50+ Popular First Chapter Books for Kids (Including Series’, Too!)

A girl wearing a red, white, yellow, green, teal, blue and purple striped sweater is sitting on a cream colored couch with a blue book open in her lap.

I had a heartbreaking realization the other day.

My soon-to-be eight-year-old no longer seems interested in her beloved copies of books like “Goodnight Moon,” “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” or even “Where the Wild Things Are!” 

Instead of reading her the stories I found during my quest to find the best books for babies and toddlers, I’m now Googling things like “the top first chapter books for kids.”

I’m having a genuine love/hate reaction to this experience.

On the one hand, I’m mourning the fact that my little girl is growing up and losing interest in the picture books we’ve read so many times over the years. On the other hand, I’m enthralled by the thought of her starting her journey as a young reader.

As a self-proclaimed book nerd, few things in life give me the same kind of serotonin boost I get from buying and reading a great story. It’s thrilling to watch my child discover that same excitement, and I’m dedicated to finding quality reading material she will treasure for years to come.

The good news is there are TONS of incredible early chapter books available.

From dragons to princesses and best friends to animals, there is an endless collection of tropes and themes to suit the interests of young readers. 

If you’re trying to find top-notch first chapter books for your kids, you’ve come to the right place. 

Using my bookworm expertise (it’s a real thing, I promise!) and that of friends, librarians, and other loved ones, I’ve gathered a collection of the most thrilling, interesting, and appreciated chapter books and series for your young readers. 

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Table of Contents

When Are Kids Ready for Early Chapter Books?

Scholastic, a favorite provider of children’s literature and media content, says that most kids are ready to transition into chapter books around seven or eight years old. 

Are you trying to decide whether your little one is ready for early chapter books for kids? A website called Reading Egg lists five signs they might be:

  1. They can recall information about the book and remember the storyline.
  2. They know how to make predictions about what’s going to happen next.
  3. They can visually picture the stories in their head without illustrations.
  4. They have preferences about the kinds of books they like and know how to pick them.
  5. They have a well-developed vocabulary.

Tips For Increasing Your Child’s Interest in Reading

Despite knowing how to read, does it sometimes seem like your kids need more interest in the habit? Not everyone is born to be a “reader,” but there are certain things you can do to encourage them. 

Consider some of the following options:

  • Provide Easy Access to Books: Whether you stock a bookshelf at home for them or take regular trips to the public library, it’s crucial to guarantee your child has easy access to reading material.
  • Model Good Reading Behavior: If your little one grows up in a home where they never see adults or older siblings reading, they’ll be less likely to pick up the hobby themselves. Whether you listen to audiobooks or love physical copies, sharing your interest with them is essential. 
  • Talk to Them About Books: My daughter loves chatting with me about the books she’s reading or asking questions about the ones she sees me with. Creating conversations about books will help trigger more interest.
  • Set Daily Reading Goals: The daily recommendation is for kids to read at least 15-20 minutes a day outside of their regular schoolwork. 

One of the best ways to increase your child’s interest in reading is to find the content they will love. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of our favorite first chapter books for kids!

Illustrated Chapter Books for Kids Who Still Love Pictures

Just because your littles are ready to start exploring chapter books doesn’t mean they don’t still love to look at pictures, too! 

The list below includes early chapter books that include great illustrations but aren’t considered graphic novels (these have their own section below!)

1. Junie B. Jones – Book Series by Barbara Park

Age Range: 5-7

With 29 Junie B. books, Barbara Park has created a beloved character who’s helped turn kids into readers worldwide.

I remember reading Junie B. Jones when I was a kid, so I was thrilled to find out she is still a beacon of popularity within the realm of elementary school readers. As children learn to read, the tales of Junie B. are some of the first they’ll hear from their teachers.

The Junie B. character is sassy, sweet, and oh-so silly.

Her hilarious kindergarten and first-grade adventures will have your little ones laughing out loud.

2. Nate the Great – Book Series by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat 

Age Range: 5-7

What child doesn’t fancy playing detective at some point or another? Let them live out their dreams vicariously through Nate the Great!

The namesake character in this popular children’s chapter book series helps solve a new case in every book.

Not only are these mystery tales perfect for young children just starting to explore chapter books, but they also help teach crucial logical thinking skills.

