I don’t know about you, but I fairly got a pain in my face from reading Julia Donaldson over and over again. I love her, like. But there’s only so many cute rhyming couplets a parent can take, particularly when repeated ad nauseum.
Once the small boy turned four, it really felt like he was ready for a longer story instead of the start-to-finish bedtime tale. I struggled though to find age-appropriate chapter books for the 4+ age group to read out loud. Most of the books in the shops seemed to be geared at an older self-reading age group and oftentimes the stories were too scary or too complex to hold a smallie’s attention.
I was always a big fan of Road Dahl as a child but even with him its hard to find the right balance, particularly depending on the temperament of your own children. For example, when we read James and the Giant Peach, there was a lot of improvised out loud editing because the dark humour of dead parents and locking small children in dark cellars with no food would have been received very badly in our house at the time! I’m sure when he’s able to read it himself, it’ll be hilarious but definitely a no-no just right now.
We’ve struck gold with a few books which have gone down a storm with both small child and parents alike. Here’s our recommendations for chapter books to read out loud to the 4-6ish age group. They’ll enjoy them and you won’t want to poke your eyes out.
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins
Toys Go Out is the first in four books that share the adventures of three friends, Plastic, StingRay and Buffalo – toys that come to life when their owner isn’t there. It is funny and playful with a few simple life lessons about friendship and responsibility thrown in. We took it on a two-chapters-a-night basis which worked really well. We’ve also read the second book in the series, Toy Dance Party, which I’d also highly recommend. For the moment I have steered clear of Toys Come Home, the prequel, due to a higher age rating of 6-9 and I believe some harsh life realities that I’m probably not ready to explain yet! But we’ll definitely revisit the series in the future. A new adventure, Toys Meet Snow, is a full colour hardback book that was published last year but it’s not a chapter book like the other three.
I’ve only been able to buy this series online and have never seen it in the shops. I’ve provided links above to both Amazon and Kennys, which is an Irish bookshop. Prices start from €8.61.
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
My Father’s Dragon is the first of a trilogy (yay!) recounting the adventures of a small boy and his bid to rescue a baby dragon who has been kidnapped by some wild animals. The whole trilogy is lovely. It’s full of talking animals and quirky little adventures. It’s perfectly pitched at the 4-6 age group with all of the adventure but none of the peril or scariness. You can purchase this book as a standalone or with the other two stories – Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland – as one hardback book. Again, this is another collection that I could only find online. Prices start at €6.85.
Astrosaurs by Steve Cole
The Astrosaurs series is based on the premise that the dinosaurs were super-intelligent creatures that had developed the technology to escape into space before any astroids hit Earth. It follows the adventures of Captain Teggs and his vegetarian team of astrosaurs as they travel space in the DSS Sauropod, meeting all sorts of excitement and trouble on the way.
The small boy is dinosaur obsessed. Obsessed like he used to be space obsessed. I stumbled across the eighth book in the series, Astrosaurs: The Terror Bird Trap, in the library and he nearly bit it out of my hand. We’re delighted with this find and are just coming to the end of it now. There have been some serious laugh out loud moments in this book that have caused pre-bedtime hiccups. We’re also delighted to discover that there are 23 books in the Astrosaur series so I guess I know what we’ll be reading for the next year! I’ve spotted great deals for a collection of 10 books so I might be talking to Santa about this.
Just to note, the books are pitched at ages 7-9 to read themselves but I found the story content and writing style to be more than appropriate to read out to my five year old. There are fun illustrations throughout too. We’ve only read The Terror Bird Trap though so I’ll keep you posted if we read anymore and I’m not sure about the content. Prices for the Astrosaur books start at €8.20
BFG by Road Dahl
A modern classic at this stage, the BFG went down very well in our house. There was a little bit a reassurance required around the existence or not of child-eating giants – and also a short query about orphans – but apart from that he really enjoyed it. The BFG is fantastic for its creative licence on wordplay and is an enjoyable read. Other Dahl books that I’d recommend for reading aloud to the 4-6 age group are Esio Trot, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Magic Finger and The Twits. There’s a couple we haven’t read because they didn’t pique an interest and then others – as I mentioned earlier – that he’s just not ready for yet. I’m sorry now that we introduced James and the Giant Peach so early. You can pick up Roald Dahl in almost any bookshop and they’re readily available online. Kennys offer great value at €4.64 for the paperback.
They’re my recommendations for introducing chapter book reading to your little ones. Myself and Mr Mind the Baby take turns every other night for storytime and I love how the small boy is able to tell the other parent what happened in the story the night before. I hope you enjoy them too! Do you have any recommendations I could add to the list?
For your information: All of the books mentioned in this article were purchased by me at the full advertised price. I have not been asked to write about these books and I am personally recommending them based on our own enjoyment of them. There are no affiliate links in this blogpost.