Photo by cybrgrl
The following is a guest post written by Caroline of Caroline by line.
Navigating the sub-categories of children’s literature can
be confusing. Lots of books are illustrated, but not all are picture books. Is
a chapter book the same as a middle-grade novel?
Here are some guidelines to
help you understand these terms as you select books to share with your
Picture Books: Age
range for picture books is typically 3 to 8, the exception being wordy picture
books aimed at older readers (Think Patricia Polacco’s Pink and Say, a beautiful read aloud I have never gotten through
All books considered for the Caldecott Award are picture
These books are the I Can Read sort, such as Frog and Toad, Little Bear, and
Henry and Mudge. Children generally start reading these leveled readers in first
grade. Several stories make up each book, which is usually divided into
Like a picture book, these have illustrations throughout. Many children read picture books and easy readers interchangeably. Many easy readers are written as series.
Photo by John Morgan
I’ve heard this term used to refer to both chapter books (for younger readers)
and middle-grade novels (for older, more advanced readers) by teachers and
For less confusion, I will use the term the way publishers do, as a
description of those short first books beyond easy readers. Junie B. Jones, ABC
Mysteries, Horrible Harry, and The Magic Treehouse books are all good examples
of chapter books.
It’s interesting to note that many parents have never heard
of the term chapter book before having a child at this reading stage. This is
largely because few existed when we were children.
In the last 10 years, chapter books, usually written in series, have exploded on the scene. Chapter books are often illustrated.
Children who read chapter books have mastered easy readers
and picture books, though probably still love listening in when they are read
aloud. The age range for chapter book readers is anywhere from first to fourth
The age range for middle-grade novels has traditionally been 8-12 years of age,
or middle to upper elementary and early middle school.
These are the books from our childhood: Ramona Quimby books,
Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, to name a few.
All books considered for the Newbery award are middle-grade. Some of these titles include a few illustrations.
As noted by the broad age range, some children move
seamlessly from chapter books to these more complicated, longer titles. For
others, it takes some time.
Again, I can’t stress enough how crucial reading
aloud at this stage in your child’s development is. Help ease this transition,
bolster your child’s ability, and lesson his frustration by reading with and to
Young Adult Novels:
The first young adult novel ever written was The Pigman, a book published in 1968. For the first time, something
had been written for kids 12 and older. Before this, children were expected to
jump immediately into adult titles.
Many at this reading stage dabble in
middle-grade, young adult, and some adult titles. Some stay with young adult
books for years.
Some young adult titles, such as the Twilight books, have
seen adult cross-over success. Many adults happily read both adult and young
adult titles, and many titles deal with similar themes and storylines.
difference, though, is that young adult protagonists truly speak in the voice
and emotion of a teenager experiencing life for the first time. Many adult
titles with teen characters usually don’t hold to such an authentic tone.
It is important to stress what we all know: no child is typical.
If your daughter wants to spend some of her time reading picture books well
beneath her reading level, let her.
If your son is still reading chapter books in the fifth grade, don’t panic. Instead, read alongside, sharing more challenging works aloud.
These ranges are generalizations and should be taken as
Use them to help facilitate a growing love for the written word in your home and your children's lives.
What category of books is your child currently enjoying?
Starr Rose is a mother, former teacher, and writer. An excerpt of her
current novel-in-verse is featured in Louisiana Literature magazine.
Caroline stays connected with her former students by leading
after-school book clubs. She blogs about writing, reading, and the publishing process
at Caroline by line.***