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20 Best Chapter Books for 1st Graders

20 best chapter books for 1st graders

First grade is an exciting time for young readers. They are usually starting to read independently and their ability to follow stories without relying on illustrations is developing quickly. Plus, they start using their own imagination to visualize stories. As a result, 1st graders begin to show more interest in chapter books. So, to help you we have compiled a list of the 20 best chapter books for 1st graders.

However, finding age-appropriate chapter books can be a little tricky. Some of the books in our list will be suitable for independent readers, others are fantastic options for teachers to read to the class. Whichever type you are looking for, we guarantee this list will provide you with some real hits to engage your 1st grade readers.

20 Best Chapter Books for 1st Graders – Our Picks

1.  The Magic Tree House Boxed Set

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There are over 30 books in this series of chapter books, plus special editions and a spin-off series too! So, if you are looking for a series of books that your 1st grade students can really get stuck into, consider The Magic Tree House. The adventures begin when siblings Jack and Annie, discover a magic tree house in the woods which transports them back in time. As well as being great adventure stories, the books cover many history and geography topics too. You might also like to visit The Magic Tree House website which contains resources for teachers and parents and fun games for children too. 

2. Pippi Longstocking Series

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First published in 1945, these books have stood the test of time. This is owing to the enchanting main character Pippi. Her eccentric personality entertains and humors youngsters and her unusual lifestyle intrigues readers. Living with her horse and pet monkey, 9-year-old Pippi’s knowledge of normal etiquettes is limited, making her day-to-day encounters with everyday life hilariously funny. Pippi features in three chapter books, which follow her exciting adventures with her neighborhood friends, Annika and Tommy.

3. James and the Giant Peach

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Roald Dahl is a timeless author and many of his books are a fantastic choice for 1st grade readers. The iconic illustrations by Quentin Blake which are found in many of Dahl’s books, help children connect with the story but also leave room for their imaginations to do some work. James and the Giant Peach is a manageable read for children reaching the end of first grade. But it is also a great choice to read together and study as a whole class. Why? Because Roald Dahl’s writing style deserves attention. He writes in a creative way and includes unusual features in his writing that help to bring the characters and situations to life. Reading his books for the first time, students might need some explanation as to how some features of his writing are meant to be read. But certainly, the magical and quirky story of James and the Giant Peach will captivate the imaginations of every 6-7-year-old.

4. Gangsta Granny

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A hilarious entry to the 20 best chapter books for 1st grade readers is, Gangsta Granny. British Comedian, David Walliams, has written some side-splittingly funny books for kids. But Gangsta Granny is our stand-out favorite. The story follows the relationship of Ben and his “boring” Granny. But when Ben discovers his Granny is leading a double life, she suddenly becomes a lot less boring. This book will leave every 1st grader suspicious of their Grannies. We can’t recommend it enough. There is also a super screen adaptation of the book made by the BBC.

5. The World’s Worst Teachers

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While we are on the topic of David Walliams, we couldn’t resist another mention. This time a book of short stories. Each short story features a “world’s worst teacher”. The descriptions and stories will have a class of 1st grade students in fits of laughter as they draw resemblances to their own teachers. The short stories mean that its not too heavy going for early chapter book readers. And the book is a great resource for teachers to use in class when studying character description and development.

6. Junie B. Jones Series

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The Junie B. Jones series is written with first graders in mind. Junie is a girl around 6 years old and the books are written in her voice. This means the language and structure of the books are easy to read for most 1st graders. The series follows Junie’s time in Kindergarten and eventually her transition into first grade. The fact Junie and the readers are of a similar age makes the books highly relatable. We definitely recommend them.

7. Flat Stanley

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Flat Stanley is about a boy who has a rather unfortunate accident with a falling bulletin board. His parents rush to his aid only to discover that he has been squashed flat… try not to laugh, its a serious accident! Instead of falling into a pit of despair, Stanley, now half an inch thick, decides that being flat actually has its benefits. The book joins Stanley as he makes the most of being flat. With an underlying message of acceptance and Stanley’s it could be worse attitude, this book is a fun and worthwhile read for first graders.

8. The Bad Guys

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We love these books! From the storylines to the layout of the text, these books are fantastic. Playing on the unfair stereotypes of the animal kingdom, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake, and Mr Piranha, undertake dangerous missions to prove to the world that they aren’t the bad guys. The illustrations are plentiful making them excellent books for readers that are transitioning from picture to chapter books. We can’t shout about them enough!

9. Dinosaur Cove

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What child doesn’t find Dinosaurs just a little bit interesting? The Dinosaur Cove books are an epic choice for all the dinosaur fans out there. The words and sentence structure used in the books are manageable for first grade students, but the books are a little more lengthy than other early reader books. So, if your young reader has the patience and stamina, great! If not, read along with them and enjoy the adventures of Jamie, Tom, and the dinosaurs.

