Oh, how I have procrastinated filling the early reader shelf! This is a very fluid period, not unlike your child's transition from crawling to pulling up to walking independently. Looking back, one probably came pretty quickly on the heels of the other. Finding easy readers that have longevity on your bookshelf can be a challenge.
In this phase of learning to read, children are moving beyond recognizing individual letters to combining them and learning words. Students move fairly quickly from books with one word per page to two or three sentences on a page. From there it transitions to short paragraphs and then short chapters.
Because kids will move through these books at a steady pace,quickly, variety is definitely an ally!Your local library and your child's school library have lots of excellent choices that will engage young readers.
So do you need an early reader bookshelf at home? Definitely! It is important for kids to own their own books and to have fun reading at their fingertips. If you still have them, pull out some of those toddler books that have pictures and simple words. They are established favorites, but now your daughter can read them and use them to build a word bank of sight words. Let her create picture/word cards that she can hang up or make her own book with.
You might pull out some favorite picture books, too. If you think your son has memorized the story, then ask him to point to each of the words as he reads. That will force him to look at the page and the content. You might also try reading the book from the last page to the first.
Dr. Seuss is the master of the easy reader classic, but there are other authors who ascribe to his philosophy of great books for new readers. Some of those books, like Mo Willems' Cat the Cat and Elephant and Piggy series have the "I Can Read" imprimatur on them. But some - like Duck! Rabbit! and Little Oink! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - don't scream "easy reader" but are delightful choices for new readers, too.
When searching for books that can double as read-along stories and developmental readers, look for simple illustrations and lots of white space on a page; short sentences; and/or rhyming text.
Although easy readers are not generally literary classics, Dr. Seuss has shown us that there are are always exceptions! Just like Hop on Pop and The Cat in the Hat, there are easy readers that we keep and enthusiastically wait to share with our grandchildren.
Check your bookshelf - you may already have some favorites!
Picking up on Pam's themes of enjoying the summer by trying new things, I thought I would share some of those magical, unplanned moments we've had this year.
Like many of you, we get our book fix at the library, and LOVE the summer reading program. This has always been "our" time, but this year, we've been taking my daughter's BFF with us. Her friend (a rising second grader) is an avid reader, but had not visited our local library. [She has 5 older siblings ... need I say more?]
The two girls have had a wonderful time, and all three of us really look forward to our weekly "date." During our three visits to date, the girls have (without fail)
It is the last point I find most fascinating. Like many short chapter books for the early elementary audience, the stories rely heavily on dialogue. The girls are instantly drawn to these books and use them as scripts. They decide who is going to be which character, and then read their "parts" aloud.
This isn't a new idea, but it may be a new way to keep the kids connected with books this summer. Partner reading - with you, a friend, or siblings - is a great way to keep them engaged with books. The key is to keep the reading fun, so don't fret about the "right" reading levels or vocabulary. Keep them excited about reading and the rest of it will fall into place naturally.
Sharing our library time beyond "just us," has has added some wonderful magic to our summer. My daughter and her BFF are exploring everything the library has to offer and stretching each other's interests. They will have great memories of things they did together, and so will I. Summer can't get much more magical than that!
Creating a starter library can be lots of fun, but it can also get very expensive. Kids are interested in more involved stories and the list of bedtime stories is endless. There are bedtime-themed books that cover their worries (monsters, the dark) or their favorite things (dinosaurs, unicorns), as well as quiet, soothing stories that have nothing to do with sleep but are perfect just before lights out.
Because there are so many options, it may help to borrow a couple from the library to see if any become instant treasures and then make a buying decision (or not). This is also the time that many families introduce chapter books into their bedtime routine. I'm a picture book gal, myself, but I have discovered some great early-reader chapter books that allow us to share reading with our daughter.
To start, you can't go wrong with any of Pam's Beginning Bookshelves recommendations. You'll find some favorite characters from our childhood, like Curious George, Madeline, and Frances; and new friends like Fancy Nancy, Knuffle Bunny, and the Pigeon. Some of these stories now have multiple editions, too. For example, there is an easy reader edition of Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban. Here are a few more recommendations ...
Susan Thomsen and her son like Anatole by Eve Titus. Anatole, a mouse who lives in France, rides his bicycle to the cheese factory each day. He earns his living tasting cheese and offering suggestions on how to improve it. Anatole is a 1957 Caldecott Honor Book, and Anatole and the Cat is a 1958 Caldecott Honor Book. There are two other titles in the series: Anatole and the Toy Shop and Anatole and the Piano. These last two books are out of print, but probably available at your library.
