Cumulative 1st Grade Books: Stories That Build On Themselves

Several classic 1st grade books build on themselves, starting simple and becoming more complicated as they go along. This kind of book is called a cumulative story, or a cumulative tale. These stories start simply: This is the house that Jack built. The House That Jack Built by Simms Taback Then they add a little more: This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built. Each page gets slightly more complicated, with some new information added each time.

Cumulative stories are great for beginning readers, because on each new page they only need to figure out a few new words, then have the satisfaction of reading a page full of text that is familiar to them. The rhythmic language in these fun 1st grade books is also perfect for read-alouds.

  • I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (traditional)
    There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. I Know An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly I don't know why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she'll die. This crazy tale gets bigger and crazier until its predictably sad end. I like the versions illustrated by Nadine B. Westcott or Simms Taback.

  • Too Much Noise. Too Much Noise
    An old man finds his creaky, squeaky house much too noisy. He goes to a wise man who counsels him first to get a cow, then a dog, a sheep, and so on. His house gets progressively louder, until the wise man gives his final counsel. Kids will love doing the animal sounds!

  • Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat Instead of building up more and more things, pieces of Joseph's coat get gradually taken away as it gets old and reused into different things. The brilliance of this book is in the cut-out pages and the gorgeous illustrations.

  • The Jacket I Wear In The Snow.
    The Jacket I Wear In The Snow
    This book is about the layers and layers of clothes you wear before going out in the snow! "This is the scarf, wooly and red, that's caught on the zipper that's stuck on the jacket I wear in the snow." Fun rebus word pictures make even hard words accessible for new readers.

  • The House That Jack Built icon (traditional)
    House That Jack Built Jack builds himself a house. But one thing leads to another, and soon Jack's house has a lot more going on inside than he bargained for! You may have to explain such words as "malt" and "shorn", but this classic continues to be great fun to read out loud.

  • The Napping House. The Napping House Granny lies down for a nap, but as time goes on, more and more visitors come join granny and fall asleep on top of her. The story gets funnier as the pile grows, ending with a big, unexpected surprise.

These 1st grade books beg to be read over and over. Read them out loud together and try to guess what will come next!


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey