Big P has always enjoyed books, but lately reading together has been really fun. At 3 1/2, he’s able to focus better, follow story lines more closely, and make insightful and funny connections between the book and his own life. All of which has me thinking about when and what chapter book we should first attempt as a read aloud. Ideally, our first book will have some pictures and relatively short chapters, be a little (or a lot) silly, and most importantly be a story we both enjoy reading. A great audiobook companion or a movie adaptation is also a plus!

Here are my ideas, but I would love your recommendations:

charlotte's web

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – Big P loves animals and who doesn’t love Charlotte’s Web (although there is a death which may be a little much for my sometimes sensitive kiddo)? Plus I think it’d be fun to read a book that has been turned into a movie, so we can watch it afterward together.


father's dragon

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett – This is a popular first chapter book I have heard mixed reviews about this one, but it feels like a book Big P would enjoy.


Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald – Big P has a very silly side to him, so I think this one may keep him laughing and paying close attention. I also like that each chapter contains its own story, so we can take breaks if needed.

mouse and motorcycle

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary – I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book as a read aloud to preschoolers. Big P adores the Mercy Watson series which seems similar (a silly story about animals).

james and peach

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl – Of course, I am hoping to read many Roald Dahl books with my kids, but I’m thinking this may be a good one to start with.


The Boxcar Children (The Boxcar Children, No. 1) by Gertrude Chandler Warren – We took Big P to see a children’s theater production of The Boxcar Children. He mostly enjoyed it, but I suspect the book may be a little dry for him (too realistic and not enough silliness maybe?).


Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins – I keep seeing this pop up on lists of great first chapter books to read aloud with preschoolers.


Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren – I love Pippi, and I’ve heard this new paperback version has big, lovely pictures.


Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary – I am not sure if this is the best first read aloud, but boy am I excited about reading it with Big P. Ramona is one of my all-time favorite characters.

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At what age did you start reading chapter books to your child? How did it go? Any book recommendations or tips for ensuring it’s an enjoyable experience for all?