One way to help children identify books that are a good fit is by using the five finger test:
- Pick a book and open it to any page.
- Start reading and hold up one finger for every word you don’t know.
- 0 – 1 fingers indicates that the book may be too easy
- 2 – 3 fingers means that this story is most likely a good fit and will allow children to learn new words
- 4 – 5 fingers signifies that this book may be too challenging for this time
Many of the below books are part of a series. If your reader enjoys the first book, I suggest finding more in the same series to continue their enthusiasm for reading.
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Easy Readers are books that help emergent readers build literacy skills. This genre is packed with wonderful books, but they range greatly in their reading level. For students entering second grade, I’m suggesting easy readers that are geared toward newly independent readers. These stories usually contain a good amount of dialogue, new vocabulary repeated often, and illustrations that provide visual clues to help explain what words mean.
Hi! Fly Guy (series) by Tedd Arnold
The funny story of a boy named Buzz and his pet fly is a go-to for teachers and librarians for reluctant new readers. There are almost twenty books in this series and my son has enjoyed every one. The stories are usually full of imagination, silly antics, and loyal friendship between a boy and his pet. Lexile: 380L/ Fountas & Pinnell: I
Unlimited Squirrels series by Mo Willems
Mo Willems’ hilarious easy reader series, Unlimited Squirrels, weaves in his signature style of humor with exciting childhood themes and milestones such as losing a tooth and learning to read. Filled with comical word play, children and adults alike will giggle at this comical new series that is full of amusing adventures, corny jokes, and fascinating facts! Lexile: 420L
The Mo Jackson series by David Adler; illustrated by Sam Ricks
There are surprisingly few easy readers available with a sports theme, but luckily the Mo Jackson series hits it out of the park. As the youngest and smallest boy on his team, Mo works extra hard to help his team win. Whether it is devising a surprise football play, trying to hit a home run, learning to pass a basketball, or practicing his soccer skills, Mo always does his best. Lexile: 470L/ Guided Reading Level: I
Charlie and Mouse (series) by Laurel Snyder; illustrated by Emily Hughes
This heavily illustrated chapter book features two relatable brothers and their everyday adventures. From waking their parents up in the morning to rounding up the neighborhood kids and trying to earn money by selling rocks, these tales are accessible and will resonate with many children. Lexile: 420L/ Fountas & Pinnell: J
Ling and Ting Not Exactly the Same (series) by Grace Lin
This Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor book stars two amiable twin sisters who partake in a variety of adventures in six short chapters. There is an old-fashion charm to these books that is both playful and whimsical. Elements of Chinese culture such as making dumplings and learning to use chopsticks are effortlessly woven in adding to the allure of the stories. Each chapter is only a few pages long, leaving children eager to read Ling and Ting’s next escapade. Lexile: 390L / Fountas & Pinnell: K
Henry and Mudge and the First Book of Their Adventures (series) by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
This unforgettable easy reader has withstood the test of time and is still a go-to for many classroom teachers. The story of a lonely boy who finds friendship with a large dog is relatable and many children will enjoy reading about the twosome’s many adventures together. Lexile: 460L/ Fountas & Pinnell: J
Penny series by Kevin Henkes
Award-winning author and illustrator Kevin Henkes brings his refined charm to this easy reader series starring a friendly mouse named Penny. Adorned with Kevin Henkes’ signature artwork, these quaint stories follow Penny as she shares a song with her family, finds a neighbor’s marble, thinks of a name for her doll, and waits for snow.
