So Why Isn’t War and Peace a Chapter Book?

By Guest Blogger and upcoming MC teacher, Marianne Hering

Before I tell you why a fiction book with a whopping 361 chapters is not a chapter book, let me ramble about myself for a minute. Gauche, I know, but it’s part of the answer. So, I’ve written a few books in my day. I wrote my first children’s series while I was pregnant with my daughter, a firstborn. She quickly grew into a prolific reader. I homeschooled for a while, and so she and I read a few thousand books together. Most of those were fiction books. The longer the series, the better, in her mind. We also used the reading lists from Sonlight curriculum and subject lists from William Bennett’s What My _____ Grader Needs to Know. (The specificity in this is important. I’m not being OCD here. Hang on to the concepts of “curriculum” and “subject list.”) 

I started writing the Imagination Station series when my twin sons were about nine. I noticed that both boys enjoyed reading The Magic Treehouse series. Son #1 had a learning disability, but because he found the content of those books so interesting and the reading level was “easy,” he fought through the jumble of letters and completed his first “chapter book” in the summer after first grade. This was no small miracle because his Iowa Test of Basic Skills placed him in the bottom 30 percent of the nation. This, too, is important data. Hang on to that 30 percent figure. 

What Is A “Chapter Book”?

A “chapter book” is an educational term that helps bookstore clerks and librarians place books in the right department. It also helps parents and teachers identify the reading level of a book. It is more or less synonymous with the “early reader” that marketers love. 

The term “chapter book” describes books that elementary-school-age kids have a good chance of reading without too much help. They are a step up or two from easy-to-read picture books (don’t get me started on “authors” who cram 2,000 words into a 10-x-10-inch, 32-page book with pictures and believe it’s a picture book).  So, while War and Peace is an escalator ride up from a picture book and has 361 chapters, the content, themes, vocabulary, and length make it unsuitable for children. It is called a novel

Why I Write Chapter Books

I wake up at night worrying about kids who can’t read.  

I do not jest. Sometimes—okay a lot of times—I am facetious. But not now. I am 100 percent serious. And I worry more than ever because reading scores in the US are dropping like temperatures in a Siberian winter.  

Don’t believe me? Channel your inner Democrat and read this article by NPR. While our kids read better than pre-alphabet man, we’ve lost valuable ground. And the gap is widening for kids living in poverty and for those in Black and Latino communities.  

So, I write “chapter books” for kids who score in the bottom 30 percent on standardized test. They need eight times the practice than the kids, who, like my daughter, can read spontaneously.  I write “chapter books” so that they can learn, and have a chance at succeeding in a world that still requires literacy. I choose history topics that are identified as important so that not only will parents buy my products because they are fun, but teachers and families that homeschool will also buy them because they are educational and support curriculum standards.  

I believe every child should be offered the chance to develop the skills necessary to read books like War and Peace when they get older. Don’t you? 

Why You Should Register for the Write2Ignite Master Class

If you care about kids too, join the Write 2 Ignite Master Class and learn how to create resources that kids need. If you’re a beginner, you’ll learn the basics of what a chapter book contains and how to start writing one. If you’re advanced, I can (perhaps, no promises) help you figure out how to place your books in the market. If you’re alive, you’ll be inspired with a passion to help kids learn, one chapter at a time. 

You can find out lots more about Marianne on her website. Click here for The Imagination Station books.


For more information on the class and to register, check back on our website on August 14. Meanwhile, here’s a preview of what Marianne is including.


Marianne is donating several Imagination Station books for door prizes for the class. But as a special offer for all our blog readers, we’re giving away one book through this post. Leave a comment by August 14 to win a copy of Doomsday in Pompeii.

12 thoughts on “So Why Isn’t War and Peace a Chapter Book?

  1. I LOVE your heart for kids! Thank you for sharing your mission and the story behind it. Looking forward to hearing more about your journey and the art of crafting chapter books at the Master Class.

  2. What a gift to hear the story behind your books — and see your passion in helping young readers. (You’ve clearly helped your own!) I love your goal of teaching elements to create successful chapter books. It’s a huge draw for me to join your Master Class. I can’t wait to see you there.

  3. “Channel your inner Democrat.” LOL. I’ve had a lot of driveway moments with NPR. (Or used to before I discovered podcasts.) I love your passion for kids and reading!

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