One of the great joys of my motherhood has been that special season when a child starts reading chapter books on his own. I adore watching them curled up in a chair or lying on their belly on the rug with a book holding them spellbound. I actually love it when they beg to finish just one more page or one more chapter before turning out the light.
We have chapter books coming out of our ears at our house. While many of the titles are available through the library and on Hoopla, I find they are a worthwhile investment since my children love to go back to their favorites and re-read over again, and also because I have many children still in line to read these wonderful books.
While most families know about Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys and The Boxcar Children series (we love them too!!!) some of the titles below are even better at engaging the child’s imagination.
In no particular order, these are my kids’ favorite chapter book series. Most of these are recommended for grades 3-7 or ages 8-12, but use your discretion based on your particular child’s sensitivities and also reading level. My eight and nine year-olds both read above their grade level, so many of these they’ve read before third grade. If you have a strong reader in the age 7 and up age range, many of these books would also be wonderful for them.
1. The Penderwicks Series (recommended grades 3-7)
2. The Borrowers (recommended grades 3-7).
3. The Growly Books. My kids LOVE these! I haven’t found them in a boxed set but in order they are Begin, Morning, Widewater, and Haven. Written for 8-12 year-olds but those younger and older will all enjoy these!
4. The Mandie Books. I grew up reading this entire series and am so grateful my mom gifted my children the set from my childhood. These are fun little mysteries perfect for early readers. If you can find the whole set on eBay it’s worth the investment!
5. The Wingfeather Saga. Andrew Peterson’s series is a cult favorite in our house. We just learned that Peterson will begin reading his series aloud to children at 7pm CT each evening on Facebook and IG Live. Visit Andrew Peterson’s fan page on either platform for the link! On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or be Eaten! are the places to start in this series.
6. Will Wilder Series. Raymond Arroyo outdid himself with this series. We’ve enjoyed both the books and the audiobook versions of Will Wilder. A caution on the audiobooks: the dramatization is VERY good and was a bit scary for my younger children at times. My older boys couldn’t put these books down. Book One, Book Two and Book Three are here. My kids pray Raymond keeps writing!!!
7. The Black Stallion books. Perfect for 8-12 year olds or for read-alouds with the family. Epic horse stories that every child will love.
8. Before reading the Black Stallion books, every child should have the pleasure of Marguerite Henry’s horse stories. These are just the very best.
9. Swallows and Amazons Books by Arthur Ransome are classics. We love them all.
10. The Mysterious Benedict Society. This is tied for my 9-year-old’s favorite book series (along with Wingfeather, Green Ember, and Redwall). He reads and re-reads these books. I haven’t let my 8-year-old read them yet because I want him to finish other things first.
11. Redwall Series. If there’s a little boy book obsession it should be this series, not Harry Potter. My kid is crazy for these books. We own the complete 22 book series because we are crazy and don’t mind bookshelves in every room of our house except the bathrooms…but starting with just a volume or two to see how you like it would also be a great idea.
12. TumTum and Nutmeg books (age 7 and up). My boys have read and re-read these stories so many times! Books 1-3 in this set, and Books 4-6 here.
13. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. My 9-year-old loves these books. I purchased them at the recommendation of other homeschooling mom friends, and I like them with the caveat that any fantasy series should be checked out by mom or dad first just to make sure you’re comfortable. There’s a fake “seance” in one of the books that I didn’t like, but on the other hand it was a good chance to talk through the topic with my 4th grader. I haven’t let my younger children read these yet.
14. Encyclopedia Brown (age 7 and up). If I showed you our copies of these books you’d laugh – they are nearly in shreds from being read so much. These are great for new chapter book readers – short and funny and easy to understand. I recommend them along with books like Beverly Cleary’s wonderful collections.
15. Green Ember Series. The only thing my 9-year-old wants for Easter is Book Fourof this series which launches on April 14th. He’s actually counting down the days, that’s how much he loves this series. Start with The Green Ember, Ember Falls, Ember Rising, and Ember’s End is coming soon!
16. The Happy Hollisters Series. I love these old fashioned stories almost as much as my kids! Try to find them in old used bookshops or eBay if you can! Worth investing in the series if you can find it!
17. Sugar Creek Gang series. This is such a wonderful mystery series for boys! Strong emphasis on virtue since it is written by a Christian author. We own the entire set – another one to look for on eBay!
Other amazing series we love that I think are even more beloved to little lades:
18. Anne of Green Gables. Not just for girls, but if you are a girl, you must own a copy of this set.
19. Grandma’s Attic Series. I prefer the individual editions but the series is large, so sometimes the Treasury is easier. These books are similar to the Mandie series – perfect for early books for little ladies.
20. All of a Kind Family. All of them are so so so good.
21. Betsy-Tacy Books. Do you know I fantasize about the day I can give my little Grace the first Betsy book to read? These were my favorite books of girlhood. I’ve read them enough I could tell you the stories from memory. The best ever. You need them all. (Second Volume and Third Volume here).
22. Do you remember the scene in You’ve Got Mail where Meg Ryan recommends the Shoe Books as vital in the life of every young girl? Start with Ballet Shoes, but you need all of Noel Streatfield’s shoe books.
23. While not necessarily a series, everything by E.B. White and Eleanor Estes is huge around here. And for youngerer readers, Beverly Cleary and all the Billy and Blaze books!
When my boys started reading chapter books on their own, they usually start with Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, Mandie Books, all the Marguerite Henry classics and then Sugarcreek Gang. As they’ve mastered those, I let them move on to things like The Borrowers and Growley, Black Stallion and TumTum books.
I don’t let my boys skip ahead and jump right into Redwall and Green Ember at age 7, even thought I know comprehension-wise they could handle it. I feel there’s a progression that comes with age and a well-formed imagination that makes those books better as they get older. So in a sense, my children earn their stars to read Redwall and Wingfeather and the like by reading other books first.
I hope these book series ideas bring your family as many happy hours of being lost in an amazing story as they have in our home. And please please PLEASE share your family’s favorite chapter book series below! In these coming weeks, I think I’ll need to order some new ones!
4 thoughts on “The Best Chapter Books for Kids”
More book suggestions for your boys: books by Thornton Burgess (old fashioned little animal adventures), books by Hilda Van Stockum, The Littles, Johnny Mouse and the Wishing Stick, The Oz series (funny that the Wizard of Oz is the most famous, but I found the other stories to be so much better), Narnia series, and they’d probably love looking at the illustrations in Trouble for Trumpets….I could go on and on. We read so much when we were young.
Little House books