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EARLY READERS

The Itchy Book.jpg

A reader is born!

How to Find Great Early Readers

by Erin Kelsey

 

The universe of early readers is large and expanding (for a great history on early readers, check out this piece in Publishers Weekly).

As you think about choosing early readers for the little one in your life, it helps to focus on both the child’s interest level in the topic of the book and the reading level.

 

The child’s interest in the book matters.  Makes sense, right? A number of studies have found that a child’s interest in a story impacts the child’s engagement and comprehension (check out, for example, this 2017 study conducted with 2nd and 3rd graders).

 

Tap into this interest by choosing books with topics they love, whether it’s superheroes or a particular character, like Pete the Cat.  Even if the books feel a little formulaic, that pre-existing interest can be your unfair advantage—you know it’s a topic the child already cares about.

Kids also love books that are funny or silly or can get them laughing.  That fun factor helps make books like Fly Guy and the Mercy Watson series good bets for early readers.    

 

It’s not all about fiction, either.  You can build on a child’s interest in the world with nonfiction early readers.  If there’s a particular topic the child is excited about, you could look for a relevant National Geographic Kids book or use NoveList to find relevant books (you likely have access to NoveList through your library). 

 

Don’t be afraid to follow the child’s lead.  Kids know their own interests, and letting them browse at a bookstore or library may lead in unexpected directions.  As observed in a 2003 paper, exercising choice in reading “helps children become both independent and responsible.”  Allowing children to choose their own books also helps lay the foundation for them to grow into lifelong readers, as the teacher and author Donalyn Miller recently wrote in the School Library Journal.

 

Remember that finding great early readers, just like finding any other books, can involve a little trial-and-error.  If a book isn’t working for the child, don’t sweat it. Just keep experimenting.

 

The second thing to consider is the reading level of the story.  This includes the text itself, of course. You want to be look at the number of words on the page as well as the difficulty level of the text.  While you want the child to be challenged, you want to avoid unnecessary frustration. As a rule of thumb, I usually recommend that if there are five challenge words on a page, you might want to choose something else (this is sometimes called the Five Finger Test). 

 

You may also want to consider the level of the narrative and illustrations.  As books increase in reading level, the stories can become more intense. Even if your child is ready to take on the text, make sure the story and illustrations still feel appropriate. 

 

Happy reading!

Product Options

I am Strong

by Suzy Capozzi; illustrated by Erin Unten

 

MSRP:  $4.99

Erin's Recommended Age:  PreK – 1st

 

Why We Love It

A sweet and simple story about teamwork and being proud of what each person can accomplish. The story is a little longer than some of the other picks here. Its simple text is great for early readers. The whole series (Positive Power Story) is great!

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Hi! Fly Guy

by Tedd Arnold

MSRP:  $3.99

Erin's Recommended Age:  K – 2nd

 

Why We Love It

All of the Fly Guy books are fun and silly stories about Fly Guy and his friend Buzz. The stories are divided up into chapters so my preschooler feels grown-up when we read this one, but the chapters are short. Very accessible and funny!

 

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DC Super Friends: Flying High

by Nick Eliopulos

 

MSRP:  $4.99

Erin's Recommended Age:  PreK – 1st

 

Why We Love It

Most kids love superheroes but as a parent, I don't always love the violence and darker themes. DC Super Friends keeps it light and positive and focuses on working together. Simple tales for kids who want a longer storytime or who are beginning to read themselves.

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Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big Lunch

by James Dean

 

MSRP:  $4.99

Erin's Recommended Age:  PreK – 1st

 

Why We Love It

Pete the Cat is a favorite in our house. The early readers have the same fun stories and great characters but are geared toward new readers.

 

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Murilla Gorilla, Jungle Detective

by Jennifer Lloyd; illustrated by Jacqui Lee

 

MSRP:  $9.95

Erin's Recommended Age: K – 2nd

 

Why We Love It

Banana muffins disappear from Mango Market and Murilla Gorilla is on the case. This is a fun, light mystery story that will capture the attention of emerging readers.

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Frog and Toad

by Arnold Lobel

 

MSRP:  $11.99

Erin's Recommended Age: K – 2nd

 

Why We Love It

Frog and Toad stories are slow and sweet. At our house, we love these stories because they are a little longer than your typical picture book, and they usually come as a collection so we can read a few each night. The actual reading level is a little higher. We also love the Frog and Toad audiobook!

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Mercy Watson to the Rescue

by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

 

MSRP:  $14.99 (typical retail $11.99)

Erin's Recommended Age:  K – 2nd

 

Why We Love It

I grabbed this series because the silly factor is high (lots of giggles when we read this) and it's a chapter book so we can read a few chapters each night.

 

Buying options:

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The Itchy Book

by LeUyen Pham

 

MSRP:  $10.99

Erin's Recommended Age: PreK – 2nd

 

Why We Love It

If Elephant and Piggie recommend this book than I'm on board. The book is similar in style to Elephant and Piggie with word bubble text and silly humor. And this story is about a relatable problem! Great read aloud.

 

Buying options:

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The Cookie Fiasco

by Dan Santat

 

MSRP:  $10.99

Erin's Recommended Age:  K – 2nd

 

Why We Love It

Another Elephant and Piggie recommendation. Fans of Elephant and Piggie will love this story and kids will get an introduction to simple division. What happens when you have 3 cookies and 4 friends? Lots of laughs during this story and it also prompted a discussion about sharing. Bonus!

 

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Good Night, Good Knight

by Shelley Moore Thomas; illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

 

MSRP:  $4.99

Erin's Recommended Age: PreK – 1st

 

Why We Love It

A sweet tale about a kind Knight who hears roaring in the forest and comes upon 3 dragons who are delaying bedtime. Sound familiar, parents? This is a calm and gentle story that's great for bedtime, but it may not satiate kids who want more action and adventure.

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Frogs

by Elizabeth Carney

 

MSRP:  $4.99

Erin's Recommended Age: K – 1st

 

Why We Love It

For your nature-loving kid! We love this series because of the bright and beautiful pictures. The text is simple and teaches new fun facts to activate those little brains and keep kiddos learning.

Buying options: