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What Are Chapter Books?

“What Are Chapter Books?” by Joan Y. Edwards

Linda Andersen asked me to write a blog about Chapter Books. Technically, any book with chapters is a chapter book. However, chapter books defines the books that help take a reader in skills, vocabulary, from simple to complex. Chapter Books help each reader gain confidence in his abilities to read and find books that interest him from Easy Readers to Middle Grade Novels.

I wrote about what I know, what research told me, and put it all here. I hope it helps you get a clear idea of what Chapter Books are. Perhaps it might entice you to try your hand at creating one for your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or neighbors down the street.

Chapter Books vary with the number of pages and complexity of the words, sentences, and paragraphs. They are also divided into short chapters (from 7-12 pages or longer. Ages may overlap. Most contain a table of contents to make students feel like they are reading books like adults.

Some people call the Early Chapter Books as Easy Readers. This makes for confusion on my part. However, I think I’ve figured out a way to sort them by the number of syllables of the words and the number of lines on a page.

To understand a little more about the varying kinds of early and regular chapter books, click on the Amazon listing:

  • Check out the table of contents
  • Check out the first pages

You can probably tell by looking at these whether it is an Early Chapter Book (easier to read) or a Regular  Chapter book (a little bit harder to read).

Both may or may not have a table of contents, but I believe they should have one.
Early Chapter Books use 1-3 syllable words, occasionally a 4 syllable word.
Regular Chapter Books use 1-5 syllable words

Early Chapter Books

  • 6-9 years old (Grades 1-4) (Grade 1 & Up)
  • page numbers vary from 30 pages to 112 pages or more
  • chapters tells story through words
  • 2-4 sentences per paragraph
  • 3 syllable words (sometimes 4 syllable words)
  • a lot of action
  • black and white illustrations every few pages
  • table of contents
  • each chapter is one episode that stands by itself or a cliffhanger for an event that ends in a later chapter
  • ten or less chapters


Barbara Park Junie B. Jones http://www.amazon.com/Junie-Joness-First-Boxed-Books/dp/0375813616/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322590086&sr=1-4#reader_0375813616, table of contents, 8-10 chapters, each chapter an episode in itself, but continues on with the story to the end, 3 and 4 syllable words.

Jack Prelutsky (Harper Collins I Can Read Book 3) My Parents Think I’m Sleeping) http://www.amazon.com/Parents-Think-Sleeping-Read-Book/dp/0060537221/. table of contents,  4 chapters, 4 episodes,  48 pages, written in rhyme, 4 syllable words

J. C. Greenburg. Andrew Lost http://www.amazon.com/Dog-Andrew-Lost-1/dp/0375812776/ Ages 6 and up; 96 pages, table of contents, 10 chapters, 3 syllable (hyphenated words) ultra-digital,

Lewis Carroll (adapted by Mallory Loehr) (Random House Chapter Books, Stepping Stone Books). Alice in Wonderland http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alice-in-wonderland-lewis-carroll/1100190508?ean=9780375866418&itm=4&usri=stepping+stones+series; 112 pages, 3 syllables, smaller print, wider margins, more words on one page, 3-4 sentences in a paragraph

Nick Eliopulos (Random House Chapter Books, Stepping Stone Books). Gulliver’s Travels
http://www.amazon.com/Gullivers-Travels-Stepping-Stone-Book/dp/0375865691  112 pages, 3 syllable words, no table of contents

Patricia Reilly Giff (Dell). The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room (The Polk Street School Series) http://www.amazon.com/Beast-Rooneys-Room-Street-School/dp/0440404851/ 80 pages, no table of contents, 22 lines on a page, black and white illustrations, 3 syllable words, no table of contents

Ron Roy A to Z Mysteries http://www.amazon.com/Absent-Author-Z-Mysteries/dp/0679881689

Chapter Books (Regular) Intermediate Readers

  • For Ages 7-10 (Grades 2-5)
  • Tells story through words, not pictures
  • Many illustrations throughout the book (may be in black and white or in color)
  • 45-60-96 pages (5,000 to 25,000 words)
  • table of contents
  • more complex stories than Early Chapter Books
  • 3, 4, & 5 syllable words are allowed
  • A lot of action
  • sentences longer and more complex structure
  • paragraphs still short (2-4 sentences is average)
  • chapters end in cliffhangers to keep the reader turning the pages
  • short chapters offer children a chance to stop reading and pick up with a different episode when they come back
  • ten or less chapters, I’d say go with 10 if you’re writing a Chapter Book.

Suzy Kline (Puffin) Herbie Jones Series, 96 pages, Grade 2 and Up http://www.amazon.com/Herbie-Jones-Suzy-Kline/dp/0698119398/ 7-10 page episodes by chapters, 4 & 5 syllable words

Beverly Cleary (Avon Camelot Books) Ramona Series, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 http://www.amazon.com/Ramona-Quimby-Avon-Camelot-Books/dp/0380709562, 11-20 pages in a chapter; episode for each chapter, 4-5 syllable words

Joanna Cole (Scholastic) The Magic School Bus Chapter Book Series The Truth about Bats http://www.amazon.com/Truth-about-Magic-School-Chapter/dp/0439107989/, 80 pages, 4-5 syllable words

For steps on how to Write a Chapter Book, read the following Wiki How.com article: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Chapter-Book

More titles that may be Chapter books or Easy Readers to help you test your knowledge or help you get a better grip on it.

