It’s absolutely the coolest part of being a first grade teacher. One day, without much warning a child will suddenly “get it.” Reading a book goes from laborious phonetic stuttering to an eloquent and coherent sentence. As a teacher, it’s rewarding. Honestly, it’s the one thing that kept me coming back to first grade.
But as a parent, it’s far beyond rewarding. After what seems like decades of struggling, the words just flow and it’s time for a celebration. It’s funny though. Instead of running down to the ice cream store, it’s often that parents run to the bookstore. And what do they purchase? Chapter books.
The minute that sweet child start to show some fluency, we assume that picture books are taboo and it’s time to move on. But nothing could be more harmful to the process of developing a confident and fluent reader.
Why chapter books may be harmful rather than helpful
1. Reading chapter books too early sacrifices fluency.
For an early reader, picture books build fluency, which is crucial for becoming a life-long reader. We shouldn’t feel tempted to keep “stepping it up a notch.” Reading specialists recommend that 1/3 of all reading should be lower than your child’s actual reading level. Incredible huh?
We are so quick to call a book too easy or “babyish” when in fact that EASY book is exactly what a child needs to build the fluency required to truly comprehend higher level reading.
2. Reading chapter books too early sacrifices quality.
Many lower level chapter books sacrifice quality in effort to market to younger readers. Classic chapter books such as Charlotte’s Webb or Where the Red Fern Grows are not written for first graders. Instead of waiting until they are older, companies have created thousands of low-quality books are fast as possible so that parents will buy them. They haven’t taken the time to write an excellent story full of beauty. They just want to write something that we will buy.
Friends, don’t forget that our world is all about marketing. Just because they sell chapter books on a first grade reading level does NOT make it a great purchase.
3. Reading chapter books too early sacrifices great books.
There are probably a million high quality, beautiful picture books that are worth reading. Moving to chapter books will abandon this resource too soon! If we do, our children will miss the opportunity to experience so much great literature.
Don’t be fooled. Picture books are not for “babies.” There are many picture books out there that are filled with incredible storytelling, literary elements, and complex plots. Enjoy them while you can!
4. Reading chapter books too early sacrifices content.
This is the most important point that I want to make here. The content of chapter books gets very mature very quickly. If your child starts reading chapter books too early, you will find her needing to read material targeted at teens by the time she’s in the 3rd grade. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that.
I know it can be tempting. Honestly, it’s exciting to watch out little ones carting around thick novels, but I promise, it’s not best. Just like those older wiser women always remind us, “Enjoy every moment, because they grow up so fast.” Reading is no different. Don’t encourage your child to grow up too fast. Take off your flip flops and jump ont the back porch swing with a pile high of great picture books. Your child will love it!