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.

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What recommendations do you have for chapter books for preschoolers?

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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.)

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!

A Tale of Two Design Books

I recently read two home design books – one that I enjoyed much more than the other.

Creative Display:

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Creative Display, I may have been better off doing so.  If the display on the cover of this book is appealing to you, then you’ll probably enjoy this book more than I did.  As someone who tends to skimp on decor and “underbuy” (a term I got from Happier at Home!), the idea of setting up elaborate (and often extremely expensive) displays throughout my house seems excessive to me. Not to mention that none of these displays could survive 10 minutes in a house with a toddler!

This book doesn’t have many words – I read through it during one nap time – but it is filled with photographs of diverse displays from around the world (mostly Paris and LA). I did glean some ideas from the book and was inspired to start attempting to arrange more any creative and interesting displays around my home, but I was glad I got this book at the library instead of buying it. Although, it is a gorgeous book and I guess it’d make a great addition to one of those creative displays the book extols!

Design Rules:

Design Rules: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator, on the other hand, is an interior design book that is right up my alley. I’ve read it over the past two months, slowly soaking in everything I could about interior design.  I am not naturally gifted in anything design-y, but it’s my recent obsession and I’m trying to learn all I can. This book gave me a helpful overview of general guidelines for design (like the more often you’re in a room, the more subtle the paint color should be and vice-versa) and more concrete design “rules” (like how big of an area rug you should buy and how high you should hang your curtains).  I found this book extremely helpful and will be referring back to it often.

I have a few other design books on my list, so stay tuned for those reviews soon. And, if you have any recommendations for design books, I’d love to hear them!

Happier at Home

happier at home

I’ve heard rave reviews of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (a New York Times #1 Bestseller) but the idea sounded a bit too lofty to me. Happier at Home, however, focuses more on everyday life and, since finding contentment in the everyday is a constant struggle of mine, I decided to hear her out.  I truly enjoyed reading this book and walked away feeling encouraged and inspired. It also worked out to be a perfect book for kicking off the new year!

Throughout the book, Rubin chronicles her journey to discover happiness in key areas of her daily life, focusing on one area for each of 9 months – possessions, marriage, parenthood, interior design, time, body, family, neighborhood, and now.  My favorite chapters – marriage, parenthood, and time – especially encouraged me to be intentional in my relationships and in how I spend my energy.

While reading this book, I appreciated Rubin’s personal and informed writing style – she intertwines personal experience and relevant data as she explains both her successes and failures of pursuing intentional living and happiness each month.  (I really appreciated the times when she admitted to certain resolutions not working out like she’d hoped!)

Rubin had a few resolutions that I wouldn’t be as eager to adopt for myself (or just aren’t applicable – as a city dweller, one of her resolutions was to overcome her fear of driving, which isn’t something I struggle with). But she admits that what makes one person happy doesn’t necessarily make another person happy.  And, any reservations I had about a happiness project simply being an excuse to pursue fleeting, gushy feelings were relieved as she said repeatedly – “happiness doesn’t always make me feel happy” and aimed to do hard things like have a conversation about living wills with her parents and overcome her fear of driving.

All in all, I genuinely benefited from this book and I walked away from the book with both theoretical, heart-change inspiration and concrete ideas for better loving my family and enjoying life.  And, in the couple weeks since I’ve read the book, I can honestly say this book has made me a better wife and mom.  As I’ve “chosen the positive argument” to focus my thoughts on all the wonderful things my husband does do rather than the couple things he doesn’t do and as I’ve focused more on doing what I value — rather than specifically doing less or doing more — I’ve found myself truly feeling more content.

And, as I’ve planned little surprises for my family and practiced nonrandom acts of kindness for others, I’ve found myself thinking less about myself – a constant struggle of mine.  While, as a Christian, I don’t believe I’ll ever find true happiness here on Earth, this book has encouraged me to focus my heart on what I truly value and to seek to live life more intentionally.

I will warn you — At a certain point, reading this book felt a little like browsing Pinterest for too long; as I read through her year-long journey over the course of a week, I began to feel overwhelmed by ideas and a sense of inadequacy.  But, shortly after that, she confessed her own struggles with keeping her resolutions… and I realized it took her a year to do what I was reading about in only a week.

If you’re looking for inspiration and some concrete ideas about how to pursue happiness and intentional living in your home this year, this book would make a great read.

*If you purchase through my amazon link, you’ll be helping to support


I’m linking up to: Bookin’ It & Weekly Reads.

Introducing… Beach Reads

As we’ve talked about how we want to be more intentional in 2013, Beach Dad and I would both like to read more.   We both enjoy reading, but we each read an embarrassingly small number of books in 2012. The past month or so, we’ve been carving out time to read and are loving it. I’ve even finished a couple books!  I’m really good at starting books, but am usually reading at least 5 books at once and rarely ever finish one.

Confession: We have 85 books checked out from the library right now. Eighty five. What is wrong with me? To be fair, quite a few of them are Beach Dad’s or the girls’ short books that can be read in 5 minutes, but (more than) a fair amount are mine.

And, every single one of mine is non-fiction. I can’t get enough non-fiction. I read The Help last year and loved it. Could not put it down. But, I think that might be the only fiction book I’ve read since required reading in high school/college.

Anyway, I’m going to start posting some brief book reviews as I go. (Hopefully, this will encourage me to actually finish a book before I start the next one!)  They’ll probably all be non-fiction books, but maybe I’ll throw a couple fiction in there too.

I’ll also be reading Desperate(My book study starts next week, so stay tuned – I’ll start posting updates as I read through that soon!)

If you want to join in the fun, I’d love for you to link-up to your blog, or you can just join in in the comments. And, if you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them.  I’d especially love recommendations for fiction books you think I’d like!