We’ve spent a good portion of our first year of homeschool working on reading skills. As such, we’ve gone through a lot of beginning reader books – some great ones, and some not-so-much. Mid-year I began to notice my son’s enthusiasm to read directly correlated with the quality of the reader we were using, so I stopped grabbing just any level one reader, and started intentionally looking through them to find the gems.
Our reading time together has not only become more productive, it’s actually become enjoyable. Whether you homeschool or are helping your child practice at home after school, I believe a combination of these seven qualities of great beginning reader books has the potential to make an incredible impact on your child’s reading experience.
I know it’s made all the difference for my boys.
Great beginning reader books have:
Easy to read fonts
Most experts agree serif fonts (the ones with little tags on the ends of the letters) are the easiest fonts to read. While I don’t think it’s necessary for every reader be written in Times New Roman, I do think it’s important for the font be readable, clear, and consistent throughout the entire book.
Adequate contrast between words and pictures
Not only are font styles important, the contrast between words and pictures is as well. Dark text (preferably black) stands out more on a white page or on lightly colored illustrations. Dark illustrations should always be paired with white text. It’s frustrating for a child who knows the word they are trying to read fail to do so because they can’t see it clearly.
The primary goal of beginning reader books should be to build your child’s reading vocabulary and build their confidence as they practice their reading skills. In an effort to draw a child in through their interests, some early readers rely too heavily on character names, imaginary places, or fictionalized words. There is a time and a place to encourage your kids to read for their personal interest, but help them learn to read first.
Lovable relatable characters
As much as it is important to steer clear of series readers that rely too much on made-up words, it is also important to make sure the readers you choose have lovable, relatable characters. If there is nothing that draws your child’s interest to a reader, they won’t be motivated to keep reading. On the flip side, if they’re engaged with the characters and their story, you’ll discover how hard they work for the payoff of knowing how the story ends.
Great beginning reader books are usually:
Lovable, relatable characters are the byproduct of a talented author (and often a very savvy publisher!). When you discover a really great reader your kids love, you’ll often find the author has several books in the series, and maybe even a few other series to share with your kids as they grow. Ask your librarian or browse the shelves for several titles by the same author.
Great beginning reader books use:
Repetitive phrases and sounds
There’s a certain science to reading, and while it’s important to teach the rules of blended letters and grammar, nothing beats good old fashioned practice. Choose readers that not only introduce new words, but also use repetitive phrases, sentence structures, and rhyming words to reinforce what your child is already learning.
Illustrations that correspond to the text
Context clues can be extremely helpful in discerning new words – even as adults. For new readers, those context clues will be drawn from illustrations that correspond to the text. I’ve found basic, simple, straightforward illustrations are the best kind for context clues. They may not be the most creative books you’ll ever read with your kids, but they will be valuable books for your child to read to you.
The beginning readers that have worked best for my boys make use of several, if not all, of the qualities listed above. To get you started toward a more successful reading time with your child, I’ll include some of my family’s favorites below:
Note: Links below are affiliate links.
Check out Cynthia’s Mr. Putter & Tabby series for older readers.
Curious George Curious About Phonics 12 Book Set | Margaret and H.A. Rey’s Curious George
Flip a Word books | Yukiko Kido
LEGO DC Super Heroes: Phonics Boxed Set | Scholastic
Sounds Like Reading Series | Brian Cleary
I Can Read! Books
Biscuit Series| Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Little Critter Series | Mercer Mayer
The Big Blue Book of Beginner Books | P.D. Eastman
The Big Book of Berenstain Bears Beginner Books | Stan & Jan Berenstain
I love sharing good books with my kids and with my readers. Click through the Children’s Illustrated Book Lists category feed for more book lists.
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