Friday, October 16, 2009

Let's Start at the Beginning

Many people have been asking me for age specific book lists. Let's start with those designed for the beginning reader.

Easy Readers are the first books that people usually read by themselves. This trend started with Dr. Seuss and The Cat in the Hat which has a controlled vocabulary of just over 200 words. This book was inspired by a magazine article that wondered if children had a hard time learning to read because the first books we gave them were not very interesting and had illustrations that did not build on the plot. Seuss tested this theory and found great success for himself and for young readers.

The story goes that Bennett Cerf then bet Seuss $50.00 that he could not write a book using only 50 words. Green Eggs and Ham, the response to that challenge, is one of the most popular books in the English language—in 2001 Publisher’s Weekly said it was the fourth most popular book in the English language. I love the story, perhaps not entirely based on fact, that when Seuss went to give a speech at MIT or some other important and serious university, the entire student audience stood to recent that beloved book back to its audience.

From Seuss’s beginning grew a new genre of books—the Easy Reader.

Here are a few of my favorites. You will recognize some from your own childhood or from reading them to a special child. I hope that some are new to you and start you on exploring all of the quality literature that has been written for those just beginning a life long love of reading. (As you look for these titles, remember that every publisher seems to have a different system of marking the titles. What is a level 2 in one series may be level 4 in something else. Be sure to look in the book to see if it suits your particular needs, both in terms of reading level and interest.)

Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold introduces young readers to an amazing and very funny fly.

Minnie and Moo will soon become your bovine favorites in this series by Denys Cazet.

Sam and the Firefly, Are You My Mother, and Go Dog Go are just a few of the well-loved books by P. D. Eastman.

Danny and the Dinosaur by Sid Hoff endures as a favorite.

Pinky and Rex adventures are brought to you from the pen of James Howe.

Frog and Toad and the many more in this series and others by Arnold Lobel are read over and over again.

Fox All Week and the rest of this series by Edward Marshall made my husband laugh out loud when he read them to our daughters.

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik will always hold a special spot in my heart.

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish and continued today by Herman Parrish is loved by any child old enough to enjoy playing with words and their meanings.

Cynthia Rylant writes for all ages and her three Easy Reader series are a great introduction— Take a look at Henry and Mudge, Pinky and Rex and Mr. Putter and Tabby.

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat has inspired many a young detective.

Good Night, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas a perfect bedtime story and a fun story to read at any time of the day.

Amanda Pig and her brother Oliver Pig bring humor and life to several books by Jean Van Leeuwen.

Commander Toad by Jane Yolen commands a series of wild space adventures.


Several publisher have started putting out quality non-fiction in an easy reader format.

Dorling Kindersly (DK) has several non-fiction readers that feature the same kinds of great pictures in the Eyewitness books but with more straight forward information.

Scholastic Rookie books are feature bright illustrations and photos along with simple text to talk about topics in health, science, geography, and biography.

Seymour Simon produces fact-filled books with amazing photos for slightly older kids and now has a series of See More Readers for the youngest readers.

Time for Kids, Random House, and Golden Books also have good non-fiction books on the market.

Two of my favorite non-fiction titles are The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford and George Washington and the General’s Dog by Frank Murphy.

As you begin to look at these books you will soon realize that simple sentences and a controlled vocabulary does not mean the the lose of a good story or some solid information.


Linda's Library Corner said...

I am so glad you also included nonfiction beginning reading books. Many times people overlook these books.

Linda said...

Beginning readers are great for inspiring a love of reading non-fiction. I even suggest that sometimes older researchers use them to get a grasp of where to start their research in more advanced books.

Linda's Library Corner said...

It is a good suggestion for you to tell older researchers to start with the easy nonfiction so that they can understand their subject and to move on to more advanced books.