Beginner Chapter Books for Soon-to-be Independent Readers

Beginner Chapter Books for Soon-to-be Independent Readers

By Kathryn Peck

It’s bitter sweet, isn’t it? Your child is ready to move away from picture books to the more involved stories of chapter books, but what chapter books are appropriate for beginners? It can be difficult to tell from simply reading the excerpts. Here are a few great ones to get your little ones started, but don’t ditch the picture books just yet. Remember, they’re still wonderful stories, and there’s value in reading a book from beginning to end in one sitting, no matter what age your child is.   

Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne were introduced to my children in nursery school, but my first-grade daughter now reads them independently and loves them. In these books, and there are a lot of them, readers follow the adventures of Jack and his sister Annie as they travel to different parts of the worlds and to different time periods to complete different missions. These stories are steeped in history, so readers will learn about polar bears in the Arctic or the Vikings of Ancient Ireland, all while broadening their imaginations. 

The Hardy Boys Secret Files books by Franklin W. Dixon aren’t the same classic books from years ago. In this newer series, based on the originals, Frank and Joe solve mysteries that are geared toward a younger audience. “Trouble at the Arcade” and “The Missing Mitt” are just two of the titles. The stories are light, but parents will also appreciate the educational themes like sportsmanship, problem solving, and friendship to name a few.  

Ivy & Bean, by Annie Burrows, is a fun series about two neighbors who are as different as can be. But despite first impressions, they become the best of friends. From their very first meeting, when they overcome their differences and band together to cast a dancing spell on Bean’s older sister, the two girls realize their newfound friendship is sure to last, and together they embark on many mischievous adventures.   

A-Z Mysteries, a 26-book series by Ron Roy, follow the adventures had by three 9-year-old friends: Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose. Each book, whose titles relate to a letter of the alphabet, e.g. The Absent Author, The Bald Bandit, presents a new mystery for the characters and readers to solve.   

I can’t honestly say I loved Stan Kirby’s Captain Awesome series, but my son sure did. Together we powered straight through all 22 books in a row. Eight-year-old Eugene loves comic books and superheroes, so much that his alter ego is, in fact, Captain Awesome. Together, Captain Awesome and Nacho Cheese Man (his friend, Charlie) take on everyday problems and solve everyday mysteries.   

Ballpark Mysteries, by David A. Kelly, is a 12-book series about friends Mike and Kate who travel to different ballparks where a mystery always seems to unfold. The series kicks off with The Fenway Foul-up. 

Dragon Masters, by Tracey West, is the first series that my son read independently from start to finish. He’s a bit more cautious than most, even the Harry Potter series was at times intimidating for him, so I appreciated the mildness of this series. Perfect for readers ages 6-8, the stories follows young 8-year-old Drake who quickly becomes a Dragon-Master-in-training, along with three others. The Dragon Masters learn to connect with their dragons, each with a special power of its own, and from there embark on many stirring adventures. Note: The Dragon Masters series is part of Scholastic's early chapter book line called Branches. Other series in the Branches line worth checking out include The Last Firehawk, The Snoring Princess, Looniverse, and Time Jumpers among many others.   

The Junie B. Jones series, by Barbara Park, was introduced to us when my daughter was in first grade. Her teacher read the books aloud to the class, and my daughter would come home from school and suddenly read, read, read. The stories follow the adventures of kindergartner, Junie B. While I never will quite understand the rudeness of the main protagonist – I honestly found her spirited personality and poor grammar to be disagreeable – there’s really no substitute for instilling a love of reading in a child, and that’s what this series offered for us.

Rosco the Rascal is a small series of books by Shana Gorian for young dog lovers. Brother, sister, and their good-natured German Shepherd, Rosco, embark on many seasonal adventures together in this series. Rosco usually gets into mischief along the way. 

Jordan Quinn's 16-book series (book #16 is scheduled for release in May 2021), The Kingdom of Wrenly, is a collection of sweet stories of exploration and adventure. In the stories, Prince Lucas and his best friend Clara travel the kingdom, which is home to wizards, mermaids, fairies, and dragons. Together they search for lost gems, care for a dragon egg, and take on many more wonderful adventures that are sure to delight young readers. 


About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.

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  • Bicycle Pie

    Thanks for your feedback about this blog on new chapter books for beginners! Several other readers also mentioned the Mercy Watson books as well – I’ll have to check them out and introduce them to my little ones. And Tales from Deckawoo Drive, too!

  • Julie Colotti

    Thank you so much for this informative post – we are always looking for new book series! My 7-year-old son loved the Magic Tree House series, and he is now reading Merlin Missions by the same author. As a second grader, he enjoys reading the A to Z Mysteries series independently, and is just starting Baseball Park Mysteries – both are excellent!

    We have also enjoyed Tales from Deckawoo Drive by Kate DiCamillo which picks up with characters from her Mercy Watson books. If you are looking for a graphic novel series, I would recommend Press Start by Thomas Flintham. For early readers, there are Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett that I have really enjoyed reading with my kids from my own childhood.

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