EDUCATION

Greetings from Somewhere: a fun introduction to chapter books

I believe that introducing kids to chapter books around 5 prepares preschoolers to kindergarten. The key is finding the right chapter books for their age. What I look for is the right combination of illustrations mixed with an engaging storytelling. The stories have to be easy to comprehend and bring educational values. My son and I read four books from this early chapter book series so far. The Greetings from Somewhere series by Harper Paris check all the boxes.

We follow the adventures of Ethan and Ella, eight year old twins, as they travel around the world with their parents. Their mom is a travel writer with a job at their local newspapers. You bet that I like the fact that I can use her character to explain a little bit what I’m doing for living to my son. Their father took a sabbatical from his job as an history teacher. On each city, the twins solve little mysteries.

This travel/mystery/adventure series counts 10 published books right now. One book per city. Each book has 9 chapters. I typically read two chapters every night at bedtime to my son, which means that it takes us 4 to 5 days to read one book. One of my favorite books from the series is The Mystery at the Coral Reef where we follow Ethan and Ella on the trail of an Australian coral thief.

Reading aloud chapter books teaches young kids important skills that they will need when they start kindergarten. Skills like:

Focus their attention

In preparation for school, it’s important that your kid learns how to concentrate on a task for a longer time. Chapter books can teach them that.

What I learned is that how critical drawings put the stories into context. The first thing I check when I shop for a chapter book is if it has a drawing at the beginning of every chapter. You need more that! At age 5, kids want to see a drawing on every page. They won’t mind that it took less space than the text as long as they see them.

Acknowledge their feelings

In the course of their travel, the twins miss their home. Ethan misses playing soccer with his team. The brother and sister miss their best friends and their grandpa. At least they are able to communicate by emails. Kids can learn social skills from these email communications. On the book that we’re currently reading, the twins tell their mom that they miss her. As you might have guessed, their mom works most days and nights to produce her articles. Kids are able to learn from these everyday situations and concerns.

Although the books don’t go deep into these social situations and emotions, the text does a great job in validating these feelings. Kids know that they aren’t alone when they feel like that. The fact that the book don’t go too deep into managing these feelings give you a chance to discuss the ones that are appropriate to you or your child with them.

Solve mysteries

All the 10 books of Greetings from Somewhere rely on basic investigating techniques to uncover the mysteries. It uses techniques and tactics that kids could use in their life. Because it’s relatively simple to figure out the solution, it encourages kids to solve the mysteries. They get the reward of trying out. What you want at this age is to fuel the desire to discover it by themselves. Finally, most mysteries allow you to test if your kid is listening, if your kid comprehends what you read aloud.

Reading comprehension

What you aim for when introducing chapter books are stories that are longer and more complex than the pictures books but that are still easy to comprehend. You also want stories with actions. Long descriptions and too much explications bore kids.

You also need repetitions. The text must make reference to key elements, key details as the story develops. Harper Paris does it right every time she mentioned the purple notebook or the gold coin that Grandpa Harry gave to the twins. Repetitions serve two purposes. First, it means that you can read the series in any order. Second, it put things into context for the kids.

Five years old is not too young to start reading aloud chapter books to children. Give it a try to see how your child responds to it.

Do you or your kids have a favorite chapter book series?