Monday, December 9, 2013

Ten Picture Books That Are Secretly Easy Readers

It is usually pretty easy to identify an easy reader. Most of them are paperbacks, in a compact size, with a reading level printed on the spine and/or front cover. Many libraries shelve them separately as well, in an area apart from picture books and novels. Beginning readers can easily find their section and browse for books. But this does not mean that the only suitable books for beginning readers are the ones labeled as such. In fact, there are lots of great books that I have always shelved in the picture book section that are actually also perfect for kids who are learning how to read. Here are ten examples, listed in order of difficulty according to the Guided Reading system.

by Chris Raschka
Guided Reading Level: C
In very few words, two boys from obviously different backgrounds form a friendship. This would be a good one to use in a beginning reader story time setting, because the words on each page are large enough for everyone in a group to see them at once.

by Eric Carle
Guided Reading Level: C
 This has recently been published as an easy reader, but whenever it's checked out, the picture book version does just as well. The only problem is that kids might have it memorized so it might not be a good one to measure how much they are actually able to read.
by Antoinette Portis
Guided Reading Level: F
This book encourages kids to think outside the box - literally - by showing them how to use a cardboard box in a number of creative ways. There is very little text, and what is on the page is pretty repetitive, but kids I've read it with have talked about it for weeks afterward.  There are also a number of related printables on the publisher's website to extend the discussion after the initial reading is over.

by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Guided Reading Level: G
Midge, Pip, and Dot idolize Rooster Sam because they believe he can fly. They try to fly, too, but no matter what, they just can't seem to get the hang of it. The big, bold font, brightly colored illustrations, and great sense of humor make this a natural choice for beginning readers, especially those who like a good laugh as a payoff for their hard work.
by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Guided Reading Level: G
Various nursery rhyme characters hide on the pages of this book. The reader has a chance to play I Spy  while decoding the simple rhyming text. This book is probably best for kids who already know some nursery rhymes so they might recognize their names in print even if they're tricky to sound out.

by Jules Feiffer
Guided Reading Level: H
Animal names and sounds make up the majority of  the text in this book, and there is lots of repetition, making it just as ideal for new readers as for preschoolers. Kids will love laughing along with the silliness of the story and they might even want to perform it for others.

by Audrey and Don Wood
Guided Reading Level: I
I have used this book with beginning readers as a flannel board, and I've found that kids in first and second grade are the ones who can read every word. It's a great one for introducing adjectives and similes all at once, and the kids I shared it with loved guessing which animal was coming up next.
by Pat Hutchins
Guided Reading Level: J
This is another repetitive story, and it combines literacy with simple math skills. Though I have used it successfully with preschoolers, early elementary school kids are the most likely to understand the math concepts and to be able to calculate the number of cookies each child should get each time someone new joins the party. This is another one that would work well in a beginning reader story time setting, especially if the kids were able to come in and out of  the room and act out the story.

by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak
Guided Reading Level Not Available

This strange little book is one I like to quote frequently. It's a great lesson in rhyming words, simple verbs, and prepositions, and the illustrations are reminiscent of Sendak's work in Where the Wild Things Are. It doesn't have much of a plot, but new readers will find they can read or sound out most of the words - even the ones in speech bubbles. Though I could not find a reading level for this book, I think it is probably a kindergarten or first grade book.

by Jan Thomas
Guided Reading Level: N
This fun book helps kids understand the concept of rhyme and plays into their silly sense of humor at the same time. Most Jan Thomas picture books are great for beginning readers; many of the jokes might even be lost on a younger audience. (Based on the Guided Reading level, this would work best as a reader for a child who is just about ready to graduate to chapter books, making it the most challenging book on the list.)
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