Parents who have emergent readers may notice a pattern with the so-called easy books their kids bring home. These "easy books" that are supposedly designed to help them learn how to read are not actually easy.
Leveled readers are not standardized across publishers, making it difficult to find books your kids can use to gain reading confidence.
So, I have been on the hunt for easy books. The books I've chosen for this list have large type, few words, simple vocabulary, predicative text and fun story lines. They are excellent easy books, but be sure to avail yourself of additional resources recommended to you by your school's literacy specialist and librarian!
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The Easiest Easy Reader Books
These books have very few words, even one word, sometimes! They take advantage of rhyming text to move along the plot and employ gentle humor to keep kids reading.
Ball by Mary Sullivan. This is one word book. Now you may be asking yourself what is the purpose of reading books with only one word. One more word: Confidence. After my son 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 by Jez Alborough. 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 by Emily Gravett. 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 (in fairness, orange is an advanced word) and he had to pay attention to read them in the correct order on each page. Some readers need to see the same word over and over and will still need help. 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 by Ethan Long 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. A recipient of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, Ethan Long has many excellent easy reader books, like the very easy to read Clara and Clem 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 Books - A Slight Step Up
Once your child has mastered the books earlier on this list, try these books which are still very simple but don't skip on engagement! Our summer reading list for first graders has more excellent easy readers!
See Me Run by Paul Meisel. Meisel has a number of excellent and easy "I Like to Read" books. This humorous tale is about dogs going about their doggy business. Very simple words and lots of repetition made this a good choice for my kids who balk 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.
Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. 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 and are surprisingly entertaining!
Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems. 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. I like that the books are longer than other typical earlier readers, although the text is nice and sparse so pages go quickly.
Mittens by Lola M. Schaefer. 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 Is Chasing Duck? Jan Thomas's Giggle Gang books, with their simple, rhyming text are absolutely hilarious easy readers. Don't miss them.