Summer Book Hook: Early Readers

Happy Summer! And welcome to the first edition of the Summer Book Hook: 10 weeks of Recommended Reads for Kids!

I mentioned last week in my post, Tips to Get Kids Reading This Summer, that I’ll be sharing a weekly book list of recommended kids reads throughout the summer. Tried and true, new and old, kid-approved books to encourage them to keep them coming back for more.

The first Summer Book Hook theme is dedicated to Early Readers. Early Reader (also known as Easy Reader) books are books that act as stepping stones for early literacy. A common question parents and caregivers ask about these books is usually, “What do the levels mean? And how do I know which one to use with my child?” Each publisher has a different way of classifying the levels of Easy Reader books- whether it be word count, color coded, or by numbered levels- but for the most part they fall under similar categories:

Pre-Level 1 & Level 1: For the emergent reader. Uses repetitive language, picture clues, and rhyme and rhythm. The stories are usually very short with short sentences and large font.

Level 2: Reading, but with guidance. These readers are getting the hang of reading, but still need assistance understanding certain words. The sentences are longer and the stories are longer.

Level 3 & Up: These books are for children ready to read on their own. Level 3 readers still may need help with a word occasionally.  The stories are longer than Level 2 books and are broken up into short chapters.

If you have a beginner reader or think you’re child is ready to attempt reading, Reading Rockets has wonderful tips to help determine if your child is ready to read and how to work with a learning reader. Also, be sure to check out Reading Rockets Reading Topics A-Z.

Below are a few off-the-bat suggestions on selecting books for your reader. Following that is a kid-approved booklist of Easy Reader favorites.

 Let’s start at the very beginning…..

Fip-a-Word: Pig Wig by Harriet Zeifert, illustrated by Yukiko Kido

The beginner’s beginner books. Bob Books are an excellent place to start. I also recommend trying a personal favorite, Flip-a-Word Books, like Pig Wig and Snake Cake. These are extremely clever and also regularly recommended by a couple of children’s librarians I work with.

The Crossover Characters…

Fancy Nancy Sees Stars by Jane O’ Conner

Favorite picture book characters are a great way to transition into Easy Reader books. Especially, since the reader is already familiar and comfortable with a character they like. Publishers picked up on this fast and have produced an excellent variety of Early Readers books feature favorite picture book characters. Popular characters like Fancy Nancy, Thomas the Train, Splat the Cat, Clifford, Bernstein Bears, Aurthur, Curious George, Pinkalicious, Olivia, Dora the Explorer, Dog and Bear, Critter, Max and Ruby… shall I go on? There are so many to choose from!

Boys & Star Wars…

What is a Wookiee? by Laura Buller

It’s been my experience that boys especially love to read books based on popular TV shows and movies. Star Wars, The Avengers, Pokemon, Lego Ninjago… they can’t seem to stay on a library shelf.

Non-Fiction Rules!

Ponies and Horses by Fiona Lock

I distinctly remember one of my favorite easy reader books was not a fiction book, it was a book about the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, Tut’s Mummy Lost… And Found. DK Beginning to Read Books has plenty of non-fiction options for the first time reader all the way to the to confident independent reader. Bugs, dinosaurs, space, history, baby animals, natural disasters; you name it, they’ve got it.

Keep Your Picture Books!

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Don’t ditch picture books! Books by authors Bill Martin Jr., Nancy Tafuri, Lauren Vaccaro Seeger, Lois Ehlert, Antoinette Portis, Pat Hutchins and the like are also great tools for early readers.

Kid-Approved Early Reader Favorites:

Pre-Level 1 & Level 1 Books:

Gus Gets Scared by Frank Remkiewicz

Chicken said, “Cluck!” by Judyann Ackerman Grant, pictures by Sue Truesdell

Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff

Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold

Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman

Biscuit series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories

Hop on Pop (and let’s face it, all easy reader books) by the incomparable Dr. Seuss

I Like Bugs by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

May I Please Have a Cookie by Jennifer E. Morris

Level 2 Books

Frog and Toad are Friends and the Frog and Toad Series by Arnold Lobel

Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parish, Pictures by Fritz Siebel

Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson

Dragon’s Fat Cat and the Dragon Tales series by Dav Pilkey

In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories retold by Alvin Schwartz, pictures by Dirk Zimmer

Level 3 Books

Fox Be Nimble and the Fox Tales series by James Marshall

Frog and Friends: Party at the Pond   and Frog and Friends books by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Josee Masse

Minnie and Moo: The Case of the Missing Jelly Doughnut and the Minnie and Moo series by Denys Cazet

Rotten Ralph Helps Out and the Rotten Ralph series by Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel

Many of the books mentioned are a part of a series or the author’s specialty is early reader books.

Let me know if you’d like more Early Reader suggestions!

Good Luck and Happy Reading!

image source: frog and toad


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  1. […] early chapter books… all are similar terms to define books for readers ready to graduate from early reader books, but not quite ready to tackle middle grade fiction. The average age is 6-9 years old, or 1st […]

  2. […] Chicken Said, “Cluck!” by Judyann Ackerman Grant, pictures by Sue Truesdell […]

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