Good short story collections are a brilliant stepping stone between single story picture books and first chapter books.
Short stories build listening skills as children have to focus on the words themselves rather than the visual clues in the pictures to follow what is going on.
But they still get the satisfaction of an ending each night to each story ... rather than having to wait to find out what happens in the next chapter.
Short stories continue to play a really valuable role in developing children's literacy even when they are completely comfortable listening to chapter books.
The need to focus for less time means more complex vocabulary and ideas can be introduced that children might not be able to manage to follow throughout a whole chapter book.
This is a list of 8 classic short story collections that we've been gobbling up veraciously.
I would love to hear about your favourites ... do add them to the list.
And if you've got great posts on any aspect of reading and literacy you can link them up at the bottom of the post ...
8 Super Short Story Collections for Children
- Mrs Pepperpot - Alf Proysen
- Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren
- My Naughty Little Sister - Dorothy Edwards
- Family From One End Street - Eve Garnett
- Paddington Bear - Michael Bond
- Pooh Bear - AA Milne
- Milly Molly Mandy - Joyce Lankaster Brisley
- William - Richmal Crompton
How on earth can stories about an old Norwegian lady from the 1950s still make children laugh out loud today? Because they do. And I know that it's not just in our house this happens.
I think children still enjoy and laugh at the stories so much because every time Mrs Pepperpot accidentally turns into the size of a pepper pot something totally crazy happens. Children love the fact that they understood the "rules" of life well enough to know when the story is absurd and shouldn't really happen.
And Mrs Pepperpot is such a wily old lady that kids end up rooting for her whether she's conning the wind into drying her washing, becoming the queen of the crows or causing among the snooty ladies at the local bazaar.
The stories themselves are really short and simple and so they are easy to understand for young children.
Pippi Longstocking is another fabulous, laugh out loud, absurd Scandinavian who is always breaking rules.
At nine years old Pippi lives alone having lost both her parents and continually outrages all the grown ups in her town by not just breaking all the rules but completely failing to recognise that they exist.
We have just finished reading this lovely new Pippi Longstocking edition with illustrations by Lauren Child of Charlie and Lola fame and totally loved it ... we laughed and laughed and laughed when Pippi played tag with the policemen.
But it is a harder read for an under 5 or just 5. Each story is longer and Astrid Lindgren's writing isn't as concise as some of the other authors on this list. Also, some of the humour can be slightly lost on younger readers. Definitely great fun but may be one for slightly later.
My Naughty Little Sister
The My Naughty Little Sister stories are really simple short stories about the mischievous antics of the narrator's little sister from the moment she is first born.
The stories are very recognisable from every day life and are wonderful for put upon elder siblings outraged by the arrival and behaviour of their younger sisters and brothers. Although, I was not the naughty little sister in the family and loved them too :-)
The stories are not a massive step up in complexity from something like Shirley Hughes Alfie but I really like the fact that they introduce children to the first person narrator. They probably won't have heard it before and it can be a wonderful introduction to the idea that they too could be story tellers.
The Family From One End Street
The Family From One End Street has been passed down through the generations in our family, the original copy being my dad's. On one level it is very dated - it's the story of the every day lives of a poor English family from the 1930s but the qualities that won it the Carnegie award when published, shine through.
It's just really good story telling and so young children today can still engage and empathise with the twists and turns of the story and the suspense of whether they will get out of the latest mess they've got into.
Quite rightly most children's stories banish parents as early as possible or only let them appear as a constant frustration of their kids great adventures. The various children in The Family From One End Street do have their own adventures but I love that it is a story about a whole family - including mum and dad - and all the trials and tribulations they go through together but somehow manage to overcome.
The stories do fit together but can be read independently as short stories.
The Paddington Bear short stories need no introduction. The little bear from darkest Peru has been going strong since the late 1950s.
Like so many of the other characters in this list, Paddington is always breaking the rules and getting into a scrape because of it. But not because he intends to, just because he has his very own personal take on the world.
I think this is why kids find Paddington so endearing. They love recognising in advance of Paddington that he is getting it wrong and chaos is about to happen, but they are also still at a stage themselves where things don't go as planned because they haven't quite understood the adult world as well as they thought they did.
I will be honest and say I don't think Michael Bond's writing is the best out of this list. For very simple stories it can be a bit wordy but Paddington is just so adorable that kids will carry on listening even when it's clunky.
Many of the stories are available as picture books as well, so the non-picture books can be great first short stories as children will already love the character and so be prepared to sit and listen without many pictures, when they might not do this for something new.
Pooh Bear like Paddington needs little introduction. He lives in his own little world and spends most days - with the help of his friends - getting in and out of a muddle.
The stories obviously are illustrated but in the original with small drawings rather than big colour pictures.
I think the stories are a slightly harder read than you would imagine as so many of us are familiar with Pooh from picture book versions or film. The narrative, like Pooh's adventures, can be rather meandering and quirky.
I found the style a bit frustrating at first and my daughter found it hard to follow but it's really grown on us and I've come to the conclusion it's great to expose children early to very different, including quirky, styles of writing.
Milly Molly Mandy
I've written before about how much we love Milly Molly Mandy. We've only got a few of the short stories left we've loved them so much and read them so quickly.
They are very simple, every day adventures - blackberrying, learning to swim, finding a hedgehog - and Milly Molly Mandy is about far from Pippi Longstocking as you can imagine being an incredibly well behaved little girl.
The thing that makes them really stand out is Joyce Lankester Brisley's brilliant writing. She can tell a complete story with character development and twists and turns in very few words at a perfect pace.
William given the opportunity would have written his parents off like Pippi in the first story but their long suffering presence provides a brilliant but for William's humour and antics.
Some of William's humour - like Pippi's - may be lost on slightly younger children, but children really don't have to understand everything in a book to laugh at it and love it - they learn by reading things they don't fully understand.
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