Great Chapter Books for Kids

great chapter books for kids

As Beach Girl and I have shared our nightly reading time, we’ve enjoyed some great chapter books together. Here are the books we’ve read so far:

Winnie the Pooh & The House at Pooh Corner, both by A.A. Milne – These were our first chapter books. At first, I worried I was boring Beach Girl or that she wasn’t paying attention, but at one point, she chimed in with “Silly old bear!” right before I read Christopher Robin’s line and I knew she must be picking up more than I thought! This sweet story of a little boy and his buddies in the Hundred Acre Woods is an easy-to-understand classic, and the imaginary tales are something every kid can relate to. (We have this box set, which includes a couple poetry books as well.)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – The tales of Laura and Mary’s simple childhood are enchanting and easy to follow. There are times, however, when there’s a little too much detail about hunting or making cheese to hold a 3-year-old’s interest. We just skipped over that and continued on! There’s something about Ma & Pa’s parenting, as well as the simplicity of their lifestyle that is so enthralling to me and to Beach Girl. We just started Little House on the Prairie (the 2nd book in the Little House series) a few nights ago.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White- The friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider is endearing and so much fun.  This book is another favorite. Bonus: we learned facts about pigs & spiders, as well as a few vocabulary words when Charlotte stitched them into her web.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater- This book about a penguin-loving painter who receives a gift of penguins is pure fun and I hardly had to explain any of it. We loved imagining if we owned penguins and we learned some cool penguin facts along the way.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis’ writing is beautiful. This story is an entertaining read and a lovely allegory for the way God loves us. However, I think Beach Girl wasn’t quite old enough for it. I had to explain and reword things often and she had a harder time paying attention than usual. When we finished, I asked her if we should read another Narnia book now or wait, and she told me we needed to wait until she turned 4. I agree – a 4 or 5 year old would probably enjoy this book significantly more.

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame- This is the only book Beach Girl has fallen asleep during! The language is a bit advanced and, at times, rambling. I do think it’s helpful to read advanced words to preschoolers because their brains are primed to pick up language easily at this age, but this was too much of a stretch, I think. After many requests to find a different book, we stopped reading this book only halfway through. The story was cute and fun, just harder to follow.  We read the free Kindle book version, which doesn’t include any pictures. Illustrations probably would have made a significant difference in her understanding and enjoyment of the story, so next time we try, we’ll make sure to get a version that includes pictures!

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren- Pippi Longstocking is a little girl who lives without a mom or dad and has all sorts of silly adventures. She’s strong enough to lift up a horse or to wrestle the strongest man, and her misadventures provided us with lots of laughs.  Beach Girl’s favorite part of this book is that Pippi tells herself to go to bed… and if she doesn’t obey the first time, then she tells herself again! I chose to edit this book more than any of our other selections, but it was still a fun, worthwhile read. We skipped over a few unpleasant words here and there, and missed the entire chapter about Pippi entertaining robbers – I don’t even want to introduce the idea that robbers could come into our house!

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White- We just finished this one and decided it’s our favorite book so far. Louis the Trumpeter Swan is born unable to speak, so his (human) friend Sam Beaver helps him learn to communicate by reading and writing and his dad helps him get a trumpet, which he learns to play beautifully.  The Trumpet of the Swan is a fun read, easy to understand, and includes valuable lessons about friendship and honesty.

[This post contains affiliate links, so if you purchase through them you’ll be helping to support this site.]

What recommendations do you have for chapter books for preschoolers?

The UnWired Mom (free today & tomorrow!)

I’ve mentioned before how much my friends and I loved reading through Sally Clarkson &  Sarah Mae’s book Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. I just wanted to pop in quickly to tell y’all that Sarah Mae just came out with a new e-book — The UnWired Mom: Choosing to Live Free in an Internet Addicted World.

Chapter titles include: I Like the Internet; How Alive Am I Willing to Be?; Down the Rabbit Hole: When 5 Minutes Becomes 2 Hours; Helping Our Children Not Become Addicted to Social Media; & Tips from Bloggers on How to Manage Your Online Time.

I’m pretty sure this book will have helpful thoughts for any mom (or person) in 2013.  I just got my copy and am excited to get reading!

It’s on amazon (affiliate link) for $4.99, but I wanted to tell you about it now, because it’s free if you subscribe to her blog today or tomorrow. Subscribing to her blog is well worth it anyway, so hop on over and check it out. If you do, I’d love to hear what you think!

Reading Chapter Books

Some of my sweetest memories of time with my mom and sister are of snuggling up on my mom’s bed to read chapter books with them. I’ve always hoped to carry on the tradition with my daughters, so last November, I started having special mommy-daughter reading time with Beach Girl.