3. Ivy and Bean – Book Series by Annie Barrows

Age Range: 6-8

Recently, I was chatting with a friend about how my daughter was becoming more interested in chapter books. She asked if we’d tried any Ivy and Bean books yet.

I’d never heard of the series, so I quickly jumped on Amazon to look them up! This is a cute series about two unlikely best friends. One is quiet and thoughtful, and the other is outgoing and adventurous; somehow, they make the perfect match for mischief, fun, and humor.

From getting rid of ghosts to the search for fossils, you never know what these two will get up to in these illustrated chapter books.

4. Magic Tree House – Book Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Age Range: 5-8

When it comes to newly independent readers who love exploration and adventure, the Magic Tree House collection is a great pick for their first chapter books. 

Something I love about this particular series is that it can grow with your child. While “Jack and Annie Adventures” are perfect for early readers, the Merlin Missions and Super Editions include more advanced content. 

Side note: Before starting this article, I asked many friends for suggestions on their favorite first chapter books for kids and the Magic Tree House series came up repeatedly! It’s a hit with TONS of fellow parents. 

5. The Secret Explorers – Book Series by SJ King

Age Range: 7-9

In this fun series, a group of brilliant kids from across the globe come together to solve problems and mysteries in various settings. From space to prehistoric times, the main characters head into the exploration station for a fun adventure during each book.

These books are full of fun illustrations and come packed with exciting facts about different topics for an exciting educational experience.

6. Owl Diaries – Book Series by Rebecca Elliott

Age Range: 6-8

The Owl Diaries collection is a pure delight for newly-independent readers! They include beautiful, full-color illustrations and easy-to-read text that is great for children starting the transition into chapter books. 

If your little one likes these, the author has another set of similar books called Unicorn Diaries

The Best First Chapter Books for Kids Who Love Sports

Do you have a young reader who loves everything sports related? Well, you’ll be happy to hear plenty of excellent chapter book options are available to capture their interest.

1. Diary of a Basketball Hero by Shamini Flint

Age Range: 7-11

In this diary-style book, readers will follow along as Marcus, a math genius, tries to become a basketball star. This is a fantastic book about putting yourself out there and trying new things – plus, kids will learn tons of information about basketball.

If your independent reader likes this one, the author has also written other sports-themed books they might enjoy. 

2. The Zach and Zoe Mysteries – Book Series by Mike Lupica

Age Range: 6-9

What happens when you combine a love for sports with a passion for solving mysteries? You get the Zach and Zoe series by Mike Lupica!

Reviewers rave about the sports-centric content and the positive messages for children.

3. The Lucky Baseball Bat by Matt Christopher

Age Range: 6-9

For over 60 years, children have fallen in love with “The Lucky Baseball Bat.” Not only is this one of the best first chapter books on this list, but it’s also a story that provides vital lessons in friendship and teamwork. More than just that, though, this story helps young readers learn how to believe in themselves.

It tells the tale of Marvin, who is trying to make a good impression on his new baseball teammates.

When his lucky bat goes missing, he has to learn to have faith in himself and the new friends around him. 

Adventurous Chapter Books for Early Readers

Are you raising brave little souls who are always up for an adventure? Make sure to add these first chapter books for kids to their home library!

1. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Age Range: 6-9

Over the years, the Pippi Longstocking character has appeared in various shows and movies, but did you know she started as a book?

A young girl who lives by herself, aside from her horse and monkey, Pippi does not abide by social norms. She’s constantly getting into hilarious shenanigans and loves finding wacky adventures.

Since this is an older book, some reviewers mention that the social interactions are a bit dated, but the lessons are still just as important.

2. National Park Mystery Series by Aaron Johnson

Age Range: 8-11

What if there was a way for your young reader to get the adventure chapter books for kids they crave while learning about some of our nation’s national parks?

Oh, wait, there is!

Aaron Johnson wrote a two-volume mystery series for children set in Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Your reader will follow along with the main characters as they read maps, solve riddles, and look for hidden clues in some of the most beautiful locations in the United States. 

3. The Bad Guys – Book Series by Aaron Blabey

Age Range: 6-8

When my girls started begging to see the movie Bad Guys, I had no idea it started as a chapter-book series! It starts a tag team of typical “bad guys,” like the big bad wolf, snakes, and sharks.

Instead of doing more terrible things, however, they’re on a quest to become good.

