mum-of-three. She reviews books for all ages at her blog This Charming Mum www.thischarmingmum.com
This article was published in Issue 18 of our print magazine, October/November 2016.