Amazon.com has a First Chapter Books listing http://www.amazon.com/First-Chapter-Books/lm/R1SXM27QIL5R6C

Easy Readers and Chapter Books for Cybil Nominations 2011 http://www.cybils.com/2011-nominations-easy-readersearly-chapter-books.html

I suggest that you check out about 25-100 of the Early Chapter and Regular Chapter Books. Look and see how the book you’re reading compares with the ones on my list. You’ll learn to distinguish the information necessary to write one yourself.

P. S.

Random House has a series for Chapter Books called Stepping Stone Books. Harper Collins has I Can Read Chapter Books are for Grade 3 & Up. (Not to be confused with I Can Read books in the Easy Reader area: I Can Read, I Can Read 2, and I Can Read 3: 63 pages, Grade 1 and Up, Table of Contents.)

Can you tell why these are not on my Early Chapter Book or Regular Chapter Book list?

Arnold Lobel (Harper Collins I Can Read Book) Frog and Toad Are Friends I Can Read Book 2 http://www.amazon.com/Frog-Toad-Friends-Read-Book/dp/0064440206/ 64 pages, Ages 4 and Up, K and Up, table of contents, Five chapters, 9-10 lines each page, larger font, 1-2 syllable words

Elsa Holmelund Minarik (Harper Collins I Can Read Book) Little Bear http://www.amazon.com/Little-Bear-Can-Read-Book/dp/0064440044/ 63 pages, table of contents, 4 chapters, 5 lines or so each page. Easy Reader, 1-2 syllable words, Age 6 and up (Grade 1 and up)

Answer: 1 & 2 syllable words only; few lines per page; few chapters

Linda Andersen, I hope this helps you and other readers decide what a chapter book is and gives you some idea of what to put in it, and how to organize it for a manuscript. I know my criteria might not match up with everyone else’s. However, it makes sense to me. I look forward to hearing what you think.

I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog by email from the Sign Me Up link in the left hand column or click on Follow at the top of the page, if that option is visible to you.

Flip Flap Floodle is a wonderful gift for children 4-8 years old. I loved telling, writing, and illustrating it. Flip, a little duck with a song reminds children to believe in themselves and never give up. It’s available as a paperback and as an ebook for the Kindle and Nook, too. Let me know if you buy a copy between now and Christmas. I’ll send you an autographed message from me that you can print out and put in your book. Tell me the date and whether you bought a paperback, Kindle or Nook ebook, where you purchased it. My email address is listed in the left-hand column.

Enjoy Writing.
Enjoy Reading.

Enjoy Living
Enjoy being you.
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2011 Joan Y. Edwards


10 Responses

  1. Joan, thanks so much for writing this. It was kind of you to help me decide where my works-in-progress fit. I know many other writers will benefit from your research too. Did you come across information suggesting the number of chapters present in easy readers and chapter books?


    • Dear Linda, You’re welcome. I’d heard 10 for regular chapter books, but not all of the ones that I found called Chapter Books had 10. However, I’m going with ten for the regular chapter books. Perhaps I should note that in my blog post. Since most of that information came from my research. Early Chapter Books may have less than 10. I wouldn’t put more than ten chapters; that would make it a Middle Grade Novel. Enjoy Life’s Journey Don’t Give Up – Read my blog – http://www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com

      Joan Y. Edwards


  2. THis was another VERY comprehensive blog. Thanks, Joan. It goes on my Writing For Children Wiki too!


    • Dear Carol, Thanks for saying my blog post was comprehensive. I tried to tell the whole story. Thanks for sharing a link to it on you Writing for Children Wiki. Fill Yourself with Joy Share It – Watch the Ripple of Happiness Spread http://www.joanyedwards.com

      Joan Y. Edwards


  3. Joan,
    There’s so much great information here. I’ve never been to your blog before but am so glad I came. May I post your blog on my new website? I’m trying to list informative websites and blogs.


    • Dear Deb,
      Thank you for visiting my blog. I am honored by your compliment that there’s a lot of great information here. Of course, you may post a link to my blog on your new website. I’d appreciate it if you would review Flip Flap Floodle on your awesome book review site and my Joan’s Elder Care Guide when it comes out in June 2015 or sooner.

      Flip Flap Floodle, the happy little duck who Never Gives Up
      Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Flip-Flap-Floodle-Joan-Edwards/dp/1594572852/
      Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/flip-flap-floodle?r=1


  4. Another great one. Thanks for taking the time to share this information. As a children’s writer, the more knowledge the better.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing


    • Dear Karen, Thanks for writing. You’re welcome. You’re right, knowledge is freeing and opens doors to greater creativity!

      Enjoy Your Journey Don’t Give Up – Read my blog – http://www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com

      Joan Y. Edwards joanyedwards@earthlink.net


  5. Always great articles. Thank you!


    • Dear Sharon, Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate your reading my blog.

      Add Color to Your Life

      Play. Laugh. Smile. Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com


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