Easy Readers That Are Actually Easy
Easy Readers are transitional books that help emergent readers build literacy skills. This genre is packed with wonderful books, but they range greatly in their reading level, so it is often difficult to identify which one is best for your budding reader. Each publisher uses their own assessment to designate which book is a Level 1 Reader vs. Level 2 Reader, etc. so unfortunately there is no real consistently. For this reason, I put together a list of a few books that really are easy to read and will hopefully help new readers build important skills.
When choosing an Easy Reader for your child, here are a few things to look for:
- Rhyming or repetitive word patterns
- Simple sentences
- Pictures that give visual clues to help explain what words mean
- New words added slowly in the story and repeated often
Enjoy the books!
See Otto (The Adventures of Otto series) by David Milgrim, 2002
With only a few words to a page, this is a great series to build confidence for children who are just beginning to read. The illustrations are cute and full of action, which will engage little readers. The most recent installment in the series, Go Otto Go (2016) won a Geisel Honor for one of the best Easy Readers of the year.
When Andy Met Sandy (Andy and Sandy series) by Tomie dePaola, 2016
This is a quiet story about making a new friend. Two children play separately in a park, each convinced the other wants to play by themselves. When they both spot the seesaw, they take a risk and play together forming a new friendship. Tomie dePaola is a celebrated children’s author and illustrator who recently delved into Easy Readers with this series. Everyone generally seems to love dePaola’s illustrations, but the children at my school feel like they are a little old fashioned and don’t naturally gravitate toward checking out his books. However, once I introduce his books to them they usually enjoy his stories. The scarce text is to the point and easy to follow. The soft watercolor illustrations give visual hints to help beginning readers identify new words. There is also a nice underlying message of friendship that leaves the reader with a smile.
Biscuit (Biscuit Easy Reader series) by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, 1996
Biscuit is an adorable yellow puppy getting ready for bedtime in this first installment of a very popular series of books that help children practice their reading skills. The storylines of the Biscuit books are simple, but there are many repeating words presented in different ways throughout the books to keep them interesting to new readers. This series is over twenty years old, but new books are still being published due to its popularity. It is a must have for the kindergarten classrooms in my school.
The Bug in the Jug Wants a Hug (Sounds Like Reading series) by Brian Cleary, 2009
Each book in this series concentrates on different vowel sounds. The two-page spreads follow the same format with a list of three words on the left-hand side with pictures underneath to help guide the reader. There is a big, bold illustration on the right-hand side of the page with one sentence underneath using the showcased words on the previous page. There is no real story here, but the use of rhymes, repetition, illustrations, and phonics makes this series a fun way for children to practice their reading skills.
Up! Tall! and High! by Ethan Long, 2012
It is easy to see why this book won the Geisel Award for the best Early Reader the year it was published. Simple phrases such as “I am tall” are repeated, but the illustrations help move the story along. For example, the first chapter features a small bird stating, “I am tall.” Then a bigger bird comes along and claims, “I am tall.” Using a fun lift-the-flap feature, another bird is revealed to be the tallest, but wearing stilts. There are three short stories in all that follow the same type of clever humor that should make children smile while they build confidence by repeating mostly simple one syllable words.
Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons (Toon Book series) by Agnes Rosenstiehl, 2008
This beginner graphic novel uses panels to showcase a little girl named Lily enjoying different activities during fall, winter, spring, and summer. Each season has its own short story with mostly easy to read words appearing in speech bubbles. This is a nice introduction to the comic book style for beginning readers.
Mittens (series) by Lola M. Schaefer, 2006
A kitten named Mittens is welcomed to his new home by a boy name Nick. Mittens initially feels scared and searches for a place to feel safe. The soft hues of the illustrations match the gentle feel of the story. Short sentences with large text make this a nice story for emergent readers.
Cat the Cat Who Is That (series) by Mo Willems, 2010
Using large bolded text along with speech bubbles, an exuberant cat introduces the reader to her friends: a mouse, a duck, and a fish. When the cat comes across a strange looking alien-like creature, the narrator asks the question repeated throughout the book, “Cat the Cat, who is THAT?”, which the cat responds, “I have no idea.” After some deliberation, the cat shouts, “It’s a NEW friend!” A great start to a series for children who can’t yet read Elephant and Piggie on their own, but crave a similar type of humor.
What This Story Needs Is a Pig In A Wig (series) by Emma J. Virjan, 2015
This book is such a fun and silly way to for children to practice a variety of vowel sounds. I debated about putting it on this list because there are a few words that are difficult like “blouse”, but it includes so many different combination of vowel of sounds, I think it could be really great practice for emerging readers. Rhyming words are paired together and there are visual clues to help readers identify new words. This is a silly story that has a sweet message of friendship and inclusion that makes it a standout in this genre.
While honorees can range in reading level, books that receive the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award are also excellent choices. This award, named after Dr. Seuss, is given annually to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished book for beginning readers.
You can find a list of past winners and honor books HERE.