Inside: Kindergarten books are vitally important for early readers, and these are some of our favorites. Check them out!
Kindergarten Books are Essential for Early Readers!
Watching my oldest son’s development while he was in kindergarten was nothing short of amazing.
He began the year mesmerized by books but not at all able to read them. Yet, by the time June came around, he had his own stack of awesome kindergarten books (all of which he could read fluently,) he knew exactly which stories were “just right” for him in our school library (ok, ok — so I may be his school librarian — but it’s exciting nonetheless!!), and he would stay up way past his bedtime reading with his special book light.
It was incredible. And, of course, it made my book loving heart so, so happy.
Just as he grew, so did his love of reading. I credit so much of this love to getting the perfect books into his hands when he began his reading journey.
What Makes a “Good” Kindergarten Reading Book?
When our children begin kindergarten, most of us typically have one thought in mind: my child will read this year! After all, is there anything more synonymous with kindergarten than this singular goal?
Giving the “right” books to eager kindergarteners is therefore essential. We want to give them books that will excite them, delight them, make them laugh and boost their confidence as they begin to tackle a brand new challenge.
So how do you know if a book is perfect for your beginning reader? What makes a great kindergarten reading book different from an easy chapter book? Check out these tips!
Believe it or not, larger fonts really make a difference for new readers! Larger fonts have been linked to a boost in decoding skills, in addition to greater fluency and enhanced comprehension. Larger text in kindergarten reading books is also much less intimidating to new readers, as pages inherently have more white space and less words. It allows children to easily see where their eyes should go next.
Simplicity is key for new readers. Why? The longer the sentence, the more confusion your child will feel. Remember — kindergarten books are for those kids who are just learning to read. That means they have not yet mastered fluency and speed, nor do they understand the nuances of punctuation. And forget about a sentence extending over a page turn — these are the things that do nothing but frustrate our new readers. Thus, short and simple is key!
Repetitive kindergarten reading books are like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. These are the best! This type of story includes both repetitive structures and vocabulary words. Repetition in early readers allows children to master new words and skills. On their first read through, a child may stumble and pause frequently as they sound out what they see on the page. Yet, the more frequently they read a passage, sentence or word, the more flow and fluency will improve. The best part? When fluency improves, so does confidence.
Easy to Decode
Many beginning readers and kindergarten books incorporate easy to read words. But what are those words? These early readers contain not only sight words, but also words that can be decoded easily using the rules of phonics and “chunking” strategies (ie., breaking words up into smaller components.)
Illustrations provide Supportive Clues
Illustrations in kindergarten books should not just be engaging, but they should also provide supportive, or “context” clues to the reader. This means that a great early reader contains pictures that correspond to the text, support both the plot and mood of the book, and help readers decode unknown vocabulary words.
These Kindergarten Books Will Engage and Captivate Your New Readers!
Keep in mind that the easiest of these kindergarten books are at the top of the list, and the more challenging (and longer) reads are at the end.
RELATED: Looking for the best books for starting kindergarten? This list will help your kids get ready for the big day.
The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap, by David Milgrim: We absolutely love these books about Otto the Robot and all of his great adventures! The Adventures of Otto stories are perfect kindergarten books for brand new readers who are beginning to master sight words and decode text all on their own. Several books in this set have won Theodore Seuss Geisel Award Honors for being distinguished books for beginning readers. We can’t rave about this starter set enough! Shop See Pip Flap & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Stop! Bot!, by James Yang: Winner of the 2020 Geisel Award, this is a darling picture book mystery with simple text and fabulous illustrations that tell much of the story in and of themselves. A young boy stops to show a doorman his new “bot,” but the bot suddenly gets away from him and floats high into the air like a balloon! As the doorman rushes from floor to floor in the building, the people on each floor get zanier and zanier. Will they be able to rescue the bot before it’s too late? Vibrant and engaging, we simply love this one! Shop Stop! Bot! & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Go, Dog, Go!, by P.D. Eastman: This was one of the first books my son read aloud from start to finish, and there is so much to love about it! From big dogs to little dogs, dogs going in to dogs going out, fast dogs, red dogs, blue dogs and more, children for years have adored this silly story that is also a perfect one for beginning readers to share aloud. Read it once, your kids will laugh. Read it twice, and your kids will forever ask everyone “do you like my hat?” The best! Shop Go, Dog, Go! & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Look, by Fiona Woodcock: This simple book contains just one word on each page, each of which contains the diagraph “oo.” Here, a brother and sister wake up in the morning and go spend some time at the zoo, were they see kangaroos and bring home balloons! This engaging book and its fabulous, creative illustrations make this one a winner, especially as the repeated “oo” diagraph is an important early literacy concept. Shop Look & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Cat the Cat, Who is That?, by Mo Willems: Cat the Cat loves her friends, and she’s pretty sure you will, too. It’s only natural, then, that she wants to introduce the reader to all her pals. With simple text, a repetitive structure, and Willems’ trademark humor, this short early reader will boost confidence in children who want to read a story on their own but aren’t quite ready for longer beginning books. Shop Cat the Cat Who is That? & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
What will Fat Cat Sit On, by Jan Thomas: In this funny story, Fat Cat is looking for a seat — and all of the animals in this silly story are hoping Fat Cat won’t sit on them! With each animal hoping he is not the victim, they have got to find something else for Fat Cat to sit on. Will a chair suffice? And if so, what will Fat Cat do for lunch? This one is so much fun! Shop What Will Fat Cat Sit On & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Big Dog and Little Dog Tales of Adventure, by Dav Pilkey: Did you know the creator of the famous Dog Man and Captain Underpants series also writes beginning books for kids? This collection of five simple stories captures the friendship — and hilarious shenanigans — of Big Dog and Little Dog, both entertaining your children and developing their reading skills at the very same time. This collection was a huge winner in our house when my oldest first made the jump to beginning readers. Shop Big Dog and Little Dog & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
