Let’s face it, the learning-to-read-stage can be a little painful if you don’t have the elementary teacher gene. Simple words, books with no actual plot, ten (thousand) minutes per page. When my twins were in this stage it took every ounce of my limited supply of patience to get through some of those books. They’ve graduated onto early chapter books now (we survived!) but fortunately we managed to find some early reader series that both the kids and I could enjoy during the learning-to-read-stage.
I’m sharing some of our favorites with you, so that you can survive and maybe even enjoy this stage with your child. And maybe they’ll learn that reading can be fun too.
The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow and other Andy Griffins books We discovered this book near the end of our time with early readers, but my kids loved its bright cover and nonsensical silliness. Kids absolutely judge books by their cover, and so standout artwork is an important part of early readers. Humor is a big selling point too, and not just for the kids. Books are a lot more tolerable to listen to when they’re funny. Griffins has a pile of other books that we didn’t get to, but they look equally silly and fun. You know you have the right book if your kids are giggling their way through it.
Dixie by Grace Gilman The Dixie books (there are a bunch) hit on another important theme when picking books: animals. Maybe it’s just because I won’t let my kids have a dog, but they eat up puppy stories. Dixie gets into and out of all kinds of trouble in these stories and my daughter, especially, loved to read them.
Digger the Dinosaur by Rebecca Dotlich If animals are a selling point with kids, dinosaurs are a sure thing. As a parent, I love stories that have characters working through experiences my children also have to deal with, like doing chores, going to school, etc. Digger may be a bright green dinosaur, but he has to clean his room before he can go play. That sounds like our house. My kids chose it because of the dinosaur, and I’m not complaining if they learn how to behave as they read.
Noodleheads by Tedd Arnold This is another book we found shortly before graduating to chapter books, so we only read a couple, but the kids loved them. These books are full of silliness that kept my kids flipping pages, and prove that simple stories do not have to be boring or bland. Great artwork doesn’t hurt either. These are formatted as graphic novels, so the art is integral to the story. The books are on the longer side for early readers, so they are good to introduce when a child’s reading skills have had time to develop.
Max Spaniel by David Catrow My kids were a little skeptical of these books when I first suggested them, as the illustration style doesn’t immediately appeal to them, but once they got into the book, that style was a great boon to the stories. The details in the illustrations kept them studying the pages. These stories about a dog named Max that doesn’t think he’s a dog have a surprisingly humorous element and my kids picked up this book to study the pictures even after we’d finished reading.
Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli Biscuit is another cute puppy series, and to be honest, I didn’t read a lot of these books with my kids. But what stood out to me is that when I asked them what books they chose at school, nearly every time, one of my twins would say they chose a Biscuit book. These books are less flashy than a lot of the others on the list, but the antics of an adorable and relatable puppy can’t help but draw us all in.
Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and James Dean Pete the Cat is well known among children for combining just about everything kids want in a book. The bright child-like illustrations immediately appeal to kids. The main character is an animal, but experiences many familiar childhood situations, like playdates, pets, and snow days. I particularly appreciated that Pete doesn’t always succeed. This resonated and sometimes exactly mirrored my children’s lives and Pete gave them ways to handle those experiences in positive ways. Pete always adds a little humor in too. Like I said, these books combine everything you could want into one series.
Anything by Jan Thomas In my opinion Jan Thomas is a genius. There is no one else that can combine so few words into a story that is so compelling and downright hilarious. Our first introduction to Jan Thomas was her book Dust Bunnies, and it’s not just a great book for kids. It’s a great book. I’m smiling just thinking about it. Thomas has a very simple style both for the story and the accompanying artwork that is immediately appealing. The colors are bright and there is no “noise” in the illustrations. Until I had children, I didn’t realize how much this simplicity appeals to kids. They don’t need intricate detail. Jan Thomas books are quick reads, even for early readers, and are good at the beginning, although they never get old. My kids still choose her books when we see them on the library shelves.
Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold If you are paying attention, you may notice that this is the second series on the list by Tedd Arnold. It’s no secret that we’re fans. When I picked up the first Fly Guy book, I was afraid it might be a gimmick. The cover was shiny, which is a big draw for kids, but sometimes the content inside children’s books doesn’t match the bling on the outside. Fortunately, in this case, I was wrong. My kids and I fell in love with Buzz and his pet, Fly Guy. Fly Guy books are a great length for early readers, not packed with words, but long enough to contain an actual story. And if the idea of a pet fly isn’t humorous enough, there are always plenty of laughs in each story. I also like the way the stories are narrated with a relatable kid’s perspective. These books never get old for me or the kids and have to be on the top of any list of early readers.
Elephant and Piggie by Mo Williams Like Jan Thomas, Williams uses simple illustrations and limited words to make incredible books. The pictures are simple and there are never more than a few words on a page, making them great books for the earliest readers. But they don’t get old and we continued to read them even after my kids’ reading level had advanced. Like many of the books already listed, these pack in plenty of laughs. The simplicity of these books makes them very approachable for kids that are hesitant to take on reading. Along with humor and simplicity, there are great morals to many of the stories. We sometimes had fights about who got to read them first. They’re that good.
Finding good early reader books can make the process of learning to read so much more enjoyable for both kids and parents. Hopefully these books can set you on the right path. What are your favorite early reader books?
Click on the graphic for each book to link to the book on amazon. When your kids are ready to move on to early chapter books, you can look at my recommendations for those as well.