At just over 3, I wasn’t sure she was old enough for chapter books, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much she enjoys them and even retains from what we’ve read. She can recite key information from some of the books we finished months ago! Although, I have to admit, there are many times when we are reading that I’m not sure she’s paying a bit of attention… But I guess that’s just how it works, right? They don’t miss a thing, especially when we think they’re not listening!

early chapter books

(I like how Beach Baby photobombed this pic)

If you’re looking to introduce this time with your own preschooler, here’s how it’s worked for us:

  • We read chapter books right before bedtime. Beach Girl – and probably every kid ever – will do almost anything to delay bedtime. So, whereas she might have had trouble sitting still for longer stories at any other time of day, if she knows it’s this or bedtime, she’ll calm down and listen.
  • We do hair while we read. This is partially selfishly motivated because I love it when she brushes my hair, but we take turns putting loads of hair clips in each other’s hair. Having something calm but still active to do helps her sit relatively still and to focus better.
  • I “rewrite” some of the stories to suit her. Sometimes it’s just by saying a sentence again with more simple words or more explanation. Other times, it’s skipping over pages like the long, detailed explanations of Pa’s hunting adventures in Little House in the Big Woods (Beach Girl was getting restless) or the chapter where Pippi Longstocking entertains robbers (we don’t need to even introduce the idea that robbers could come into our house!).
  • Each night, I base how much we read off of how interested she is. Some nights, we don’t even finish a chapter. Other nights, we read 2 or more chapters.
  • Some nights, we don’t have time/energy to read a chapter book. I was worried to introduce something that would make our bedtime routine even longer because, frankly, there are some nights when bedtime needs to happen. Right. Now. I’m glad I didn’t let those nights get in the way of this special time together. I usually try to read at least a little bit, but if we’ve been out or stayed up late already, we plan to read the next night and it’s not a big deal. I’m glad I made the choice to not let the rough nights drive our bedtime routine.

We’ve treated this time as special time, and it really is. Many days, this is the only time Beach Girl and I get alone and uninterrupted together. We’ve read some wonderful books together and often refer to what we’re reading during the day or introduce phrases from our books into our everyday talk. Our favorite phrase is “silly old bear!” from Winnie the Pooh.

Next time, I’ll share what books we’ve read and our thoughts on each.

(This post is linked to The Better Moms link-up.)

Moving Chairs

When Beach Dad was a youth minister, we had our large youth group meetings in a room that also served as a Sunday School classroom. Every week, we had to meet at the church an hour or two before the meeting started to do things like put away the Sunday School tables and chairs and decorate the room for youth group.

There was one leader who, nearly every week, missed the setup time and showed up just in time for the actual youth group meeting to start, with a different reason for missing setup each time. Finally, when my husband asked her about it and reminded her that part of the youth leader commitment was to help each week, she answered: “I just don’t feel called to move chairs. I really want to meet with the girls one-on-one and to lead their Bible study and to come play the games at youth group meetings, but I just don’t feel called to move chairs. So, I think I’ll just skip that part.”

You don’t feel called to move chairs?!?!

After our initial annoyance, we decided it was simply hilarious.  Is there really anyone who feels specifically called to move chairs? Did my husband decide to be a youth minister so he could move chairs? Did I volunteer with the youth group so I could get my weekly chair-moving fix?

Of course not!  But, moving chairs was a part of loving the students and making the ministry happen.  “Moving chairs” became our reminder to each other that ministry often happens in the little moments.

I was telling someone that story recently, in the context of ministry, and my story basically slapped me on the side of my head.

So. Much. of motherhood is moving chairs. I make meals, I clean dishes and do laundry, I change diapers, I organize and re-organize toys…. And it can be so easy for me to grumble, to say “I want to play with my kids and teach them how to be kind, independent people and to love Jesus, not to do their dirty dishes or clean poop out of the bathtub.  I’m just not called to clean poop out of a bathtub!”

Of course that’s not why I became a mom. As I’ve dreamed of parenting my whole life, I haven’t been thinking “And then I’ll get to make another dinner, just like I did last night! And then I’ll get to wash another load of laundry. Maybe I’ll even get to remove some stains from clothes! What a calling!”

But, as I fulfill my calling as mommy, so much of my day-to-day looks like those mundane tasks. Sure, I have daily one-on-one times with my girls and I get to play games with them and teach them how to love people and love God.  But, the majority of my time is spent doing little, seemingly-trivial tasks like moving chairs.

Often, I feel discouraged by that and like motherhood is a bit of a letdown in the glamour department. Or, I feel like if only I were better organized, I wouldn’t have to clean up so much.  If only…

I tend to focus on the more dramatic moments like explaining the Gospel or taking my daughter to get a cast for her broken ankle (poor girl!) as the real defining moments of motherhood.

But the reality is that the routine, messy tasks of mothering are just as important as the special, dramatic moments. In fact, since they add up to be so much more of our time, maybe they’re even more important than the dramatic moments?

As I serve my family and clean their dishes, their laundry, and their diapers, I’m not only making our house livable, I’m giving my daughters an example of what it looks like to serve Jesus, to live my life out for Him even in the mundane. I’m stumbling through overcoming my own selfishness to put their needs before mine and to repent when I (frequently) fail to do that well. I’m relying on Him to change my heart from a grumbling heart to a joyfully serving one, more and more like His. I’m looking to Him for my example of what it means to really love people. And, just like when Jesus knelt down and washed His disciples’ feet or multiplied a small amount of food to provide for a multitude of people, I’m showing my precious children that I love them and that, only because of Jesus, I want to and am able to serve them.

Perhaps, one of my most effective forms of ministry and witness to my family occurs when I’m simply moving chairs.

———

I’m linking up to The Better Mom.

Grill Gifts for Dad

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Father’s Day happens to perfectly coincide with grilling season.  What dad doesn’t love grilled meat? If you’re still looking for a Father’s Day gift (or aren’t sure what to make for dinner!), mix up some of these grill rubs.  For dads, just package it up, maybe add a gourmet sauce or some new grill tools and you have a gift he’s sure to love.

“Hugh’s Dry Rub Recipe” (from here):

  • 1 Tbsp & 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp and 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. and 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

BBQ Spice Rub (from here):

  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • < 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Italian Rub Recipe:

  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dry basil
  • 3 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt (sea salt or kosher salt are best)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
For best results, apply each rub to meat 20 minutes before cooking.
For more ideas, you can also check out my list of great gifts for dads on a bare-bones budget.

Spirit-Led Parenting

I’ve been reading Megan’s blog Sorta Crunchy since before I became a parent and was excited when she released a book — Spirit-Led Parenting. But, since the subtitle of the book is “From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year,” I figured I’d wait to read it until we have another baby someday. But, as I heard more and more about the book, I felt like I should really read this book now.

I am so glad I did. This book is, without a doubt, one of my favorite parenting books to date.

spirit led parenting book review

A great summary of Spirit-Led Parenting comes from near the end of the book: “May our hearts and minds be ever-focused on the movement of the Spirit. And may our days be directed not by our children, not by ourselves, but by Him alone.”

While most parenting books I’ve read have included undertones of “do this or you’ll mess up your baby for life” and “don’t do this or you’ll mess up your baby for life” (sometimes even with exact opposite instructions in different books!), this book was a breath of fresh air and spoke immense amounts of grace into my life as mom. Rather than focusing on specific methodologies and rules for how to parent during baby’s first year, Megan and Laura focused on the fact that parenting may – and often, should – look different for each family and even for each baby within a family.

The most important aspect of parenting during baby’s first year is not breast or bottle, baby-wearing or not; instead, it’s following the quiet, gentle stirring of the Holy Spirit in a parent’s heart.  “The right way for each mother and father to approach parenting is to seek His direction and guidance…. He extends to us the freedom to stop striving in vain to make our own plans work and to confidently follow the leading of His Spirit instead.”

And, as we follow these gentle stirrings, the authors point to the most amazing transformation of baby’s first year – “[W]hat if, as that first year of babyhood winds down and a toddler stands where your baby once lay, what if you looked in the mirror and realized that the one who has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year is you?”

To be fair, if you’re firmly in the “cry it out” camp and not interested in considering other options, the sleep chapter of this book may not be for you, as both authors entertained/experimented with the method and found it to strongly violate their mom intuitions and they’re pretty clear about that in the chapter on “As They Sleep.” But, even if you’ve practiced CIO methods and have found yourself wondering if there might be a better way, I think this book might encourage and strengthen you. I found their insights on the method – as well as every other methodology behind parenting in the first year – to be incredibly gracious, freedom-giving, and inspiring.

As I read about the authors’ struggles to find their own way and to parent in the ways they felt God leading them – even when it went against conventional wisdom and advice from church friends and family members – I nodded my head in agreement, cried a little, and hugged my girls a lot more.  Even though this book specifically addresses the first year of a baby’s life and I’m currently in Beach Baby’s second year and Beach Girl’s fourth year, I felt encouraged and inspired in my parenting right here and now.

Dare I say – I found myself hoping one of my girls would wake up, so I could go in and snuggle her a little longer (yep, I never thought I’d say that!).  I’m certain I’ll read this book over and over again, and it will be my go-to gift for expecting and new moms. And, I’m seriously hoping that they’ll write a book about bigger kids too!

You can find this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local bookstore. If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Arrested Photography

We’re huge fans of Arrested Development.  Love love love the Bluth family and all their kookiness.  As we anxiously await the new episodes on Netflix next weekend, we’re geeking out over all the fun AD buzz online.

A few nights ago, Beach Dad stumbled across this site where you can insert Tobias Funke into your photos. Of course, we wasted spent the next hour laughing over fun photos like this:

When Beach Girl saw this photo, she said “Is that our family?” haha!

If you’re looking to insert some Tobias into your photos, check it out at insertmeanywhere.biz.  And, if you make some fun photos, please share the links in the comments!