Finding books with engaging content for brand new readers is tough. If you regularly read high-quality picture books aloud to your child, she can easily become frustrated with the simple storylines in easy readers that she reads herself. But practice makes perfect, so it is important to press on and encourage your child to find books she enjoys that she can read independently.
Below you will find some of our favorite books for brand new readers. And by brand new, I mean a child who is just learning to decode (sound out) words and can recognize some sight words. Various publishers (and authors) have different ways of leveling “beginning readers” and it is difficult, as a parent, to know which books to start with. Level 1 in the 1 Can Read books, for example, are WAY too hard for brand new readers. Here are three things to look for when finding a book for a brand new reader:
1. Colorful and engaging illustrations that give clues to tricky words. A child does not want to feel like they are reading a worksheet, they want to read a book. Most children are accustomed to picture books with beautiful illustrations, so try to find something that they can enjoy looking at while they are learning to read.
2. Short sentences with sight words and easily decodable words. When your child is just beginning to decode, you’ll want to find books with short vowel sounds without digraphs (/th/, /sh/, /ch/) or tricky phonics rules. As your child progresses, you can slowly add these phonics skills.
3. Repetition. Books that repeat the same phrase on every page (with small changes) are a great way to increase a child’s confidence by helping them to feel successful at reading. Once a child has decoded the words on one page, he/she can then read the next page fluently if it repeats itself. And before you say, “But they aren’t really reading, they are just memorizing“, let me just tell you that reading memorized books is a great way for brand new readers to feel successful. Plus, sight word recognition is all about memorizing as well!
Most importantly, keep reading engaging picture books aloud to your child at least 20 minutes each day even after your child has started reading on his/her own. Even though your child needs time to practice her new skills, she really needs to be encouraged in her love for reading while you model fluent reading and comprehension strategies. One trick that works well for us is a tit-for-tat routine. I’ll read Big Brother a book if he also reads one aloud to me. Before we know it, we’ve both read 3 or 4 books to each other!
School by Gay Su Pinnell
These High Frequency Readers are a gem. I bought a set when I was teaching and dug them out of storage once Big Brother began reading a few months ago. The only problem is, I don’t think they are in print any longer so you have to find them used! Some of the other titles in the series include: Lunch, School, I Like, I Am, and We Can Go.
We have the Level B set of these Scholastic First Little Readers and I am very impressed. The text structure is predictable and the pictures help give clues to the text when a child gets stuck. The pages are ALL printed in color (something that you are hard-pressed to find with many inexpensive book sets). And the price is right…there are 25 books in each set! The only downside is that the books are pretty small. There are also Level A and Level C sets available as well.
Rookie Reader Boxed Set (Level B): This boxed set includes 3 books with simple text and colorful illustrations. Other Rookie Reader titles we have enjoyed that aren’t in this particular boxed set are: Bugs!, When I Grow Up (pictured above), and Where is Max?
This boxed set comes with four books with colorful illustrations. The text is repetitive and the stories are engaging and appealing to young children. I also really like that this particular set has a paragraph on the front flap for the parent/caregiver to read aloud to the child prior to reading. This helps set the stage for the book and increases reading comprehension. We also really like the series Mouse Has Fun.
Kites by Bettina Ling
This book is all about repetition and teaching children to read color words. The text that repeats throughout the book is “A (color) kite flies” with the last page including two new sentences.
Is it Dark? Is it Light? by Mary D. Lankford
This book is great for teaching opposites. It too has a lot of repetition, but requires a child to sound out many of the antonyms.
I must admit…I am not a huge fan of BOB books. In my humble opinion, the illustrations are too simple (they are black-and-white sketches) and some of the books do not have any type of storyline. They are, however, great for teaching children to decode. We have this set and it has been useful, but Big Brother has never chosen to read a BOB book aloud (he chooses the other more colorful books shared above). All in all, they are nice to have around the house but aren’t the most engaging books. As long as you use them every now and then (and not all the time), they can be beneficial to your child’s ability to decode. We don’t have the Sight Word set, but it looks like it would be beneficial as well.
What are your family’s favorite books for brand new readers???
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