Ten Favorite First Readers

I reposted a meme on this blog’s Facebook page from A Mighty Girl the other day, and it was really appropriate for the space my son’s in right now.


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.

Ten favorite first readers, from www.ameliesbookshelf.com

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!

Ten Favorite First Readers


13 thoughts on “Ten Favorite First Readers

  1. Ooooh… what a wonderful post. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your first reader finds. I am a couple of years behind you (my eldest is three and a half); nevertheless, the other day, I did notice the ‘island’ and ‘sure’ issue you raise as I quickly scanned the first reader shelf at our local library. You have saved me hours of research. I am taking notes of the above!


    • Jeunesse, it’s so nice to hear from you! I always hope these “ten best” posts are helpful lists. And the First Reader books are so randomly catalogued, it’s hard to know what’s going to be a good fit. Thanks for reading!


  2. Clay was fairly pokey in the reading department compared to his peers. He loved being read to and I was sure this was helping, even if his phonics weren’t really taking. We loved Roald Dahl and A Cricket in Times Square and My Father’s Dragon. He definitely had some reading alone down by the end of second grade though and of course now he’s 11 and plows through chapter books, staying up all night. It takes time and there is no rule. I think a second grade teacher told me, he will get it in time and I tried to keep that in my head. Basically I love your choices here, especially Frog and Toad and Mo Willems. Also, Clay checked out Fly Guy about a half dozen times from his school library! Great post, as always, Amelie! xo


  3. I agree, it’s very much like potty training or learning to tie their shoes- they’ll struggle with it and struggle with it and struggle with it and then one day they’ll figure it out, it’ll just click. I just want reading to remain fun and not a chore, not something that’s frustrating or scary so I don’t want to put any pressure on him. Thanks for reading, Anne!


  4. I Love your list of first readers. So kid friendly and so Dahl friendly. Good luck with your first grader. I Hope he reads undauntingly. And continues to do so for ever.

    My grandson who is eleven used to love to be read to but now it is just not cool. And he is not a reader, either. But a video gamer. Boo hoo. 🙂


    • Thanks! Your grandson reminds me of another quote I posted on FB- “There’s no such thing as a child who hates to read, there are only children who have not found the right book.”- Frank Serafini. He’ll come across THE one- be it Harry Potter or a Tin Tin comic or Choose Your Own Adventure or National Geographic…whatever, and it’ll speak to him.


      • Oh! I do hope so. He is missing out on so much right now. It used to be, right before he came for a visit, I would stock the table with good library books and he would pick from there to be read to. This visit he didn’t even look. He was too busy video taping himself at his game. 🙂 Maybe this too will pass.


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