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Chapter Books



I teach third grade and we use the Accelerated Reading Program as a supplement to the Harcourt Reading Series. There is no class time offered for students to do AR reading unless they finish their class work and use that time to read. I require each student to read 20 minutes each evening as homework. Our schedule is set into four 9-week blocks and each nine-weeks students have been required to earn 15 AR points to meet their goal for the nine-weeks. Students who meet their goal participate in an afternoon of fun celebrating their reading success. We have played Putt-Putt Golf, made Gingerbread Houses, and watched a movie. This last nine-weeks I stipulated that as a class everyone would be required to read only chapter books for AR. Students were also required to earn 5 points every two weeks. As a group we are reading chapter books that students are able to test on during our read aloud time, basically using it as a lit. study. These points also count toward the 5 point goal. I have a parent that is upset that I have stipulated that the students can only read chapter books. Is this a poor method of getting students to read chapter books? I know that one fourth grade teacher only allows them to read 1-point books or higher when they enter fourth grade. The rest of my class is doing fairly well and I am quickly able to identify who is and isn't doing their nightly reading. Please give me some feedback on this.


Senior Member
it's OK...

as long as you can justify why only chapter books. I've taught first and second grade, so I'm not as familiar with the goals in third, but I do know that picture books VERY OFTEN have harder words and more complicated plot lines than chapter books. The comprehension strategies and inferential thinking skills needed to understand a Chris Van Allsburg book is greater than that of a Secrets of Droon or Baily School Kids.

Maybe your justification is that you're trying to build stamina, which I could totally see.

Could you give different kids different options? If certain readers still need picture support and are not yet ready for many words on a page, could they have different requirements? Could the requirement be that they must read so many chapter books and a optional maximum of picture books? I don't think that anyone can fight with you concerning your decision to differentiate in this way, since teaching is all about giving children what they need- which is not the same for each child.

Basically, I would say that you just need to be able to say to that parent why it is that you are doing what you're doing. If your main goal is to build reading stamina, then stick with your plan. If your main goal is to build fluency, word rec., and comprehension skills, consider allowing picture books into the mix.

Again... may not be accurate, as I have not taught third grade. Good luck!!!


Junior Member
Don't relent

At this level and at this time of year third graders should be reading chapter books for stamina, fluency, distinguishing elements of the story i.e. plot, problem, problem resolution,etc. There are chapter books for every level of reader and I would be curious as to what the real issue is that the parent is having. I can understand wanting students to be happy in their pursuit of knowledge however sometimes they have to do what you think is best simply because you are the professional with their best educational interest as your primary concern. They will appreciate it later on.

NJ Teacher

Senior Member
I do not agree with you at all...

I also teach 3rd grade. Luckily, we do not use AR in our K-3 building. I do not believe in a point/reward system for reading. Through the use of great literature of all types--poetry, nonfiction, chapter, and picture book genres, most children will develop a love of reading. There are many picture books that are both nonfiction and fiction that are of a higher reading level and require just as much stamina as a "chapter" book. I also have some children who are low readers and sometimes, picture books or shorter non-fiction material is what they need to be successful at their level. If it were important to me that all the children read chapter books all the time, I would be using powerful ones in my read aloud and literature study, and encouraging the children to write recommendations for our basket we keep of child-recommended books. I might also require a chapter book report for the month. However to me, mandating chapter book reading in what should be the child's recreational reading at home is a way that could turn children off. That's probably what the mom is objecting to.


Senior Member
AR reading

I teach in a school that has used AR reading for many years at third grade level and up. Only the last couple of years have the lower grades begun. My kiddoes read up a storm. Many of them earn between 5 and 10 points per week even though no one in my class is required to earn more than 2.5 per week. All of our reading is individualized according to the results of the STAR reading test that we use to establish each child's individual ZPD. Some of my students only need 1-1.9 points weekly, based on their individual needs. We do not require chapter books per se, but a child cannot move up a level until they have at least one 100 on a chapter book. For ease in finding books, our librarian color-coded the books according to the AR level--3.0 to 3.4 is green, 3.5-3.9 is green with a black dot, 4.0-4.4 is light blue, 4.5-4.9 is light blue with a black dot, etc. Children are assigned a color based on their ZPD (we usually drop them down at least 2 colors to begin with). Then, as they read they can move up by making at least three 100s, one of which is on a chapter book at that level. By Christmas most of them are reading chapter books of some length. Some still only choose picture books, but will tackle a chapter book if required to do so, so sometimes it is required. My students have a good chunk of class time for reading--D.E.A.R. time daily at least 30-45 minutes. Plus I require 15 minutes of reading nightly. My recommendation to the children is read and test on a picture book daily or a chapter book weekly. I let pairs read copies of the same chapter book aloud to each other during DEAR time if they wish. On Fridays we have "Book Sharing" which is basically an oral book review for extra credit. They usually do this in the manner of the TV show "Reading Rainbow"--"...If you like horses then this is the book for you..." Also, those with an 85 average or above who have their weekly points get a "Celebration" which could be extra recess, a snack treat, or other reward. Plus we set point goals each 6 week grading period, and daily the principal announces which students have reached 25,50,75 or 100% of their point goals. Those who reach 100% get to participate in the "HIgh 5 Rally"--The principal puts up crepe paper streamers over a hall doorway. The students line up behind it, then when the principal starts the "pump it up" music on the sound system, the kids run through the streamers, then down the hall "high 5-ing" all the children in the other grades who have lined the hallway. This is repeated for each grade level. By the way, we do use a basal series as well as the AR. In addition, I am from Texas where 3rd graders must pass the state's TAKS reading test in order to go to the 4th grade. As a grade level, my school had 94% passing this year, with 51% being commended (missed 2 or less). I would have to say AR has helped.


