Are you looking for the best books for beginning readers? Happily Ever Elephants has the ultimate list of the best easy reader and pre reader books for your kids and students! Check it out below!
Pickle and my twin nieces are in kindergarten. They are mastering their sight words, excelling at decoding words, and they are well on their way to reading. Pickle is obsessed with the fact that he can officially pick up books now and read some of the words on his own. Even better? When he can pick up a book and read nearly all of the words on his own, with very little help from me. But this only happens when he has just the right books.
When I spent the afternoon at my sister’s house over the weekend, she told me she was struggling with finding the right books for the twins. She had checked out HEE’s list of chapter books for newly independent readers, and luckily she had some of them at home on her older son’s bookshelf. But what did she find? They were wayyyyy too hard for her kids who are just beginning their reading journey. So of course, she said I needed to put out a blog post, stat, for moms like her who have no idea how to bridge the gap between picture books and beginning chapter books. So Steph, this one is for you!
Here’s the deal. Early readers are VERY different from beginning chapter books. Early readers (also known by parents as “beginning readers,” “emerging readers” or “easy readers,” all of which are used interchangeably here and elsewhere) have some pretty distinct characteristics. For instance, the font in these books is large, and the sentences are short. The pictures provide supportive clues to the reader. The text has a lot of repetition when it comes to structure (often containing word families and rhyme), and the words are fairly simple and easy to decode.
How do you know if your little one is ready for these books? Your kids may benefit from beginning reader books if they are doing the following: (1) mastering sight words, (2) beginning to decode unknown words, often through chunking the text (breaking words up into smaller components), (3) building their fluency to make their reading smoother and less robotic, and (4) self-correcting when the word they are reading doesn’t make sense.
Keep in mind that each publisher has a different system for “leveling” their beginning reader books, so a “level 1” published by one imprint may be slightly easier or more challenging than a different publishers’ series of books. That being said, no matter the publisher, you will know that as the numbers progress, so too does the complexity of the text.
Before we get to our list of the best books for beginning readers, there’s one thing you should know. A lot of these books — I’ll say this as nicely as possible — a lot of them just aren’t very good. Because they have to be so simple, the stories are often lacking. The problem with that? A dull story won’t typically fulfill the very critical function of engaging your emergent reader.
Pickle and I tested out a BUNCH of books, and in our minds, these are the very best easy readers — the ones he keeps coming back to because they are engaging, silly and fun. And coming back to them is a GOOD thing. When it comes to easy readers, the more times your child reads a book, the more he will hone and sharpen his skills, and the more his fluency improves. Since practice is key when it comes to reading, repetition is awesome. So what does this mean? A good early reader is vitally important to help foster an early love of reading! We hope you love this list of easy to read books for beginners as much as we do!
The Ultimate List of the Best Books for Beginning Readers!
The Adventures of Otto Collector’s Set, by David Milgrim: We absolutely love this set of six books about Otto the Robot and all of his great adventures! This is the perfect starter collection for new readers who are beginning to master sight words and decode words all on their own. Several books in this this set have won Theodore Seuss Geisel Award Honors for being distinguished book for beginning readers. We can’t rave about this starter set enough!
Big Egg, by Molly Coxe: When Hen wakes up to find a huge egg in her nest, she has no idea who it belongs to. Is it from the cat? The cow? The dog? Big Egg will keep your littles guessing until the end and then leave them with the giggles. And the best part? It’s a wonderful first little reader that conveys a message of love and acceptance.
Drop it, Rocket, by Tad Hills: Everyone’s favorite pup from How Rocket Learned to Read is the star of this early reader about Rocket and his eagerness to learn new words! Rocket loves learning the words for all of his favorite objects, and then putting the words on his special word tree. But, uh-oh! When it comes to the word “boot,” Rocket loves the red boot in his mouth so much, he won’t let it go — and if he won’t let it go, he can’t learn new words! There’s only one special special object Rocket loves more than boots, but will it convince him to drop his prized possession? We love this one for it’s ease, but also for the way it champions books!
Dancing Dinos Go to School, by Sally Lucas and illustrated by Margeaux Lucas: Two Dancing Dinos love to jump right out of the book they are in and make mayhem wherever they end up- in this case, a library and a classroom! Great rhyme, fun theme and silly all around. The Dancing Dinos are a hit in our house!
Hot Dog, by Molly Coxe: Poor dog is so very, very hot, but no one wants to share the things they have that might cool him off! He can’t have some of mom’s lemonade, and cat won’t share her perfect spot in the shade. Will this hot little dog ever feel cold again?
Fox the Tiger, by Corey R. Tabor: This is my favorite of all the early readers we’ve read to date, about a fox who really wishes he were a tiger instead. Clever, fun and with an awesome message to boot, it’s no wonder this great book won the 2019 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished book for beginning readers. For our full review of Fox the Tiger, click here!
Ice Cream Soup, by Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Richard Watson: What child doesn’t love experimenting in the kitchen, especially when it comes to dessert? When one little boy’s attempts to make an ice cream cake turn into ice cream soup instead, your little kids will be racing to the kitchen to try to make soup of their own!
Mac and Cheese, by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by Jane Manning: Macaroni and cheese are best friends forever, but they are as different as night and day! This odd couple will make kids laugh out loud and remind them that friends don’t have to be exactly the same. It’s being there for each other when it matters most that is truly important! Love its repetitive, rhyming narrative!
