Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tips for Early Chapter Books

Joe reading First Flag of New Hampshire.

By: Stephanie Burkhart

My son, Joe, is now a first grader, and he loves to read. The reading program they use in his school is called EXCEL. His reading teacher says Joe is an advanced reader for his age, and her focus is reading the children early chapter books. Now more than anything, Joe wants to be flat like Flat Stanley.  What's a mom who is an author to do? Wink.  Write a book for him!

Series like Flat Stanley and Magic Tree House are a big hit with him. The main characters in those books are about his age and always seem to go on a great adventure.

Ways to Appeal to Children

As I prepared to write my first early chapter book series, my research offered some valuable tips/advice:

Write the main characters close to the age you're targeting. Flat Stanley appeals to my son because they're both young boys.

Use everyday experiences. Going to school, making friends, trying to fit in, getting along, playing sports (don't forget dance classes and gymnastics) tend to draw those young readers into the stories.

Don't forget – children need adults in their lives to give them guidance.

Target your genre to appeal to children such as mysteries, school, friendship, science fiction, or animals.

Think of the message you want to send – for example, responsibility, heroism, citizenship, respect for others or respect for the Earth. Then take these messages and bring it down to a simple concept. Flat Stanley helps other people and solves mysteries.  He wants to fit in despite being flat.

Focus on character voice. Make your characters sound age appropriate.

Make sure your ending is clear and resolves whatever problem or message you were trying to communicate.

Consider using pictures/graphics. At this age the children reading want to be able to visualize the young heroes they're reading about.

I've noticed Flat Stanley's books fall between 50 and 100 pages and have about 10 chapters. Keep that in mind as you prepare to write.

Now…how do I make son flat?

Question: Do you have tips to share when it comes to writing early chapter books? What types of early chapter books do you notice appeal to young readers?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She enjoys exploring California, volunteering in her sons' classrooms and being a taxi service. She's addicted to coffee and adores chocolate. Her books with 4RV Publishing include The Giving Meadow and First Flag of New Hampshire.








  1. I notice Joe is reading First Flag of New Hampshire in the photo. You manage to write interesting chapter books as well as children's picture books.

  2. Thanks Vivian. I'm noticing he really likes such topics like mysteries and adventures and helping others. I'm thinking of putting together a series about young witches who help solve mysteries. It's still in the early stages though.

    Ah, the ideas you get when you read to children!

  3. Very good advice, Stephanie. A series about witches solving mysteries ought to appeal to young readers. (Your son is cute.)

  4. Lots of good advice here! Enjoyed the post.

  5. Stephanie,

    What a great way to plan a writing project--with your son in mind. Best of luck on your journey. You are both headed for adventure.

  6. Great tips, Stephanie. I love PBs and early chapter books for kids. It's a great way to instill ideas, values, and boost their imaginations.

  7. A to Z mysteries were always popular in our library. Also, the Chet Gecko Series.
    Great article.

    God bless,
    author of two short chapter books: Callie and the Stepmother and The Princess and the Pee.