4. The Boxcar Children – Book Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Age Range: 6-9

The first book in the Boxcar Children series was such a hit the original author, Gertrude Chandler Warner, went on to write 19 more. Today, publishers are still creating a spin-off series called “Boxcar Children Mysteries.”

These books spin tales of four orphaned children who stumble upon an abandoned boxcar and make it their new home.

While not your typical adventure series, these stories teach children ingenuity, creativity, and lessons in courage.

5. The Princess in Black – Book Series by Shannon Hale

Age Range: 5-7

When a friend of mine found out my daughter was getting interested in chapter books for children, she started raving about the “The Princess in Black” series. She said it helped jumpstart a love of reading in both of her children.

These stories are about the adventures of Princess Magnolia, who has an alter-ego as a monster-hunting superhero!

6. Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes

Age Range: 8-12

Billed by one reviewer as an “Indiana Jones-style tale,” this story has earned a reputation as an action-packed adventure story for young readers. 

Plus, it has tons of interesting information about far-away lands and the ancient Inca civilization!

7. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

Age Range: 6-8

The first time I heard about Flat Stanley was when my cousin up north mailed me one to take on adventures here in Florida. Intrigued, I looked the story up. 

It’s a book about a little boy, Stanley, who gets accidentally flattened by a bulletin board.

Completely flattened, he takes advantage of his new size, and hilarious adventures ensue!

Three boys are laying on their backs in the grass. One is wearing a green striped shirt with a blue book over his face. One is wearing a blue and white striped shirt with a teal book over his face. The last boy is wearing an orange shirt with a cream colored book over his face.
Stimulate your child’s creativity and love for reading with these first chapter books for kids!

Early Chapter Books for Animal Lovers

Whether you’re a child or an adult, who doesn’t love a good animal story? Check out the options below for the best children’s chapter books about animals!

1. Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Age Range: 8-11

Every day since fourth grade, Charlie has found something lucky to wish for a real family on. When she stumbles upon a stray dog, she ends up finding the family she was looking for in an unexpected way. 

This book has nearly a 5-star review on Amazon and over 14,000 reviews.

Teachers love it, parents love it, and, most of all, kids love it!

2. A Puppy Tale – Book Series by W. Bruce Cameron

Age Range: 8-12

Written by the New York Times bestselling author of A Dog’s Purpose, the Puppy Tale books are wonderful options for any child who loves four-legged friends. 

Each book covers the story of a different puppy that your child is sure to love!

3. The Mercy Watson: Porcine Wonder Series by Kate DiCamillo

Age Range: 4-7

The Mercy Watson series is about an adorable pig with a serious flair for adventure. When it comes to the best early chapter books for kids, these are at the top of my list.

Reviewers like how easy-to-read these books are. Their simple sentences and vocabulary make them the ideal transition from regular picture books and easy readers. Another plus, the author, Kate DiCamillo, is a Newberry Medal winner!

The illustrations by Chris Van Dusen are also amazing!

4. The Puppy Place – Book Series by Ellen Miles

Age Range: 7-10

We’ve already mentioned Puppy Tales, but if your little one loves canine companions, The Puppy Place books are just as good! 

In fact, Apple TV+ even turned them into television series!

5. The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

Age Range: 8-11

The inspiration for the classic film, “Homeward Bound,” this animal tale is a beloved first chapter book for kids!

It tells the tale of two dogs and a Siamese cat who get lost in the Canadian wilderness and have to find their way home. 

6. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Age Range: 5-9

No list of animal-themed early chapter books is complete without mentioning this classic!

Adventures abound when Ralph the Mouse claims a tiny toy motorcycle as his own!

This story features a fun cast of animal characters your children will adore.

7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Age Range: 5-9

It’s also impossible to talk about animal chapter books without mentioning one of my all-time favorite stories, Charlotte’s Web!

With an adorable cast of talking animals, including a pig, spider, and rat, this is a classic for young readers that will be around for generations. 

First Chapter Books for Kids Interested in Fantasy

Is your child a fan of all things fantasy and magical realism? You’ll want to pay attention to the early chapter books below if so!

1. Zoey and Sassafras – Book Series by Asia Citro

Age Range: 4-8

I love the concept behind Zoey and Sassafras! It’s a series of books, and each volume focuses on a different magical animal. More than just magic, it’s also littered with science since every problem Zoey faces requires a scientific solution.