The Book Hog, by Greg Pizzoli: If you guessed that the book hog loves books, you guessed correctly! He loves everything about them — from the way they feel to the way they smell. One thing he doesn’t love, though? He can’t read them. Leave it to a special librarian to help him unlock the magic within each story! We love this one, a Geisel Honor from 2020. Shop The Book Hog & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Flubby is Not a Good Pet, by J E Morris: Flubby is a big, fat cat, but unfortunately, he can’t do what a lot of other pets do. Flubby can’t sing or catch — he can’t even jump! But Flubby needs his owner – and his owner needs him, too. And that’s enough. A sweet book, with repetition, simple text and pictures that help tell this adorable story. Another 2020 Geisel honor book! Shop Flubby is Not a Good Pet & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Fox the Tiger, by Corey R. Tabor: Fox desperately wishes he was a tiger. Why? Tigers are sneaky! Fast! Big! This leaves Fox with an important mission- he will turn himself into a tiger by painting himself some stripes! Soon other animals join in the fun— but when it comes right down to it, Fox quickly discovers one very important lesson- the best thing to be is himself. Clever, fun and with an awesome message to boot, it’s no wonder this great book won the 2019 Geisel Award. For our full review of Fox the Tiger, click here! Shop Fox the Tiger & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Jack at Bat, by Greg Pizzoli: We are loving this new series for beginning readers, with its big pictures, big text, simple prose, and plots that will undoubtedly make your kids laugh as they perfect their new reading skills. Is there anything better than that? In this book, it’s up to Jack to make a winning run during a baseball game… but on the way to the plate, he spots some snacks. Uh oh! Between Jack the rabbit, his funny dog, and a cranky old lady, this series is a delight! Shop Jack at Bat & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
My Kite is Stuck! and Other Stories, by Salina Yoon: In this Geisel Honor early reader series, Big Duck constantly bosses around her little brother, Little Duck. And this means that when Porcupine joins their crew, Big Duck is definitely the leader. This darling book contains stories about making lemonade, new friends, and kite flying. We love this lively and engaging series! Shop My Kite is Stuck & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Harold and Hog Pretend for Real, by Dan Santat: What happens when Harold and Hog pretend to be Elephant and Piggie? The two love Gerald and Piggie, and they even don costumes to get into character. But uptight Hog can’t be quite as carefree as Piggie — and Harold can’t be quite as careful as Gerald. This one is so much fun, a perfect kindergarten book for home or the classroom, and a great twist on the beloved Elephant and Piggie stories! Shop Harold and Hog Pretend for Real & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendek: In this classic early reader, Little Bear’s mama always seems to know just what he needs. Something warm to wear when he is playing in the snow, a hot lunch after he returns from a trip to the moon, and a special birthday surprise. You can never go wrong when Sendak illustrates a children’s book, and this one has staying power for all the right reasons. Repetition and easy to decode words give kids a confidence boost when reading aloud this “longer” book! Shop Little Bear & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Frank and Bean, by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Bob Kolar: What happens when calm and quiet Frank meets toot-toot-tooting Bean who just loves playing his trumpet? These two total opposites may be in trouble when they end up camping right next to each other. Can two seemingly different characters find a way to be… friends? This goofy kindergarten book is perfect for your kids who want a longer story to read where they can practice their skills and laugh at the very same time. Shop Frank and Bean & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Smell My Foot!, by Cece Bell: if you want someone to smell your foot, no matter whether you think that scent will be good or bad, you better make sure to use your manners and say please!! My big one could not get through this book without laughing hysterically. And when I read it with him for the first time, I too was laughing so hard I could not catch my breath. If you want a book that’s sure to be a hit for new readers, with easy to read text, hilarious illustrations, and bucket loads of fun, this one is a must! Shop Smell My Foot! & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Tiger vs. Nightmare, by Emily Tetri: In this graphic novel for early readers, Tiger and Monster play together — a lot. Monster would never scare Tiger, but he does have to scare something. So what should he scare? Maybe he can scare Tiger’s nightmares away. It works, to a point. Until a nightmare comes that’s so big and so brave, Monster knows he can’t fight it alone. For beginning readers ready for graphic novels, this one is wonderful. It shows the value of teamwork, friendship, and courage, too! Shop Tiger vs. Nightmare & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Don’t Worry, Bee Happy, by Ross Burach: Bumble and Bee cause lots of mischief in the pond, and their cranky best friend Frog isn’t all that happy about giving up his peace and quiet. He won’t smile for pictures! He won’t do a waggle dance! Nonetheless, these guys are best friends… despite their very different personalities. This is another great graphic novel and part of Scholastic’s Acorn line which is aimed at children who are learning to read. We love the Acorn books and its various series that have been recently published! Shop Don’t Worry, Bee Happy & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories, by Max Brallier and illustrated by Letizia Rubenni: Another book in Scholastic’s Acorn line, this one is perfect for your brave readers who love the thrill of a mystery! What kind of monsters are hiding under the bed, and what on earth is scratching at the window? These five stories will give kids a fright — and a giggle. There’s just one question – will they be brave enough to turn the lights off? Shop Beneath the Bed & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!
Henry and Mudge, by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Sucie Stevenson: Meet Henry and Mudge, companions, friends and forever partners! Henry has no siblings and no friends on his street, so he convinces his parents to get him a pup — who grows into a very large dog. These delightful stories are terrific for children moving just beyond beginning readers, as they feature more complex sentences, longer paragraphs and short chapters. A classic series for newly independent readers looking for easy chapter books! Shop Henry and Mudge & support local bookstores here! Shop Amazon here!