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What are Chapter Books?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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A chapter book, like a picture book, is a category of children’s books. Categorizing children’s books makes it easier for parents and educators to choose age-appropriate reading material for children. A chapter book is a category designated as appropriate for children who have learned to read, but are in the early stages of reading. Chapter books often still have drawings or pictures in them, but unlike a picture book, which is designed for very young children, a chapter book typically has pages without pictures also.

A chapter book is comprised of several chapters, but they are very short, usually only a few pages in length. Many chapter books come in series such as Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series, Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones, or Dan Gutman’s My Weird School series. A chapter book is always considered a children’s book and is categorized as such because the story is told in chapters, but unlike a novel, has illustrations in each chapter. However, different chapter books may be geared towards different reading levels, with easier, shorter ones being identified as beginning chapter books.

The chapter book is ideal for children who have advanced in their reading skills enough to breeze through a picture storybook and can focus for longer periods of time. Even children who struggle with reading, but are old enough to advance beyond picture books can benefit from an engaging chapter book. Parents who read chapter books to their children help foster a love for reading and teach children to become engaged in short stories, all of which preps them for reading novels later on.

To help a child develop an interest in reading and practice reading, choose a chapter book about a topic of interest to the child. There are chapter books on magic, dragons, detectives, animals, and so on. Choosing one that is part of a series is beneficial because there is new material to tackle when they finish each book. If you are a parent or educator looking for ways to encourage reading in elementary school students, browse the chapter book sections of local book stores or ask a children’s librarian to recommend a good chapter book series.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1002974 — On Apr 04, 2020

Are there any chapter books that don't have pictures?

By anon962701 — On Jul 25, 2014

I went to elementary school in the late seventies and never heard the term "chapter book." I was also curious because my daughter, who is in first grade started using the term.

By anon311994 — On Jan 04, 2013

I've been trying to determine when the term "chapter book" came into use. As a child in the late 1930s and the 1940s, I read everything I could get my hands on --including some things that I heard Mom's friends comment "You let her read that?" But I never heard the term "chapter book" until a few years ago from a teacher daughter-in-law. The Bobbsey Twins books and other children's series would no doubt nowadays be called chapter books. Can anyone enlighten a curious old curmudgeon?

By anon273325 — On Jun 06, 2012

Chapter books don't necessarily contain illustrations.

By accordion — On Jan 25, 2011

@BambooForest, I agree with you. From a young age I was really frustrated especially with the supposed difference between girls' and boys' chapter books. As a girl, I wanted to read some of the "boy" books just as much as the ones stereotyped for girls. I also found that the types of books girls were expected and encouraged to read when my mother was a girl held almost no interest for me at all.

While it can be helpful for parents to read chapter book reviews to get an idea of what's out there that could be really bad for kids, I don't think you should tell a child what he or she can or cannot read. If nothing else, reading a book about something really awful can be a teaching moment for a parent to talk about what is or is not acceptable behavior in society, or how things have changed over time, or anything like that, depending on the subject matter of the "questionable" book.

By helene55 — On Jan 23, 2011

For kids who are just starting to read, there are many things like Disney chapter books that tell stories they might already be familiar with from movies and television. There are also many simplified or abridged versions out there of popular classics that could inspire kids to read the full length versions later, when they are able to do so.

By BambooForest — On Jan 22, 2011

Honestly, nearly all chapter books in your average library can be positive reading experiences for a child. I admit I dislike the concept of censorship, but when I was small my mother merely took me to the library and let me choose- I found all sorts of popular chapter books by myself, as well as lots of things that looked interesting and often were. Were they all appropriate to my age level? Of course not, but many kids will not be as interested in reading if they are given restrictions on their level or the subject matter they are allowed to read.

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