10. Horrid Henry

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These stories are so popular they have been adapted for TV, theatre, radio and a live action film. If that’s not a sign of a great series of books, then we don’t know what is! The Horrid Henry Early Reader collection has over 40 titles, so plenty to keep your first-grade students entertained. Henry’s naughty antics will amuse students but also raise discussions relating to many moral dilemmas. They are great stories to read if you want to ignite a class debate.

11. The Snake Who Came to Stay (Little Gems Collection)

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Written by the popular author, Julia Donaldson, The Snake Who Came to Stay is part of the “Little Gems” collection. Donaldson made her name writing rhyming picture books such as, The Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale, and Room on the Broom. She is also an accomplished chapter book author for early readers. The books in the collection are certainly little gems and we actually recommend them all. Beautifully illustrated and designed on the surface and written with a deep understanding of early readers. The text in the book is double-line spaced and each page only contains 2-3 sentences. This makes tackling prose for the first time a lot less scary.

12. Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots

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Time for a spooky supernatural suggestion. The first book in The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series, Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots is about an unruly class that keeps driving their teachers away. Until the curious character, Mrs Jeepers arrives, that is. These books are simply written and have uncomplicated plots, making them perfect for 1st graders that want to read independently.

13. Puppy Academy

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These heartwarming books teach children all about the lives of working dogs. The Puppy Academy series is made up of 4 books. Each book follows a puppy as they train to become a real-life superhero. Interesting stories based on reality, 1st graders will be awestruck reading about these brave pups. With approximately 100 pages, they are good books to introduce to early readers to develop their endurance.

14. The Chocolate Touch

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Be warned this is a mouthwatering read for chocoholics! When John Midas acquires a magical power that turns everything to chocolate the moment it touches his lips, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot. But he soon realizes his new power comes with some rather big problems. The book is a clever modern-day twist on the Greek Myth about King Midas. Written in 1952, it is a story that generations of first grade students have enjoyed.

15. Spy School

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A New York Times Best-Seller, Spy School is a great choice for a listen-to-reading session. The written text is perhaps a little challenging for a first-grade student to read alone but the storylines are absorbing. We recommend that adults do the reading so that your 1st grade students can sit back and listen to the mysteries unfold. 

16. Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are bestsellers and for good reason. They are funny and sensitive all in one. Raising issues that every school kid can understand, the books will appeal to first graders as they relate to the character Greg. The text is written and displayed in a journal format. As a result, the books make good example texts to use in class with 1st graders when studying journals and diary writing.

17. Fact Attack Collection

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These non-fiction books make a refreshing change from the fiction books that early readers are usually exposed to. Developing a love of reading from an early age is important. And as we know, everyone is different and will therefore enjoy different books. So, broaden the horizons of your young readers. Show them that there are books out there for everyone and give them the opportunity to read as many different genres as possible. These books are packed full of fascinating facts based on a wide variety of topics, from spies to space and even supercars.

18. Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder

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The books in the Mercy Watson collection are certainly deserving of a place in the 20 best chapter books for 1st grade. We like the fact the main character is a pig; it makes a nice change. We also love the colorful illustrations. The pages have a short amount of text making the books perfect for first graders. The stories of Mercy’s mischievous antics are not to be missed.

19. Geronimo Stilton and the Kingdom of Fantasy #1: The Kingdom of Fantasy

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This book is the first in the series and a super introduction to the fantasy genre. First grade readers will be introduced to a whole bunch of fantastical creatures such as, dragons, pixies, witches and more. Geronimo the mouse tells the story of how he came to discover The Kingdom of Fantasy. He then goes onto explain how he became entangled in a thrilling adventure to save the Queen of the Fairies. Age and reading level appropriate for first graders to read independently, we highly recommend this book and the following books in the series.

20. Magic Misfits

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A series about a group of magical misfits that find themselves fighting against the baddies. With the help of magic and each other, the group of 6 overcome challenges by working together. We loved the underlying message of teamwork and the focus that everyone can bring something to the team. These books would be best suited for higher level readers, those reaching the end of first grade or those that need an extra challenge. The books would also make a great whole-class read-along.

20 Best Chapter Books For 1st Graders – Final Thoughts

Whether your 1st grade students can read these books independently or whether you are reading to them in class; the most important thing is they are having fun.

At this stage in the journey of learning to read, developing a love of books and literature is top priority. If your early readers aren’t enjoying the books they are reading, it will just become a chore. They must have a desire and passion to pick-up books and read. They must first learn to love reading.

To help them do this, try not to force reading upon them. It should be natural. Find a genre that appeals to them. Read beside them so they are not frightened and put off by challenge. Do this, and we guarantee you will soon have a class full of bookworms.

Amongst these 20 best chapter books for 1st grade we are sure you will find something to suit everyone. 

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