August 8, 2014

Books for the Very Earliest of Readers: (30+ Books Your Emerging Reader Will Love)

Eleanor can comfortably read any "Level 1" books, and most "Level 2" books now. But when she started reading a few months ago, it was tricky to find exactly the right kinds of books. At first I just grabbed a bunch of Level 1 readers from the library, not realizing that there are WIDE variations in Level 1 from publisher to publisher. The Level 1 I Can Read Books were way too hard, but that line has a pre-level called "My First Shared Reading" which was perfect. Whereas Simon Spotlight had something called "Ready to Read", which sounded great, but ironically they were too hard - because they were meant for the parent to still read to the kid.

Phew. But I did some research, and made a ton of trips to the library in those first weeks, so that I could find books that were just right for her. I didn't want her to get intimidated by books that were "too hard" or really long, but I also wanted to keep challenging her.

I ended up finding a bunch of great books, which I thought I'd round up here in case you have an emerging reader, and want to save yourself a little time!

  • Happy Cat by Steve Henry. A cold cat sneaks in through a basement window, and finds a house full of friendly animals. I think the longest sentence in the whole book is "He went to the top". It has really fun illustrations too -- more complex than those in your average easy reader.
  • Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. The Biscuit books were far and away both of our favorites. We got the first one from our pediatrician, and Eleanor liked reading "Woof! Woof!" all the time.
  • Then I found the Biscuit Phonics Fun set - which was perfect. It contains 12 small books, and each one focuses on a particular short vowel sound. (Like "short e" - where the text starts, "An egg fell from the nest. Get help Biscuit." Each book is only about 10 pages long. I also purchased The Berenstain Bears Phonics Fun and Little Critter Phonics Fun. Those ones were slightly harder (they didn't focus as well on one vowel sound), but Eleanor still (a) loved the box they come in, and (b) the thrill of reading 12 whole books.
  • Cake Soup by Richard Scarry. This one has a couple of longer words ("birthday"), but it repeats the same words a lot; so it's still a super easy, and fun read. The friends try to make Lowly a birthday cake, but it accidentally becomes Cake Soup.
  • I Like Fish by Margaret Wise Brown. There are a few slightly tricky adjectives in this one ("silver"), but every single page includes the word 'fish', so it's easy for them to catch the rhythm of the book. And the illustrations make it easy to figure out in context ("black fish", "old fish", etc).
  • Loose Tooth by Lola M. Schaefer. Eleanor really loved this one (the words "loose" and "tooth" make up about 50% of the text). In fact, I got some video of her reading it to Juliet.
  • Our second favorites, after the Biscuit books, were the Word Families series. Our library has a ton of these. We read at least a dozen of them: Ake As in Cake, Ed As in Bed, Ag As in Flag, Um As in Drum, etc. Each book starts out the same way - with a few pages introducing words. For example, "Ned got a bed." "Her dress was red." "They had a shed." Those pages aren't a cohesive story, they're just setting up the knowledge base. Then the second half of the book is a short story - about 8 pages or so. I still remember the -ake one: it was something about Jake the Drake having to save his cake from a snake, so he used a rake to throw the snake in the lake. The stories don't make the most sense in the world, but they have cute pictures and really emphasize a vowel set. From what I read, these are similar to BOB books - but with better pictures.
  • Robot, Go Bot! by Dana M Rau. This one has eye-catching illustrations (it's a 'comic reader'); and it cleverly plays off rhyming words. A bossy little girl tells her robot what to do, "Go bot!" "Row, bot!" "No bot!" "Throw, bot!" I'm pretty sure Eleanor read this to me a hundred times in the 3 weeks we had it from the library.

I hope this list might save some of you some time as you hunt out perfect early readers! And those of you who have already progressed further with your little readers - any more recommendations for this list? (I know I skipped the BOB books completely, but people kept telling me that they were dull, and I was trying hard to find fun books.)

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