It’s easy to read, exciting, and full of illustrations to help capture your kid’s attention while reading. 

2. The House at the Edge of Magic by Amy Sparkes

Age Range: 8-11

A story filled with magic and adventure, this is a fantasy story that one reviewer says is perfect for fans of Harry Potter.

Many parents also mention how they enjoyed the book as much as their kids did!

3. The Never Girls – Book Series by Kiki Thorpe

Age Range: 6-8

For Disney fans, especially anyone who loves Tinkerbell, this collection of books is a great option for young readers!

They’re stories about four best friends whose wish to go to Never Land gets granted. From there, they meet Tinkerbell and her other fairy friends.

Several moms at my daughters’ school have shared these with me and said their kids couldn’t put them down.

4. The Bailey School Kids – Book Series by Debbie Dadey

Age Range: 6-9

While these might not “technically” be fantasy books, as they usually come with logical explanations, I couldn’t write this article without including the Bailey School Kids! These were some of my favorites as a child, and I read each story repeatedly. 

They’re stories about the kookie teachers at Bailey School and the mythical creatures and monsters the students think they might be.

Some popular titles are “Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots” and “Ghosts Don’t Eat Potato Chips.”

5. Dragon Masters – Book Series by Tracey West

Age Range: 6-8

As with the Owl Diaries and Unicorn Diaries mentioned earlier in this article, the Dragon Masters books are part of the Scholastic Branches collection. Not only are these books thrilling, but they’re also specifically written for emerging readers. 

One thing I love about these is that they come with questions at the end to encourage active reading and conversation.

A boy and girl are standing in front of a white brick wall. They boys is holding a red book that is open and they are both looking at it and smiling.
Time to level up your child’s reading? Check out these first chapter books for kids!

Early Chapter Books that Feature Iconic Characters

Here’s where we get to have some nostalgic fun. You know those characters and books that we loved as kids? Many of them are just as important today as they were then! 

1. Ramona Quimby – Book Series by Beverly Cleary

Age Range: 6-9

The Ramona Quimby books still hold a special place in my heart, and I’m longing for the day our girls discover them, too.

Ramona is curious, lively, and proud to be herself. She gets into unique predicaments, but seeing her navigate them is such a JOY.

It’s no wonder the author, Beverly Cleary, has won many awards for her contributions to children’s literature.

2. Henry Huggins – Book Series by Beverly Cleary

Age Range: 6-9

We can’t discuss Ramona without mentioning Beverly Cleary’s other star character, Henry Huggins! 

These books could easily fit into our animal category as they feature a loving “boy and his dog” relationship that is highly entertaining. 

3. Amelia Bedelia – Book Series by Herman Parish

Age Range: 6-8

When I was pregnant with our first daughter, my husband and I each picked out a favorite book from our childhood to give to her. My pick was the classic version of Amelia Bedelia

Amelia Bedelia has long been one of my favorite literary characters.

As my daughter’s penchant for reading grew, I was thrilled to discover that this lovable, kooky character is now the star of a chapter book series for emerging readers, too!

4. The Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew – Book Series by Carolyn Keene

Age Range: 6-8

While many reviewers state that the original Nancy Drew mysteries were a little hard for their young readers, these new “Clue Crew” editions are perfect first chapter books for kids! 

One mom even mentioned that their only problem was how FAST her daughter blew through them and wanted more! 

5. The Roald Dahl Collection

Age Range: 7-9

I tried to pick my favorite Roald Dahl book to add to this list, and I’m sorry, but I can’t do it. Each of his incredible characters and stories is the stuff of dreams for children. 

From chocolate factories to a little girl with magical powers, the books below are great early chapter books for any kiddo:

6. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Ages 9+

Okay, please don’t hate me, but I’ve never read the “Anne of Green Gables” series! However, I have watched the show and intend to add it to my TBR list on Goodreads!

Anne Shirley is brave, resilient, creative, and hilarious.

She inhabits so many of the characteristics I dream of for my children, and it’s no surprise she’s become a classic character who has withstood the test of time!

