Why chapter books hook children on reading

Published on: 02 June 2024

BookTrust research shows that daily shared reading can drop between ages 4-7, from 68% to 54%. Yet this is the time to hook beginner readers! Maisie Chan explores why chapter books can be so appealing. 

Fast-paced fiction

Chapter books (also called young fiction books) are specially aimed at newly independent readers, aged around six and up. The fast-paced nature of many of these titles, as well as the fun storylines, are key to creating a ‘reading for pleasure’ mentality in young and early readers. 

With children today generally having shorter attention spans than those of the past, chapter books are an important step in creating keen and confident young readersThey can also boost reading for reluctant readers, ESL readers and hi-lo readers (high age, low reading level). The short chapters, often ending on a cliff-hanger, mean that young readers find it easy to progress through the story. 

I’ve been lucky to have written such books in my series Tiger Warrior. It’s aimed at fans of the enormously famous chapter book series Beast Quest, and it contains Chinese mythical beastand lots of action. There are similar tropes to Pokémon and Dragonball Z , with East Asian influences and world building. Each book has high stakes (where Jack has to defeat his nemesis) and the pace is an exciting adrenaline rush.  

These books appeal to younger children who may see children at school with Pokémon trading cards; or older siblings into Japanese manga and fantasy books. Yet they themselves might not be ready for denser fantasy worlds. But the Tiger Warrior series (and other chapter books) can and have been, enjoyed by older children too.  

From the cover of Tiger Warrior by Maisie Chan

Getting stuck into a series

Chapter books often come in series. If children enjoy book one, they often seek out more titles in the series; this experience can lead them to think of themselves as readers. Parents, teachers, and carers may lament having to listen to children read about the same characters over and over againHowever, these books can instil a love of reading and should not be overlooked for their simplicity or repetitious nature. If children enjoy reading them, then that is all that matters. 

Children often feel a sense of accomplishment that they have independently read a whole book by themselves, but they may feel unready to tackle longer and more complex novels. Building confidence as a reader is crucial and chapter books are an important part of using those reading muscles due to the easy-to-read fonts (and white space on the page), illustrations, short chaptersand well-chosen vocabulary for the younger age groups.   

The variety of subject matter, length and tone in the chapter book market is growing constantly. Some books are only around 4,000 words, whilst othercan be around the 12,000 words mark. Some well-known chapter book series include Beast Quest (Adam Blade), the Claude books (Alex T. Smith), Isadora Moon (Harriet Muncaster), Rainbow Magic (Daisy Meadows) and the Marv books (Alex Falase-Koya and Paula Bowles). There are common themes which tend to thread through chapter books, including magical beings, action adventure, funny animals, and superheroes; all of which appear inthe range of titles mentioned, and my own series. 

From Isadora Moon by Harriet Muncaster

Stories to excite everyone

In the past many books were marketed to a specific gender (Beast Quest for boys or Rainbow Magic for girls), however, in recent years there have been a lot more books in this category that are simply for everyone.  

My Tiger Warrior series has a main character, Jack, who is a regular boy who loves gaming, but there is also a strong shape-shifting Princess and a host of animals with superpowers – so something for everyone! I think Tiger Warrior is unique in that it has a real-world and fantasy element which is relatable to many children today and feels slightly more mature than other chapter book reads. 

Chapter books are excellent for building independent reading confidence – but also for reading together. Why not read one aloud to the child or children in your life? 

The Tiger Warrior series by Maisie Chan is out now.  

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