When I was a child, there were precious few easy to read books. I cut my teeth on Dr. Seuss and Dick and Jane. These days, there are countless phonics books, sight word books, and easy readers, just waiting to take our kids on the journey from new reader to chapter book connoisseur.
Most easy readers are divided by reading levels, but you should know that each series uses a slightly different system for rating their books. If your child is reading at level 2 in one series, it doesn't necessarily follow that she will be at level 2 in a different series.
Let's take a look at each of the major easy reader series and see what makes each one unique.
These are some of the best phonics books on the market for very beginning readers. The first books focus primarily on 3-letter words with short vowels, and the words and sentences increase slightly in difficulty with each new book.
The authors now have books on sight words, and these are written in the same systematic way as their phonics books. Some children may find the Bob Books rather dull, but very beginning readers often find the simplicity and the graduated pace very helpful.
Now I'm Reading!
This relatively new series is a lot of fun, and it has a lot in common with the Bob Books. These easy to read books also come in groups of well-structured stories, focusing on short vowels, long vowels, and sight words in a very clear manner. To my mind, the stories and the art are more engaging than the Bob Books, with funny animal plots (such as an ape on a date who ate all the food when his date was late). The authors of this series—which is abbreviated Nir!—also offers children's plays and activity books called 'Read It, Write It, Draw It'.
I Can Read Books
Ready to Read, and
Step Into Reading
These easy to read books have a great many things in common with each other. To begin with, they are distinct from picture books and other children's books because of their smaller size, like a skinnier version of chapter books. Unlike the Bob Books and Nir!, these series freely combine words with long and short vowels, and sight words. Many of the books have a page in the back highlighting words from the book, which kids can practice.
These series are distinctive because they use many different illustrators and authors, so there is quite a variety of book types. There are both fiction and nonfiction, and many favorite characters from films or from harder picture books are featured. In fact, the main difference between the series seems to be the selection of characters found in each.
In addition to the characters unique to each series, and the superheroes that all of them seem to feature, each series has a few popular favorites. The I Can Read Books feature Fancy Nancy, Berenstain Bears, Frog and Toad, Veggie Tales, and Amelia Bedelia, Scholastic Readers has Clifford, Magic School Bus, Scooby Doo, Poppleton, and I Spy books. Step Into Reading is more film based, with Disney and Pixar characters such as Toy Story, Nemo, and Ariel, but it also has a nice selection of nonfiction history and science books. Ready to Read is full of familiar characters: Dora, Olivia, Spongebob, Smurfs, and Peanuts, to mention a few.
Elephant and Piggie
, by Mo Willems
This delightful series is quite different from other easy to read books. There are no levels (the difficulty is comparable to reading levels 1 or 2 in other series). There are just two characters, the friends Elephant and Piggie. While the vocabulary is simple, the stories are quirky and funny; my fifth graders would read these over and over. The man is a genius, and his other books are fabulous, too.
Speaking of genius, how can we leave out the grandfather of all easy to read books? Hop On Pop, Fox In Socks, Green Eggs and Ham, Cat In the Hat, and other favorites are part of the Beginner Books collection that will be simpler for young readers to handle.
Stone Arch Readers
These beginning readers are super-colorful, ultra-cartoony, and have more than your average trucks, cars, and robots. Quirky and fun, each page has full-color illustrations with the text in various spots throughout the page. Each book is a kid-magnet; they won't be able to put these down.
Nate the Great,
by Marjorie Sharmat
He had big teeth... He sniffed me. I sniffed him back. And we
were friends. These fun detective stories are easy to read and are perfect for paving the way to chapter books.
Investigative first graders will want to read the whole series!
To find out more about any of the series on this page, just click on its title or picture. You will be taken to The Book Depository, where you can see the individual books in each series, and you have the option to buy books if you like. (Find out why I am such a fan of the Book Depository.)
The most important thing is that kids like their books, so base your book choices more on interest than on strict reading level. A more difficult book that your child loves will motivate him to keep learning, while a relatively easy book will still give some good practice. A bookshelf full of beloved books is one of the best ways you can help a child enjoy reading.