This is an updated version of a post I wrote for the PBS Parents blog Booklights as part of my "Bookworm Basics" series. The original article appeared in August 2010. Although geared toward parents, teachers and librarians may find these posts valuable as hand-outs on back-to-school nights or for sharing in parent-teacher conferences, or even on their classroom blogs!
Oh, how I have procrastinated filling the early reader shelf! This is a very fluid period, not unlike your child's transition from crawling to pulling up to walking independently. Looking back, one probably came pretty quickly on the heels of the other. Finding easy readers that have longevity on your bookshelf can be a challenge, but not an impossible task.
As the kids in our lives start learning to read, they are quickly moving beyond recognizing individual letters to combining them into words. Students move fairly quickly from books with one word per page to two or three sentences on a page. From there it transitions to short paragraphs and then short chapters.
There are days when it seems like the process moves at a snails pace, but then comes the moment when it looks like we got there in the blink of an eye!
Should I Buy or Borrow?
The short answer is both. Because kids will move through these books at a steady pace,quickly, variety is definitely an ally!Your local library and your child's school library have lots of excellent choices that will engage young readers.
You definitely want an early reader bookshelf at home, too. It is important for kids to own their own books and to have fun reading at their fingertips. Remember when your toddler "read" a story to you? It was probably one you read over and over.
That same level of repetition and reading aloud are what helps reinforce what those letter combinations look like as we see them over and over again. Beginning easy readers have lots of "sight words," also called high frequency words that we see all the time. They often use rhyme, as well, to help kids understand word families.
Recycle & Repurpose
Did "rhymes" remind you of any books? If you still have them, pull out some of those toddler books that have pictures and simple words. They are established favorites, but now your daughter can read them and use them to build a "bank" of words she recognizes. Bonus idea: Let her create picture/word cards that she can hang up or make her own book with.
You might pull out some favorite picture books, too. If you think your son has memorized the story, then ask him to point to each of the words as he reads. That will force him to look at the page and the content. You might also try reading the book from the last page to the first.
Recommended Classics and New Titles, Too
Although easy readers are not generally literary classics, Dr. Seuss has shown us that there are are always exceptions! Just like Hop on Pop and The Cat in the Hat, there are easy readers that we keep and enthusiastically wait to share with our grandchildren.
Dr. Seuss is the master of the easy reader classic, but there are other authors who ascribe to his philosophy of great books for new readers. Some of those books, like Mo Willems' Cat the Cat and Elephant and Piggy series have the "I Can Read" imprimatur on them. But some - like Duck! Rabbit! and Little Oink! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - don't scream "easy reader" but are delightful choices for new readers, too.
When searching for books that can double as read-along stories and developmental readers, look for simple illustrations and lots of white space on a page; short sentences; and/or rhyming text.
Do you have any favorite easy readers ... or picture books that can double as perfect selections for developing readers? What's most popular in your early elementary classroom?
Terry Doherty is a Stay-at-Home Mom, reading mentor, and a family literacy advocate. She is the founder and Executive Director of The Reading Tub(r), and is the force behind Share a Story - Shape a Future, an annual blog tour for literacy. You'll find reviews by families for families on The Reading Tub website; and her ideas for reading on Family Bookshelf, her blog.