Penny’s quiet nature and curiosity is sure to resonate with many children and the books have a classic feel about them that will be attractive to parents and kids. Lexile: 470L
Frog and Toad Are Friends (series) by Arnold Lobel
There is a reason these classic easy readers have been popular for the last forty years. It’s hard not to smile at the sweet friendship between Frog and Toad and the droll exploits they share. The award-winning illustrations add to the quaint feel of the stories and children and adults will most likely cherish these enchanting tales. Lexile: 400L/ Guided Reading Level: K
King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats (series) by Dori Hillestad Butler; illustrated by Nancy Meyers
Kayla excitedly makes dog treats for her friend’s new puppy, but when three go missing, she suspects her own pet, King. Told from King’s point of view, he and Kayla work together to find the real culprit. Many readers will enjoy following the charming characters as they find clues and solve mysteries. Lexile: 440L / Fountas & Pinnell: L
Cornbread & Poppy by Matthew Cordell, 2022
While opposites in many ways, Cornbread and Poppy are the best of friends. When carefree Poppy doesn’t collect enough food for the winter, loyal Cornbread agrees to venture up the mysterious mountain outside their village to harvest food. Full of charming illustrations, this delightful friendship story has the perfect amount of drama and cuteness that kept my daughter engaged and excited to read. Guided Reading Level: L
Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell
Award-winning author Cece Bell’s quirky sense of humor fills the pages of this comical easy reader series starring two unusual best friends. Though Rabbit and Robot are both excited for their first sleepover, they quickly discover that they each have strong opinions on the activities for the night and must find a way to navigate the complexities of friendship. Lexile: 490L/ Fountas & Pinnell: L
Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan; illustrated by Marc Boutavant, 2022
Large colorful pictures accompany short chapters that share the adventures of a girl and her large brown dog. Animal lovers will particularly enjoy following along as Barkus meets his new family, sneaks into school, celebrates his birthday, and makes a new friend. Guided Reading Level: L
Tales For Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider, 2011
Made up of five hilarious chapters, a father tries to convince his son, James, to eat healthy food. When James declares that broccoli is disgusting, his father quickly suggests dirt, chewed gum, and dirty socks as alternative options. In the subsequent chapters, James’ clever father reveals several other comical stories to convince James to eat his food. This book won a Theodore Seuss Geisel Award for being an outstanding book for beginning readers. Lexile 500L
National Geographic Easy Reader Series
Filled with stunning photography, National Geographic has created an easy reader series that helps children build important literacy skills while also learning about the world around them. Each level contains different nonfiction elements such as table of contents, headings, captions, and sometimes diagrams. Learn more about the National Geographic Easy Reader Series HERE.
EARLY CHAPTER BOOKS
These books are broken up into chapters, are longer than easy readers usually averaging between 50 and 100 pages, include longer sentences, paragraphs, and a large amount of illustrations. The purpose of early chapter books is to help newly independent readers transition into longer fictional stories.
Unicorn and Yeti Sparkly New Friends (series) Scholastic Acorn Line by Heather Ayris Burnell; illustrated Hazel Quintanilla
This adorable story starring mythical creatures skillfully weaves in new vocabulary that is repeated often and is paired with an amusing story about a budding new friendship. In three short chapters, readers follow a magical unicorn and a furry yeti as they meet, find self-acceptance, and learn to support each other. Lexile: 380L / Fountas & Pinnell: J
Surf’s Up! (Moby Shinobi and Toby, Too series) Scholastic Acorn Line by Luke Flowers
Rhyming text follows a boy dressed in ninja attire as he and his dog spend a day at the beach. Action-packed illustrations paired with catchy wording will draw little readers into this amusing story. Lexile: 430L
Poppleton (series) Scholastic Acorn Line by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Mark Teague
Three classic stories of a city pig who moves to the country are combined in this new release that also includes drawing instructions and a writing prompt. The original Poppleton stories were written decades ago, but there is a quiet charm to these stories that make them feel timeless. Lexile: 460L/ Fountas & Pinnell: J
Meet Yasmin! (series) by Saadia Faruqi; illustrated by Hatem Aly
Yasmin is a spunky, creative second-grader learning how to navigate life. Her adventures are captured in short chapters filled with colorful illustrations making this early chapter book accessible for new readers. Pakistani and Muslim cultural details are effortlessly woven into the stories with a glossary and additional facts about Pakistan located in the backmatter.