Full Member
I also have students who need to be "encouraged" to read chapter books. Some kids will never read a chapter book if they can get away with it. For these kids I ask them to at least alternate between the two. If a student tests on a picture book then he will next read a chapter book. Somtimes all the student may need is some help finding a chapter book he might be interested in. Our school also requires students to meet AR goals each nine weeks, but each student's point and book level goal is based on his individual reading range. In that way the students aren't competing against one another as much as they are working towards a personal goal. Some students may be required to earn 20 points while another may need to earn 10. The kids don't know each other's goals unless they share it themselves. Almost every book in our school library is AR so they have plenty of books to choose from: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.


Senior Member
I agree with NJ Teacher

To me, all this talk about rewarding readers is so sad. I didn't realize what a complicated system AR is! Kids at our school love to read! They walk down the hall reading, and they talk to each other about books. But you don't have to reward them to get that. Like NJ said, if you are daily using authentic literature and encouraging book talks and letting the kids recommend books and reading aloud, then kids are naturally motivated.

I understand that most of the posters here teach at schools in which AR is part of the curriculum. But, I would think that if you have to use it, you should impose the least amount of restriction possible.

We should also remember that as adults, we all have different reading tastes. 90% some of the reading we do in everyday life is non-fiction-- short passages like recipes, directions, newspaper articles. Chapter books are more akin to novels, and as we know, as an adult, your either a novel reader or not. I'd be more worried about creating readers who are well versed in all genres of reading.


AR Reading

Thank you to everyone who responded. I realize AR is a hot topic because of the point system. I can see both sides of the issue. Overall I can say that I have a class of students that love to read. Sometimes I am not sure if a few of them are reading for the points or for pleasure. My purpose in stipulating the chapter books was simply to show the kids that they are able to handle them. Some of my students would not have picked one up all year if I had not required them to do so. This goes for other areas of their lives as well including turning in work on time and so forth. I can not argue the value of a picture book over a chapter book as they are both very valuable sources of literature.


Full Member
Stick to your plan

I would stick to your plan at this point. The hardest thing to do in third grade is to get children into reading chapter books.

Maybe in the future you could be more specific with your plan and say students must read a certain number of chapter books for the grading period.

At my school chapter books are required in third grade but we also let students read picture books and take AR quizzes. The picture books are shorter and the students are able to see the results faster.

It is a hard adjustment from doing the picture books to chapter books. It takes a lot longer to see the results (points for AR) when it takes so much longer to read.

Maybe a goal setting chart for this one student may help. Have him track his reading and plan out how long he has to read a books so that he sees how far away from the goal he is.


We do not have AR at our school, but I do try to encourage all of my 3rd graders to read chapter books by the end of the year. However, I find that some students need to be guided in how to select a beginning chapter book. They need to realize, that some are not harder, just a bit longer. Many of the I CAN READ books are in chapter book format. I separate my chapter book baskets into short chapter books (less than 100 pages) that usually still have pictures and larger print, and Longer Chapter books (more than 100 pages) and usually have fewer or no pictures. I also try to introduce series that are in chapter format: Horrible Harry, Magic Treehouse, Junie B. Jones, Animal Ark, A to Z Mysteries, etc. I think with a structured approach, the students and parents will have the flexibility they need to be successful. I do think it is a very realistic goal for 3rd grade. We build 20-30 minutes of free choice reading into our school day as a priority.


third grade teacher

I've taught third grade for four years now, and I have found that students tend to model after their teachers. I alway begin the year by reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing which gets my students interested in chapter books. As soon as I finish this book, I follow it up with: Fudge-a-mainia, Superfudge, and then Double Fudge-----these are all Judy Blume books-(same series). I have a book for every student when it comes to reading Fudge-a-mania and Superfudge. I have noticed that my students continue to read on once I have finished my chapter for the day. They just can't seem to put these books down! :)

I believe the key to getting your third graders to read chapter books is to help them pick out the ones that might interest them. My school's librarian allows students to check out two books at a time. I require my students to check out 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction book each time they go to the library until Christmas time. Once we get back from Christmas, I require my students to check out a picture book and keep a chapter book going at all times. They usually end up checking out and AR testing on 4 or 5 picture books before they finish their chapter book. (However, my students are usually reading chapter books before Christmas---even though it is not required.) If we don't encourage our students to read chapter books, then who is going to do it?

For the students who are having difficulty reading chapter books, give them a certain amount of pages to read each day. Use a sticky note to mark the page they can stop on. This helps them focus and gives them a goal to reach for the day. Let them know that you are going to be asking them to tell you about what they read. I have found this to be very effective!

I hope this helps you out! :)

Other suggested chapter books:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
James and the Giant Peach
There's a Boy in the Girls Restroom
Junie B. Jones Series


Senior Member
good idea...

Lenzy... I like your compromise. Like you said, "someone has to have them read chapter books", but the fact that you also are requiring them to mix in the picture books must really help them on a lot of different levels. As an adult, I would burn out if I had to finish one novel and begin another the very same day! I need to read magazines, jokes, and other short texts depending on my energy level and mood. I also agree with you that children model themselves off of their teacher. I find I never even have to push or nudge anyone! The second I read the book and put in the library, there are little hands all over it! I've actually started doing something different now-- I read a book, and then when I'm done I'll say something like, "John, this seems like a book that might be just right for you, and I know you like dogs so would you like to try it first?" This way I know that everyone is getting a chance to get their hands on motivating texts.