Jeremy and I are lovers of books and thankfully all our children seem to be following suit - I am constantly being asked to read! Most of the time it's picture books and sometimes Big Buddy will beg me to read a few pages of whatever animal encyclopedia he's in to at the moment. I cherish these times but picture book after picture book can get exhausting! So about two years ago we started reading chapter books to our kids. I wasn't sure how it would go at first; Big Buddy, our oldest, was only four at the time. The kids, however, eat them up and their ability to follow the story and recall information (sometimes even months later!) has amazed me. In August we read a favorite series, Riverbank Stories, from Jeremy's childhood.
I had never read the books before and got so into the stories that I actually cheated and read ahead. The author, Stephen R. Lawhead, does a fantastic job of creating an engaging community of river bank creatures. The stories have a the perfect amount of suspense; you want to know what's going to happen next but there is nothing that is too frightening for young children. Almost every chapter is accompanied by a beautifully detailed pen and ink illustration.
The stories contain a moral, or really a character lesson, but are not at all preachy and the reader is left to make their own conclusions. The boys and I were able to have some really good discussions on whether or not they agreed with certain character's actions. One final positive note on these books is that the author introduces more advanced vocabulary in clever ways, usually by having the word defined by an older/wiser animal.
If you are looking for a read-aloud series to share with young children (3-7) I'd highly recommend these books. From what I can tell print copies are no longer sold but for around $3 you can purchase the Kindle versions - hopefully, they are also carried by your local library.
A few other chapter books we've read and would recommend: The Hobbit, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Tale of Despereaux, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Charlotte's Web, and the Beast Quest series, While a tad bit formulaic, the Beast Quest books are quick reads and are especially great for boys.
We are always looking for new stories to dive in to; if you have a favorite you'd recommend please share!