Boris on the Move (series) Scholastic Branches Line by Andrew Joyner
With concise sentences, a simple plot line, and large, colorful illustrations, this is a great choice for novice readers. Boris is a likeable character who experiences relatable situations making this a charming series that many children will connect with. Lexile: 480L/ Fountas & Pinnell: K
Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton
The cheerful Narwhal and no-nonsense Jelly Fish are two unlikely friends who could not be more adorable. Upon meeting, they each believe the other is imaginary and the comical hijinks continue from there. These delightful books use a graphic novel format with large panels and dialogue to draw the reader in. There are three short stories in each book that are full of humor that both adults and children will appreciate. As a bonus, there are fun facts about sea creatures in between each chapter. Lexile: 490L
Happy Paws (Layla and the Bots series) by Vicky Fang; illustrated by Christine Nishiyama, 2020
Meet Layla, an inventor and rock star whose kindness and problem-solving skills are admirable. With its colorful illustrations and positive role model, kids and adults will love this new STEM-themed transitional chapter book! Lexile: 500L
My Family Adventure (Sofia Martinez series) by Jacqeline Jules; illustrated by Kim Smith
Sofia Martinez is a spirited second-grade girl who wants to stand out. Three short chapters filled with colorful illustrations and sprinkled with Spanish vocabulary follow Sofia as she finds a special look for school picture day, creates a piñata for her abuela’s birthday, and captures an escaped pet mouse. Lexile: 520L
Fox & Rabbit (series) by Beth Ferry; illustrated by Gergely Dudás, 2020
This sweet friendship story could not be more charming! Told in five vignettes, this delightful graphic novel follows a cheerful fox and an anxious rabbit who help each other overcome their fears, go on adventures, and learn what friendship is all about!
Eva’s Treetop Festival (Owl Diaries series) Scholastic Branches Line by Rebecca Elliott
Eva is a fashionable young owl who is excited to plan her school’s first ever treetop festival. She initially tries to do all the work herself, but learns the value in collaborating with friends. The diary format mixed with large, colorful pictures, makes this transitional chapter book very accessible to young readers. With tons of visual appeal, a plucky protagonist, and amusing wordplay, it’s no wonder this series is so popular. Lexile: 560L
Bo’s Magical New Friend (Unicorn Diaries series) Scholastic Branches Line by Rebecca Elliott
Kids who love mythical creatures will adore this new series. A unicorn named Bo journals about his fantastical world filled with unicorns who have magical powers. When a new unicorn joins his school, Bo learns a lesson in friendship. Filled with bright colors and interesting characters, this new heavily illustrated chapter book is sure to be a hit. Lexile: 540L
The Princess in Black (series) by Shannon Hale; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
This popular series stars Princess Magnolia who may appear poised and proper, but she harbors a secret identity as the Princess in Black. This daring girl bravely faces evil-doers and readers will relish in reading about the self-reliant heroine. Color illustrations break up the longer text making this chapter book more approachable for newly independent readers. Lexile: 510L/ Fountas & Pinnell: L
Henry Heckelbeck Gets a Dragon by Wanda Coven; illustrated by Priscilla Burris
Henry may seem like an ordinary boy preparing for his first day of school, but with his mom and sister as witches, magic and mayhem seem to follow him. When Henry decides to bring in his toy dragon to share with his class, he is shocked when it comes to life. As he tries to hide his dragon, he makes a new friend in the process. Lexile: 590L / Fountas & Pinnell: M
Home is Where the Heart Is (Good Dog series) by Cam Higgins; illustrated by Ariel Landy, 2020
Dog lovers will adore reading about the boisterous puppy named Bo Davis and his adventures with his farmyard friends. With large font and cute black and white illustrations, this is a very accessible chapter book for new readers. Lexile: 640 / Fountas & Pinnell: L
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon, 2015
As an exuberant little sister with a wild imagination, Dory is often ignored by her two older siblings. The lively text and illustrations follow Dory through her many comical antics attempting to get the attention of her family. Lexile 650
Even when children have learned to read on their own, it is still important to read to them.
Reading aloud is not only a wonderful time to bond with your child, but it is an opportunity to share rich vocabulary, model fluency, and introduce books that open their eyes and imaginations to new worlds and books that reflect their own reality.
Ronan The Librarian by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie; illustrated by Maderna, 2020
Teachers looking for a way to excite students about reading will love this clever new book that demonstrates that even the fiercest of barbarians can love to read.
Ronan is a mighty barbarian who enjoys invading, raiding, and trading. When he pillages a trunk full of books, however, it appears that he has gathered more trash than treasure. As he ponders what to do with the worthless loot, a picture catches his eye and immediately draws him into a surprisingly exciting story. Before he knows it, this “fierce raider became a fierce reader” and he can’t wait to share his new passion with all of his friends.
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Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Harry Bliss, 2007
Using a diary format, a fly captures her everyday adventures starting school, spending time with friends, and learning life lessons. Sprinkled with puns and fun facts about flies, this charming book is a real winner. I also highly recommend Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Spider.
Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016
Blaise Dragomir and George Slair have been assigned as pen pals for a school project. Although each is a reluctant writer, they are surprised by how much they enjoy writing to each other. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that Blaise is a dragon and George is a boy!
A Normal Pig by K-Fai Steele, 2019
Pip feels like a normal pig until a new pig comes to school and makes her question the things she likes. Her observant mother notices something is wrong and takes Pip to the city where she discovers the splendor of diversity. Upon returning to school, Pip has gained a new perspective and confidence to embrace the things she enjoys.
This brilliant story takes a realistic scenario and helps reinforce in children the importance of celebrating differences and individuality. This is one that is sure to spark several important discussions about anti-bullying.
Harlem Grown by Tony Hillery; illustrated by Jessie Hartland, 2020
Harlem Grown is the inspirational true story of how Tony Hillery and a group of students transformed an empty lot in Harlem into a gorgeous garden.
Tony Hillery wasn’t a gardener, but simply a man who saw a problem and did everything he could to solve it. Not only did Tony help make his neighborhood a more beautiful place, the plants thrived and provided fresh, healthy food for the students who tended to the garden. The engaging artwork combined with the concise, powerful text makes this a truly standout read aloud. The story is enhanced by a note from Tony that provides more details about the Harlem Grown organization and gives tips on how to start a garden anywhere.
On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex, 2020
(Ages 5 and up)
When a child wakes up with gum in their hair, family members offer up comical solutions for dislodging it that end with disastrous results. With each turn of the page, the story gets funnier and funnier ending with a sidesplitting punch line that makes our family giggle no matter how many times we’ve read this story. I continue to be in awe of Adam Rex’s clever, quirky storytelling and could not love his latest creative tale more.
Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand; illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, 2021
(Ages 5 and up)
This charming tale stars the endearing Laxmi who helps readers build a more positive self-image by celebrating body hair. Laxmi is shocked and embarrassed when her friends innocently suggest she should play a cat in their pretend game because she has tiny black hairs above her lip like whiskers. At home, her parents comfort her and explain how many women have a little mustache. Laxmi embraces her body hair and soon joyfully introduces mooches to her entire class. This subject is not covered in many books and readers with their own mooches will feel comforted and reassured by Laxmi and her self-confidence.
The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee; illustrated by Pascal Campion, 2020
(Ages 5 and up)
With its beautiful illustrations, captivating story that is full of imagination, and memorable characters who demonstrate how to make the best of a difficult situation, there is a lot to love about The Paper Kingdom.
When their babysitter cancels, two night-janitors bring their son to the office they clean and regale him with creative tales of the people who work there. This magical book takes what could be a dull event and transforms it into an enchanting evening with an uplifting ending. Our entire family loves this exceptional book and it sparked a meaningful conversation about different types of jobs.
Ocean! Waves for All by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by David Litchfield, 2020
(Ages 5 and up)
A personified ocean greets readers and shares many fun facts including how the sea is home to the biggest mammal in the world and the longest mountain range. With engaging artwork and fascinating details sprinkled in, this is an entertaining and educational story. We also love the other books in the Our Universe series.
Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro; illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, 2017
(Ages 4 and up)
Bunny loves listening to storytimes held outside the library, but when the air turns cool and storytimes are moved indoors, Bunny must come up with a plan! This quiet celebration of books and reading could not be more charming!
Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq; illustrated by Stevie Lewis, 2021
(Ages 5 and up)
After a rough week at school, Fatima is excited to venture into the woods on her very first camping trip with her family. Here she finds her element where she regains her confidence. This sweet coming-of-age story effortlessly weaves in components of Indian culture while celebrating family. Kids will be clamoring to go on their own camping trips after reading this sweet story!
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating; illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens, 2017
(Ages 5 and up)
My science-oriented kids love this interesting story about a determined female scientist who overcame criticism to become one of the leading zoologists to study sharks. This colorful picture book biography introduces children to Eugenie Clark, who discovered new species of fish, published several books on sharks, and was the first to train sharks proving their intelligence. A “Shark Bite” section in the back educates readers with additional facts about sharks while a timeline shares highlights of Eugenie’s impressive life.
For more book suggestions, check out the below lists.