Relatable Chapter Books for Young Kids

Sometimes, kids don’t want to read about puppies, dragons, and wild adventures. Occasionally, they want a story that resembles their lives, which is where the following early chapter books come in:

1. Judy Moody – Book Series by Megan McDonald

Age Range: 7-9

Judy Moody is a girl who lets her emotions run free! Whether at home, school, or while hanging out with friends, she shows the world exactly how she feels.

Not only does this book help educate children on emotions, but it also shows them helpful ways of dealing with them.

2. Superfudge – Judy Blume

Age Range: 7-10

Fudge is a rambunctious little boy with a flair for getting into funny predicaments. He also tends to drive his older brother insane! What happens when they find out their mom is having another baby?

In school, this book was a favorite among many of my classmates. Today, it still manages to capture the attention of young readers.

Warning: This book does question the existence of Santa Claus. If you have little ones who still believe, you should skip this story!

3. My Weird School – Book Series by Dan Gutman

Age Range: 6-8

Doesn’t every kid deal with some wild and crazy things at school? 

While the elementary school in this hilarious book series might be stranger than some, your kids can connect with the students and their day-to-day adventures.

4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Age Range: 9-11

This one can be heavy and might be better for older kids. However, its importance in the literary community earns it a place on this list of the best first chapter books for kids. 

“Wonder” tells the story of Auggie, a little boy born with a facial difference and entering a mainstream school for the first time. Auggie is the definition of kindness, but his uniqueness leads to bullying from other students.

This book is a crucial read for every young child learning to practice empathy, support, and acceptance.

In an age where helping kids deal with bullies is essential, this tale contains vital information. 

5. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

Age Range: 8-10

Starting a lemonade stand is something most kids will do or dream of doing at one point or another. 

The Lemonade War is a relatable story full of lessons about working together, getting along, and learning a bit about economics on the way.

Graphic Novels for Early Readers

Does your young reader still love the pictures or have a soft spot for comic books? If so, graphic novels can help them transition into early chapter books.

1. The Babysitter’s Club – Book Series by Ann M. Martin

Age Range: 8-11

I was a big Babysitter’s Club fan as a kid. Color me surprised that these books are still around and now come in an exciting graphic novel form!

Our daughter is a big fan of graphic novels; these books are a favorite around our house. I’m forever grateful to our school’s media specialist for turning her onto these! She’s read almost every book in the series and is now branching into the “Little Sister” spin-off series.

These books use Ann M. Martin’s original text but modernize them with full-color illustrations.

2. The Dav Pilkey Collection

Age Range: 6-9

I noticed a common thread when I reached out to some friends for their recommendations for this article. Kids LOVE Dav Pilkey graphic novels–not just one particular series but anything this incredible creator produces!

The stories are hilarious; the illustrations are eye-catching, and they’re so easy to read that most kids will blow right through them!

If you want to inspire your child to read, why not pick a book from one of the series below?

3. Narwhal and Jelly – Book Series by Ben Clanton

Age Range: 6-9

While we’re on Dav Pilkey, we should mention another graphic novel series he’s a massive fan of– Narwhal and Jelly! This collection is perfect for families looking for early chapter books. Pilkey says that Narwhal and Jelly are the best “unlikely” friends he’s seen since Frog and Toad!

Starring, you guessed it, a narwhal and a jellyfish, these underwater adventures will capture your little one’s attention from beginning to end.

Non-Fiction First Chapter Books

Some kids would rather read about real people, places, and things. For those children, tons of excellent non-fiction chapter books are available!

1. Who Was…, What Was…, Where Is… Books

Age Range: 8-11

This collection of books covers a broad spectrum of historical people and occurrences. From Helen Keller to the Supreme Court, these non-fiction first chapter books for kids provide interesting information about the real world around us. 

Several friends have told me about this collection and said their kids couldn’t get enough of them.

2. History Smashers – Book Series by Kate Messner

Age Range: 8-12

What I love about this non-fiction chapter book series is that it doesn’t just go over the facts about various historical events, it also covers the rumors that have spread about them over time. 

In her factual books, Kate Messner helps emerging readers sift through the truth and lies about things that have happened throughout history.

Help Your Kids Pick Early Chapter Books that Spike Their Reading Interests

As you can see, there are plenty of early chapter books for young readers. The hard part is picking the best one for your child from this incredible collection of stories.

Reading is vital to a child’s education; help your little ones find books they LOVE to start their journey. 

Do you remember what first chapter books for kids you read as a child?