Do you have an emerging reader? Have you ever noticed how many of the so-called easy reader books are not actually easy? My 5 year old is currently deep in the beginning stages of reading books. Whereas with my early reading oldest child, I was concerned about finding advanced books with subjects appropriate for a 4 year old, now I am looking for easy readers which are actually easy.
To start with, I've noticed that all publishers have different standards for levels! Plus, even within the same publisher and level the degree of difficulty can vary. And forget about easy readers with licensed characters. Those are the worst. My son chose a Star Wars level 1 book and it included words like "shoulder", "symbol" and "organization". Um, those are not beginning-to-read words. I want books that will build my son's confidence in his ability to read, not frustrate him!
More: Click here for a list of easy readers that won't make you want to poke your eyes out.
So, I have been on the hunt for easy books. It's a painstaking process, but I hope you find this list useful for your beginning reader. (Note: all book titles and covers are affiliate links.)
The Easiest Easy Reader Books
Ball. This is one word book. Now you may be asking yourself what is the purpose of reading books with only one word. One word: Confidence. After New Kid read this book he had a huge grin on his face, not just because the book was amusing, with it's comic book-type layout, but because he felt a sense of accomplishment. Learning to read is not just about decoding letters and sentences. The word, "ball" is used to express emotion, convey action and reveal character. By reading this book, kids synthesize text, story, illustration and understand that words convey pathos, climax, and dénouement. This is crucial for reading comprehension.
Hug. A baby gorilla is searching for his mom, using a single word, "hug". Like Ball (see above) the single word is important, and even a single word can convey dramatic structure and emotions. The more beginning readers can feel connected with a story, they more likely they are to read it. Also included are the words, "Bobo" and "Mommy."
Orange Pear Apple Bear. Like Ball and Hug, this isn't necessarily meant as an easy reader, but I used it as such. Emily Gravett is a favorite author of ours and this book uses the same 4 words in different sequences until the end, when a 5th word, "There!" is used. I like that my son could use the illustrations to decode words he didn't recognize (orange, pear) and he had to pay attention to read them in the correct order on each page. My son can see the same word over and over and still need help with it. In this case, he had to figure out "pear" repeatedly and that was good practice for him. Plus, the book is just plain funny and clever.
The Flip-a-Word books are not so much story books but an exercise in recognizing word family patterns. Each book includes three word families. For example Quack Shack, looks at -ack, -ick, and -ock words. As kids flip the pages, they see the same pattern revealed in a page cut out. At the end of each section the words are reinforced through simple phrases. Some of the pairings are a little silly, which my son loves.
Up, Tall and High is another book with a very limited vocabulary. The book consists of three stories in which birds humorously contemplate three states of being (three guesses!). Fold out pages add extra interest and this book is also great for reading aloud to toddlers and preschoolers. We've also been using Ethan Long's Clara and Clem books from Penguin's Young Reader series.
Cat the Cat, Who Is That? I love this series from Mo Willems. There is something so charming about the repetition. Only Willems can make a story so simple (saying hi to a slew of animals with names like "Duck the duck" and "Fish the fish") yet still bring a smile.
Easy Reader Books - A Slight Step Up
See Me Run. Meisel has two "I Like to Read" about dogs going about their doggy business. Very simple words and lots of repetition made this a good choice for my son who balks at words more than four letters. There is action, a bit of suspense (what will the dogs dig up?) and a lot of humor that kept him interested. He didn't even try and get me to take over reading after 2 pages.
More so than most publishers, I find Harper-Collins' "I Can Read" books at the "Shared My First Reading" level, the most reliable source of appropriately leveled books for my emerging reader. I never read Biscuit with my older son and sort of rolled my eyes at the thought. Do not make not the same judgmental mistake as I did! They have great repetition and words that kids can actually sound out.
Elephant & Piggie. These books are so popular I hardly need go over any plot points with you. Most parents I talk to started out reading Willems books about Gerald the Elephant and Piggie aloud to their preschoolers, but they are actually written to be easy readers. (The same phenomenon applies to Seuss, have you noticed? Although I prefer Willems a gazillion times to Seuss.) I like that the books are longer than other typical earlier readers, although the text is nice and sparse so pages go quickly. Once your kid is hooked on Elephant and Piggie there are at least 20 more to keep him reading.
Mittens series. Mittens is the feline equivalent of Biscuit (see above). Each book has a bit of a mystery: where is Max? what's that noise, etc. that encourages my son to keep reading and brings a smile to his face when he comes to the answer or can predict ahead of time what it is. There are a few longer words that he needs help with like "scratching" but since the mystery keeps him going, he doesn't get frustrated.
What Will Fat Cat Sit On? A comment on this post below reminded me that I had meant to put at least one Jan Thomas books on this list. These books are absolutely hilarious for read aloud storytime, but their simple, rhyming text made them terrific early reader books, too. Plus, they are super duper funny!
Do you have an emerging reader? What books do you find useful?
More easy reader book lists: