Once children show an interest in learning to read it can be a little overwhelming to try to find just right books for beginning readers. If you’ve ever browsed the shelves and looked at different books all named level 1, you’ll quickly see that there is a significant difference between the reading levels. It takes a little research to help find the very best books for kids just learning to read independently.
This quick reference guide outlines ways to know if a child is ready for beginning readers, what to look for in a very first beginning reader, and some recommended books to start with.
Signs kids are ready for a first beginning reader
Once a child shows an interest in learning to read it can be helpful to review these concepts as you move toward using beginning readers.
- Shows an awareness of basic concepts of print
- Knows where to find the beginning of the book
- Can turn pages one at a time
- Proceeds from left to right and top to bottom on a page
- Knows the difference between a letter and a word
- Is beginning to point to individual words on a page
- Knows most letters and sounds (at least the majority of letters and sounds used in the beginning reader)
- Knows some basic sight words
- Is beginning to use picture clues to tell what is happening in a story
What to look for in a first beginning reader
First beginning readers include very simple text. They are not “stories,” and to the adult reader they may even seem a bit boring. Remember that these first readers are for helping kids learn concepts of print, one-to-one correspondence, and basic sight words. As they grow confident with these early texts, kids will quickly move to more complex sentences and concepts.
In general an appropriate first reader will include:
- 1-2 lines of text per page
- Short, predictable sentences
- Repeating language patterns
- Clear pictures that give text clues
- Common vocabulary the child is familiar with
Some first beginning reader recommendations
First beginning readers are very short, usually 15 pages or less, so I like to buy them in sets. Many companies make sets that start at the very basic level and progress a bit within the set so a child has quite a few books on their level. Below are some of the sets I have found to be especially helpful at home and in the classroom.
Some of them include favorite characters, which can be very motivating if a child likes the character. Others are more general in natures, and the last set includes nonfiction science readers for kids who are interested in nature and animals. In my experience kids love these little sets because they feel like they are reading “real” books.
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Printable beginning readers
Many websites also have free printable books that you can make yourself. Some kids really enjoy coloring them and then reading them over and over again.
Once your little ones get started with beginning readers it’s so much fun to watch them become enthusiastic about reading on their own. It’s one of my favorite things about being a teacher and a mom!
Do you have any favorite books for new readers or tips to share with others? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.