Books for beginning readers are easy to find, but knowing which are right for your little reader can be a guessing game. Here is quick description of some of the most popular beginning reader series.
Also, in order to help you avoid my mistake of starting with Level 1 of the I Can Read Series—which turned out to be much too advanced for a true beginner—I’ve briefly described how each series is labeled or how it starts. It turns out, you’ll need to start with “My Very First Books” for the I Can Read series, Step 1 for the Step Into Reading series, and Level A for the Nonfiction Sight Word Readers.
The Best Books for Your Beginning Reader
Bob Books from Scholastic are great for beginning readers learning to sound out small words. They are intentional about introducing just a few sounds per book. The Set 1 box says, “With four sounds in the first story, children can read a whole book.” New sounds are added gradually, so you’ll want to work your way through this series in order. The illustrations are simple with minimal color, but the stories often have a little humor.
First Little Readers
First Little Readers from Scholastic are box sets of small books with one line of text per page and full-color illustrations. You can start with First Little Readers Level A or the Sight Word Readers pack for learning the “first 50 sight words.” These sets also come with a guide for parents reading with beginning readers at home. They have simple text, but are not as intentional and gradual with introducing new sounds and letter combinations as Bob Books.
I Can Read
The I Can Read books from HarperCollins are also great for early readers. Look for the ones labeled “My Very First Books.” Then your child will move on to “My First Books” and then onto Level 1 and up. The Tug the Pup and Friends box sets are labeled numerically and feature full-color illustrations and simple text for beginners. As children move up in levels, they can begin reading about familiar and beloved characters such as Pete the Cat, Pinkalicious, Danny and the Dinosaur, and the Berenstain Bears.
Nonfiction Sight Word Readers
Another set from Scholastic, these little nonfiction books talk about simple concepts with photographic images and simple sentences. They also use mini pictures above a written word within the sentences on each page to help children recognize new words. Level A introduces 25 sight words, and there are several levels to work through.
Step Into Reading
In the Step Into Reading Books, you can start with Step 1: Ready to Read. These books have large print with one- or two-syllable words and full color pictures. Step Into Reading carries children from beginning reading through until they are ready for chapter books, and there are plenty of books to choose from as you move through the levels. Children will find plenty of familiar cartoon and movie characters they can read about on their own, including Batman, Cinderella, SpongeBob, and more.
Oxford Reading Tree Songbirds
These lovely beginning readers by Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo) are a hit at my house. The stories and illustrations are equally colorful. These books focus on phonics skills with specific sounds and letter combinations in each book. The genius of these books is that they say a lot with a few words and an expressive illustration. The stories are engaging and entertaining, so they are fun to talk about as your little reader sounds out the words.