The Monster Trap by Dean Morrissey was a favorite in our house for about a year! Paddy, a young boy, is staying with his grandfather. His house seems different - spookier - than he remembered. Paddy can't sleep because he is sure he heard a monster. Together, they build traps to catch the monsters, each trap becoming more elaborate than the last. When they finally snare a monster, they learn just how much fun these critters are. This book turns the monster theme upside down. From Publishers Weekly: "The pictures comically reveal benign, silly-looking creatures as the source of the boy's fears."
Cynthia Rylant's easy reader series - Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby, Annie and Snowball, the High Rise Private Eyes, and Poppleton - are wonderful stories that allow you and your audience to share the reading. The stories are light, build on each other, and have a twist that make it fun for adults and children alike.
Note: The bookcover images in this post link to Amazon.com and include an affiliate code that, through purchases, may earn income for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (aka Cybils). The Indie Bound List and aStore include an affiliate code for the Reading Tub that, through purchases, may earn income for this literacy nonprofit. You are not obligated to use those links or make purchases through them.
Perhaps it is because we are having one more dreary, cold, wet (yes, still snow flurries!) day in Nashville, all I want to do is what Jen has just recommended: cozy up with a good book. And I would add that I'd like to cozy up under a fabulous quilt!
I will use that quilt metaphor in this month's posting. So many of the postings this past month provide great fabrics of ideas and suggestions for developing in young children a love of reading. I will try to sew some of those fabrics into a quilt of connections. Thanks to James Ransome's end pages in Under the Quilt of Night for this quilt that I would choose for wrapping myself.
Immediately upon reading Jen's post, I registered to vote in the contest Ideas for Change in America. I had not heard about this Change.org contest and was delighted to read so many great project ideas. The "Read to Kids" campaign gets my vote, of course. I particularly like what the creators have said in the description:
"By reading aloud with children, we can improve their interest in and attitudes toward reading and improve children's fundamental literacy skills, including reading comprehension, vocabulary, reading ability, listening comprehension, attention span and ability to articulate thoughts. Being read to by an adult also helps build a child's self-esteem and confidence.
A national "Read to Kids" campaign could engage national and local literacy organizations, schools, teachers, parents, authors, publishers and nearly every sector of business and society that understands that our nation's future depends on our children's literacy skills."
I join Jen in encouraging you to vote....and suggest that you send the "Read to Kids" description on to those you know in the business world as well!
Thank you, Pam, for reminding us about Goin' Someplace Special. This ranks very high on my "favorite books of all time" list. Those who share my love of this book should be sure to check out the Reading Rockets website that Gina has led us to. The writing prompts for Goin' Someplace Special are excellent. Even though the February challenge has ended, I plan to store the ideas inside a copy of the book.
NOTE to teachers....be sure to check for the March prompts. One of my former students entered one of her second grader's writing in January and her student was selected for an honorable mention. What a fabulous way to validate the efforts of a young writer!
Susan got us all thinking about how we organize, shelve, and attempt to easily locate our books. As a Mac computer user, I have used a software package called Booxter for several years. The program allows me to use a scanner like they have at the grocery store to record the ISBN codes on the back of each book (you can also manually enter these). All the information I need, including a picture of the cover, immediately pops up and is added to my catalog of books.
Finally, I'll add my own "piece of fabric" to this quilt. It actually brings us back to our many conversations around this year's Caldecott Award winner, The Lion and the Mouse. The website Teaching Books includes a video of Jerry Pinkney as he talks about the creation of the book. He ends the interview by saying that this fable is truly about family and helping others.
Scroll on down the link and check out the suggestions for enriching a reading of Benny and Penny in the Big No-No (this year's Geisel Award winner). The book becomes interactive when you click on the "Play" button.
Let's hope for lots of sunshine and even some days that will make us all want to take our books and young readers outside!
October was certainly an action-packed month for those at Booklights! In addition to Pam making great suggestions of Halloween books, she organized and led an excellent meeting of children's book bloggers gathering in Washington, D.C. It was a pleasure to get to meet colleagues who constantly read and think about how important quality literature is for children and their families.
Susan T. recommended good books for children who have developed a passion for volcanoes. One suggestion was Magic Tree House #13: Vacation Under the Volcano, by Mary Pope Osborne. Parents should also know about Ancient Rome and Pompeii, the non-fiction companion Magic Treehouse Research Guide #14. Steven Bush may also want to be sure to share this before heading out with his son in February to see a real volcano!
The non-fiction companions provide fascinating information that supports the travels of Jack and Annie in the Magic Treehouse fantasies. Boys, in particular, love knowing the real facts and I have never failed to learn new, accurate, scientific information when reviewing these guides as well.
