I’m realising more and more that great short story collections are gold dust at so many transitions points in kids’ reading journeys.
There’s the period when they’re growing out of picture books, but aren’t quite ready for the long haul of listening to a chapter book.
Then the transition to independent reading when again chapter books are just too much.
Plus those tricky moments when they just don’t want to read and there’s no chance of them ploughing through 200 pages!
As we moved up from picture books, I found short stories really helped build listening skills. Kids have to focus on the words rather than visual clues to follow the story, but still get the satisfaction of a proper ending each night.
I’ve also found short stories are good “stretch” listens and reads. Kids can handle more complex new words and ideas if they’ve only got to concentrate for the length of a short story rather than a whole chapter book.
If you’re looking for some great chapter books, these are some of our faves that we’ve gobbled up and returned to over and over.
I do hope you enjoy them … and do drop us a comment and tell us about your faves. We’re always on the lookout for great new reads.
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1. Mrs Pepperpot
How on earth can stories about an old Norwegian lady from the 1950s still make children laugh out loud today? But they do!
Basically children still enjoy the Mrs Pepperpot (USA) stories so much because every time Mrs Pepperpot accidentally turns into the size of a pepper pot something crazy happens. And kids love that they understood the “rules” of life well enough to know when the story is absurd and shouldn’t really happen.
And Mrs Pepperpot is such a wily old lady that kids end up rooting for her whether she’s conning the wind into drying her washing, becoming the queen of the crows or causing mayhem among the snooty ladies at the local bazaar!
The stories are very short so they’re an easy step up.
2. Pippi Longstocking
We just finished reading this lovely edition (USA) with illustrations by Lauren Child of Charlie and Lola fame and totally loved it … we laughed throughout but when Pippi played tag with the policemen we roared!
Pippi’s a harder listen or read than Mrs Pepperpot. Each story is longer and Astrid Lindgren’s writing isn’t as concise as some of the authors on this list. Also, some of the humour can be lost on younger readers. I know some 4 year olds who love it whilst other kids enjoyed it more from 6.
3. My Naughty Little Sister
The stories are very recognisable from every day life and are wonderful for put upon elder siblings outraged by the arrival and outrageous behaviour of their younger sisters and brothers. Although, I was not the naughty little sister in the family and loved them too 🙂
The stories are not a massive step up in complexity from the Alfie picture books but I really like the way they introduce children to the first person narrator. They probably won’t have heard it before and it can be a wonderful introduction to the idea that they too could be story tellers.
Like so many of the other characters in this list, Paddington is always breaking the rules and getting into a scrape because of it. But not because he intends to, just because he has his very own personal take on the world.
Kids love spotting in advance of Paddington that chaos is about to descend.
I will be honest and say I don’t think Michael Bond’s writing is the best out of this list. For very simple plots it can be a bit wordy but Paddington is just so adorable that kids will carry on listening even when it’s clunky.
5. Pooh Bear
The stories obviously are illustrated but in the original with small drawings rather than big colour pictures.
I think the stories are a slightly harder read than you would imagine as so many of us are familiar with Pooh from picture book versions or film. The narrative, like Pooh’s adventures, can be rather meandering and quirky.
At first, I found the style a bit frustrating and the kiddo found it hard to follow BUT it grew on us and I’ve come to the conclusion it’s great to expose children early to very different – including quirky! – styles of writing.
6. Milly Molly Mandy
They are very simple, every day adventures – blackberrying, learning to swim, finding a hedgehog – and Milly Molly Mandy is about as far from Pippi Longstocking as you can imagine being an incredibly well behaved little girl.
The thing that makes them really stand out is Joyce Lankester Brisley’s brilliant writing. She can tell a complete story with character development and twists and turns in very few words at a perfect pace.
He is in constant hilarious rebellion against the silly rules and social niceties of grown ups and a brilliantly imaginative story teller.
William given the opportunity would have written his parents off like Pippi in the first story but their long suffering presence provides a brilliant but for William’s humour and antics.
Some of William’s humour – like Pippi’s – may be lost on younger children, but children really don’t have to understand everything in a book to laugh at it and love it – they learn by reading things they don’t fully understand.