Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chapter Books

I often read on other blogs how moms are enjoying reading chapter books with their little ones (usually the 3's and 4's). I decided to give this a try with Little Bean a month or two ago, and really, it was a total flop.

Two problems:

First, the themes are too advanced for my comfort level. I chose Charlotte's Web, which I remember being pretty benign, but within the first few chapters there are references to Fern's brother and his toy weapons and to slaughtering animals in the hog house. Now, I know the theme of Charlotte's Web IS about death--Charlotte giving her life to help a friend, which I think is a wonderful theme, but I ended up feeling uncomfortable with how the book made me face these complex concepts with Bean when he was so young.

Second, I found that while he liked to listen to me reading, (I think he just liked the changes in my voice and tone as I read), he didn't really comprehend much of what was going on. Without pictures to aid him, and with many new words, he was at a loss for what the story was really about.

I guess I'll try chapter books in another few months. Anyone else come across this problem when trying chapter books with your 3 or 4 year old?


Sherry said...

My first thought is why exactly do you think he didn't comprehend much? Did he ask a lot of questions? Did he just look confused or totally tune you out? Did you quiz him throughout your reading? I think at this age they are capable of understanding more than we may realize because though they may understand it, they have a hard time verbalizing back to us what has happened. They don't have to understand every word to get the gist of the story. At this stage, even though it's natural for us to want to, I don't think we should ask them all kinds of questions to measure their comprehension. The point is to enjoy the story and look forward to the next reading.

My second thought: what was he doing while you read? Gerrick has almost never sat still doing nothing but listening while I've read chapter books. He is usually playing with legos or play-doh or cars, or coloring something, or even playing in the tub while I read. Many times I've thought he wasn't paying attention and I've thrown in something completely illogical--and every time he has stopped, given me a strange look, and said, "WHAT?"

And finally jumping straight into a book as long and with as few illustrations as Charlotte's web is a huge leap. I'm not sure what he's used to reading, but there really needs to be a transition into those kind of chapter books. From average length picture books move into longer ones like those by Bill Peet (Cowardly Clyde sticks out in my mind as one of G's favorites) and Dr. Seuss (The Lorax, for ex.); The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake was another favorite at this stage. Then try to find even longer stories that still fall within the picture book category; you may need to break these readings up over 2-3 sittings. Some examples that G has enjoyed are Fairy Wings by Lauren Mills and William the Curious: Knight of the Water Lilies by Charles Santore. From there we moved to heavily illustrated chapter books like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Alison Jay and The Wizard of Oz (only slightly abridged) illustrated by Charles Santore. Then, finally move into short (less than 100 pages) chapter books like My Father's Dragon and The Iron Giant, moving to longer ones like Mr. Popper's Penguins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and eventually Charlotte's Web. Hope this helps. :)

Christy said...

You must have read my mind. I remember starting to read chapter books with my oldest when he was in kindergarten, but I have tried a few with C and he doesn't seem that interested. I have just thought that R would never tolerate the length of a chapter book; she has trouble with long picture books. I read Charlotte's Web to my oldest when he was 5 and it was difficult for him (he cried quite a bit), but overall I think it was a positive experience that he learned from. I think I will try to take Sherry's approach. I have never thought of reading chapter books while my kids are playing or bathing; we usually read them in bed at night. I will try her book recommendations too.

Teaching My Little BookWorm said...

my youngest got chapter books read to her from birth since her big sis is alot older! my oldest at the time loved Magic Treehouse and she still to the this day loves chapter books we are reading tinkerbell right now and hannah montana.

maybe try magic treehouse or magic school bus and you could do some activities with it: like if you got either of those about volcanoes you could build a volcano and such!

just a thought

Mama Pickles said...

I jsut finished reading The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease and he suggests reading chapter books to 3 and 4 year olds. I too have been struggling to figure out which chapter book to start with. I have been working on longer story books and my 33 month old son will sit and listen to them. I'm not sure that he would if it was a chapter book, but I think they still listen when they are playing or doing something else. I think you would really enjoy The Read Aloud Handbook. It has many book suggestions.

Bookworm said...

Hi there! I found your blog through a post by Sherry at Living and Learning! I really like your blog and enjoyed getting to know you through your "Who We Are" section! You sound alot like me! I fear I may be "preaching to the choir" here but here are my thoughts anyway;

If you really want to read chapter books with your young ones I'd suggest starting with simpler chapter books that are easier for younger children to comprehend. I'd have to go back and check Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook to see which chapter books he recommends for 3 and 4 year olds. I have his book and I'd be happy to check that for you. I would guess it is simple chapter books such a Frog and Toad, Henry and Mudge, Little Bear, etc..

One thing I'd love to share is that so often parents read books to their children that are beyond their level of comprehension. The children are simply too young to comprehend the complex storyline and big words. Therefore time is spent (or wasted) on a book the child cannot understand thus cannot enjoy when they could be spending that time reading an age appropriate book that could be easily understood. AND how much more will the child enjoy the more complex story when they are old enough to get something out of it and truly have fun with it.

While reading, your child should feel as though they are a part of the adventure. If children dont become interested and engaged, it is not a good fit, perhaps not the right time. (age)

Personally, I'd say not to rush "chapter" books. There is a plethora of excellent, extraordinary and fabulous picture books that will truly nurture your child's love for the written word. Before you know it your children will be reading chapter books and you will wish for more time to read picture books with them.

Thanks for this thought provoking blog post!


Lea said...

I think everyone who is homeschooling should read The Read Aloud Handbook that the other posters mentioned. Excellent book.
My sons love the Frog and Toad books (we were disappointed to find there were only four:(, Henry and Mudge, Little Bear, Poppleton and Mr Putter and ? (sorry can't remember the name of his cat:). So we are reading lots of books like these now. We read the three books in the My Father's Dragon series and the boys loved them. As a matter of fact, they asked to read them again and we started it a couple of days ago.

I was also excited to read Charlotte's Web and Trumpet of the Swan and some of the other classics like these. I have already bought them because I want to keep them in our home library but, after reading through them, decided they were too old. I had not gotten the Trumpet of the Swan book but had rented the book on tape from the library and we listened to it on a local trip. I really loved it (had never read it before) but it was too old for the boys. They understood parts of it and talked about it later but they were ready to turn it off before I was.

Now I'm going to write down some of the recommendations listed above:).

Lea said...

Just's Mr Putter and Tabby:).

Jennifer said...

Thanks for all the advice! I will have to check the library for the Read Aloud Handbook. We actually read a lot of the books you have mentioned (Mr. Putter, Frog and Toad, Poppleton, etc). I guess I didn't consider those "real" chapter books. Both Miss O and Bean will sit through and enjoy those. Right now we are reading one about a crocidile named Mr. Green, which is also a "chapter" book. I'll have to think more on this one. Thanks for all the tips!

Mama Pickles said...

Just wanted to let you know I read my son 2 suggestions from the Read Aloud Handbook and he loved them a lot. I did learn a lesson though- just because a book is recommended by a great author, be sure to read it first. My son wanted me to read one of the books right away and I did so reluctantly because I hadn't pre-read it and I really didn't like the one page with all of the farmers going after the character with guns. That book was The Whingdingdilly by Bill Peet. The second book we just finished today was Two Times the Fun by Beverly Cleary. My son wants me to read it again tomorrow. :)

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