He’s six years old, about to enter first grade, and his reading skills are simply exploding. The thing is, he’s very sensitive and becomes frustrated easily with himself. I want him to love reading as much as I do, and as much as he loves being read to, he’s on this precipice right now of picking up books to read them to himself. It’s a very exciting time, surely. And it’s so important that the books he has to reach for are fun, engaging, and at the right level for him. He’s got all his sight words down pat, easily sounds out basic words, understands the whole silent-e concept, struggles with sh- and ch-, but whips out some awesomely tricky words when I least expect it.
One thing I’ve noticed in first reader books is that there doesn’t seem to be an across-the-board uniform set of reading levels- some “first level” readers are simply repetitions of words, Dick and Jane style (which, for whatever completely unbeknownst to me reason, he loves), others have much too complicated words (really, if we’re still rhyming cat and hat, throwing in the word “island” or “sure” in a basic reader is kind of out of line), still others are 70 pages long (Go, Dog, Go, I’m looking at you).
Most of them make me want to pull my hair out of my head.
Character books, no thank you. Overly simple, cutesy boring books, no thank you. If we’re going to read excruciatingly slowly as we do when we’re six, it’d better be engaging enough to keep our interest to the last page. So I decided it was time for a Ten Favorite list, this time of first readers. Fun ones, interesting ones, easy enough, yet challenging enough, and of course, beautifully designed.
A lot of these are wonderful, nostalgic books- Little Bear, all things George and Martha, Frog and Toad- I mean, come on. They’re classics because they’re still great. And I can’t stress this enough: The Elephant and Piggie books are perfect. All of them. Buy them for your kids, people. They’re brilliant and funny and for God’s sake, while they’re nicely repetitive for the beginning readers, the illustrations are hilarious. With subtlety and nuance. Love Mo Willems.
May I also point out that some of these- Frog and Fly, Frog and Toad, Hi! Fly Guy, Little Bear, George and Martha, and Three By The Sea are “chapter” books, which my son loves because a) he’s such a big kid now, and b) we can take a break. And use a real bookmark. It’s super cool. But to be fair, that means that these are tougher to read than the others with longer sentences and trickier words. Next level, second reader perhaps.
Also, Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking is actually kind of a first graphic novel- comic book style. My husband is really into Tin Tin and my son loves looking through his enormous stack of them- but Benjamin Bear he can actually read, and they’re really, really great!
So here is the list, complete with links to my Amazon affiliate store where you can buy them if you so choose- otherwise please visit your local independent bookseller or the library and check them out!
- Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik
- Frog and Fly, Six Slurpy Stories, by Jeff Mack
- Hi! Fly Guy, by Tedd Arnold
- Frog and Toad Are Friends, by Arnold Lobel
- Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, by Philippe Coudray
- A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse, by Frank Viva
- Three By The Sea, by Edward and James Marshall
- Up! Tall! And High! by Ethan Long
- We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems
- George and Martha, by James Marshall