Top tips for transitioning from picture books to chapter books

Published on: 08 February 2022

There's nothing author Candy Gourlay doesn't know about a good page-turner... but she still loves a picture book now and again! Here are her top tips for helping little ones progress from picture books to chapter books...

Hello! I’m Candy Gourlay, the author of lots of children's books... but most recently, Mike Falls Up!

It’s the first time I’ve written for children who are reading in that space between picture books and books that are mostly words. It’s fully illustrated in full glorious colour by the amazing Carles Ballesteros – who lives in Chile (Hola, Carles, gracias por tus hermosos debujos) and it was a funny experience writing it, because I plotted it like one of my books for older readers, but I also had to plan it like a picture book, with surprises and reveals with every page turn!

The very first chapter book...

The first chapter book, the first short story, the first poetry book, with few or no pictures... it’s an EXCITING moment in a child’s reading adventure. And if you’re a book-loving parent, it will be very hard not to get your kid thier first Harry Potter or to present them with your well-thumbed copies of your favourite books from your childhood. If you want your child to love reading - really love it - take it easy, all in good time!

Candy Gourlay and the front cover of her book Mike Falls Up

First things first: don’t stop reading picture books!

I think picture books are an art form in themselves that should be read by all ages – I’m ancient and I LOVE picture books! But as children get older, they will begin to look for stories that have more narrative, more twists and turns. They begin to enjoy the delicious way words come together to tell a story. Every child is different though and different children will be drawn to different stories.

How do you find the sort of book that your child will love?

Take them to the library where every kind of story will be there for the taking! Does your kid want to read about dinosaurs? Princesses? Captain Underpants? Comics? Non-fiction? If your child doesn’t enjoy a story, try another one. It’s okay.

I really believe that nobody should be forced to finish a book they don’t enjoy. Reading is about enjoying.

Early Readers are a great way to ease your child into books.

Early Readers are illustrated and the stories are designed to make your new reader want to keep turning the pages. Mike Falls Up is an Early Reader, and tells the story of Mike who falls into an earthquake and shoots out a chimney in London on the other side of the world. He meets a girl named Kaneisha and they have an adventure in the centre of the Earth. It’s got chapters, but the chapters whip by so fast, the young reader will feel a real sense of achievement.

Illustration: Carles Ballesteros

Illustration: Carles Ballesteros

Some children take time to develop the reading endurance needed to get to the next reading level. Read with them, supply the words they can’t figure out. Next time they read the book, they’ll get there faster. Reading is about fun not work!

Don’t test your child’s comprehension or spelling or vocabulary when they’re reading.

Focus on the story. Who’s that? Why did he do it? Who’s the baddy and who’s the goody? I didn’t see that coming, did you?

Have fun – when your young reader is off with their nose in a book, you’re gonna miss this precious, precious time.

Follow Candy on Twitter.


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