Silly Milly, by Wendy Cheyette Lewison and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott: This entire book is a riddle, one that will puzzle and challenge your kids the whole way through. Why does Miss Milly like what she likes? This one makes our list of best easy readers for the way it gets kids thinking and problem solving, and for its lively, detailed illustrations that kids can pore over for hours!
May I Please Have a Cookie, by Jennifer E. Morris: There’s nothing I love more than a book about manners, especially an easy reading book for kids that reminds them to say please and thank you with humor! We love anything that reminds children they won’t get what they want by grabbing, whining, or tricking their way into it. And this one conveys that message in a silly and authentic way that your kids will love!
Get the Giggles: A First Joke Book, illustrated by Bronwen Davies: I mean, an easy reader joke book? Yes, please! This one is definitely a bit more challenging, but I have no doubt your kids will be just like mine - they will walk around your house or classroom with book in hand, telling anyone who will listen their new hilarious jokes! Gotta love a book that makes children laugh!
One Hundred Shoes: A Math Reader, by Charles Ghigna and illustrated by Bob Staake: Centipede has 100 feet, which means she needs 100 shoes! How on earth does a centipede choose shoes? If you have a little math lover at home, she will love this book and the way it emphasizes numbers and pairs, all told in fun, easy to read rhyme.
Don’t Throw it to Mo!, by David A. Adler and illustrated by Sam Ricks: Ok… when it comes to getting kids to love reading, you’ve gotta get them books they will be interested in, right? Pickle is obsessed with sports, and this fabulous series of books about a tiny kid, sports-loving kid named Mo are his favorite. If you have a sports fanatic at home, he will be eager to put down his ball and pick up a book when you try out these adorable stories about little Mo with the big heart. Make sure to also check out Pass the Ball, Mo!, Get a Hit, Mo! and Kick It, Mo! These books made our list of Favorite Children’s Books About Sports!
A Pig, A Fox and a Box, by Jonathan Fenske: This Geisel Honor book tell the story of two goofy friends, a pig and a fox, and the shenanigans they get into with one cardboard box. Humorous? Check! Illustrations that help tell the story? Check! Comic bubbles? Check! In other words, your kids will love both this one and its sequel, A Pig, A Fox and Stinky Socks!
Puppy Parade, by Jill Abramson and Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Deborah Melmon: Scout, from the well known Puppy Diaries, is entering a parade! And Scout is pretty confident that when awards are handed out at the end, she will win one of the best — whether for behavior, her friendly personality, or her beauty. But what happens when the award she gets isn’t the one she anticipated? This one is adorable, and if your kiddos love puppies, it’s a winner!
Pig and Pug, Laura Marchesani and Zenaides A. Medina Jr. and illustrated by Jarvis: Anything illustrated by Jarvis is a winner in our home, and this easy reader book just has it all! Pig lives on a farm with lots of other animals, but the little guy has no friends! Until Pug comes along. They look similar and act similar, but Pug is definitely not a pig! From its message of friendship, acceptance and inclusiveness to its adorable pictures, we just adore Pig and Pug!
What this Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, by Emma Virjan: A pig in a wig, a boat in a moat with a frog and a dog… need I say more? This adorable, cumulative story incorporates word families, terrific rhyme, and vibrant illustrations, all of which make for one awesome easy reader. Kids will love this one, the first in the Pig in a Wig series which contains several books!
Elephant and Piggie series, by Mo WIllems: When it comes the the best books for beginning readers, Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie series is unparalleled! So many of the Elephant & Piggie books have won Geisel awards, and Willems has an ability to write for kids like no other. These books are hilarious, witty, subversive, and so much fun, and your kids will be begging for each title in the series. For our full review of The Thank You Book, one of our favorite Elephant & Piggie books and the very last in the series, click here.
The Cookie Fiasco, by Dan Santat: In this book within a book, readers are first welcomed by Willems’ Elephant & Piggie who perfectly draw them into the story about one dramatic problem: there are four friends… but there are only three cookies! Whatever will they do? Will they find a way to share? Humor, problem solving and math skills make this a slam dunk on our list of best easy readers!
We are Growing!, by Laurie Keller: Poor Walt! Though the grass is growing, he is not the tallest, the curliest or even the silliest. But as the great lawnmower approaches, Walt discovers he has a special quality too. We love the way this one inspires readers to embrace and love themselves, even when they think they have nothing special to bring to the table.
Hi! Fly Guy, by Tedd Arnold: A Geisel Honor and the first in an awesome series, these are some of our favorite easy readers because they are chock full of humor and fun! When boy meets fly, a beautiful friendship blossoms. Or does it ? Boy takes Fly to The Amazing Pet Show, and the result will leave your children laughing and begging for more. My students are in love with the Fly Guy books and the whole series is always on heavy rotation in our library! This is also a great easy chapter book for new readers.
Ling and Ting Series, by Grace Lin: Ling and Ting are twins. They look alike, do everything together, and even have the same happy smiles. But do their similarities extend beyond their looks, or are they more different than meets the eye? The first book in a great series by award winning author Grace Lin is a total winner! This series also spans both the best books for beginning readers and easy chapter book category!
Well? What are you waiting for? Grab some of these books, and watch your kiddos thrive! We hope these books get two trunks up from your children, too. Happy reading!