Terry's posting Reading from Afar brought back so many fun memories. When my own niece was about three-years-old, she overheard her dad say he needed to be sure to pack a book for a very long international flight. When he went back to finish packing his suitcase, he found that Sarah had placed in his bag her favorite picture book! While Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was surely not the novel he anticipated reading on the flight, it provided a wonderful thing for him to read to her when he called to check in back home.
It also reminded me of a community service project that one of my college students implemented. While volunteering in a Nashville women's prison, she noticed that incarcerated mothers had very little to talk about with their children after the first few minutes of a visit. She was able to take children's picture books to the prison for the mothers to read and record. Mothers then had a set of books and tapes to give their children during visits, and wonderful topics of conversation for subsequent visits.
Jen ended last week's posting talking about the importance of knowing your child's independent reading level. In addition to being sure your child is able to read the text with around 95% accuracy, also check out comprehension every now and then. And having lots of picture books around helps, as illustration often aids in comprehension.
Finally, Gina asked what readers' opinions have been about the movie Where the Wild Things Are. She asked if true fans should avoid it or give it a try. I can only report the words of a 10-year-old friend as he left the movie, "Max has anger issues!" Not a movie for young viewers, for sure! But we can all continue to love the book.
From preschool through second grade or so, my son loved to read about volcanoes. A while back, I rounded up some of our favorites, most of which I read aloud. For all of you with young scientists (aged about four to seven) in the house, here's our list, with some notes:
Why Do Volcanoes Blow Their Tops? by Melvin Berger. Picture book, lots of facts, Q. & A. format. Includes directions for making a grand baking soda/vinegar/dish-soap explosive concoction using an empty soda bottle. Because of this book, "magma" has been a part of my vocabulary for the last seven years.
Hill of Fire, by Thomas P. Lewis. Illustrated beginning reader about the farmer who stumbled across a volcano (the beginnings of one) while plowing. About the 1943 eruption of Mexico's Paricutin. A Reading Rainbow selection.
Volcanoes, by Stephanie Turnbull. From the Usborne Beginners series, a nice introduction to the subject, short bits of text, index, glossary, recommended web sites--all in 32 pages.
The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top: A Book About Volcanoes, by Gail Herman, with illustrations by Bob Ostrom. You can't go wrong with Ms. Frizzle, the extraordinary science teacher, and her class.
An Island Grows, by Lola M. Schaefer. A colorful picture book for preschoolers and early-elementary kids.
Magic Tree House #13: Vacation Under the Volcano, by Mary Pope Osborne. Early chapter book about Pompeii, from the popular series.
Volcanoes! Mountains of Fire, by Eric Arnold. Advanced beginning reader about the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
Volcanoes! by Jeremy Caplan. Another advanced beginning reader, with photos.
Volcano, by Nicholas Harris. Pompeii from the Ice Age into the present, with tabbed pages. Picture book for older readers. Part of a series called Fast Forward. Vesuvius included, of course.
For older readers, there's Seymour Simon's Volcanoes, a Smithsonian picture book with vivid photographs.
Do you know the story of The Cat in the Hat? Not the one about hat-wearing mischievous feline, but how he came to be the world's most recognized cat. In 1954, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist John Hershey wrote an article for Life magazine called "Why Do Students Bog Down on First R?" In his article, Hershey said that the primers given to kids to help them learn to read were "antiseptic." For one thing, the children were "unnaturally clean." He said what they needed were better illustrations ... like the kind Walt Disney and Theodor "Ted" Geisel created.
As a result of the article - and Rudolf Flesch's book Why Johnny Can't Read and What You Can Do About It (1955) - publishers Random House and Houghton Mifflin joined forces and hired Ted Geisel (known for his illustrations) to create a primer using new-reader vocabulary. The result was the 220-word story known the world over as The Cat in the Hat. This book catapulted the writing career of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.
Through repetition and rhyme, Dr. Seuss' books not only have given us hours of pleasure reading with our kids, but they helped many of us become accomplished readers. Many of the Dr. Seuss books we love sharing with our kids are, in fact, what we now call easy readers.
So what IS an easy reader? They are books designed for children learning to read. These are books with short, simple sentences. Many of them have a banner or label that says "learning to read" in some form, but others look like picture books. Here are some clues. Look for ...
• books sized for the reader's comfort, usually 6 inches by 9 inches.
• lots of white space on the page and the print style is larger.
• illustrations or images that match up with the text so kids can "decode" the words in the story.
You can sometimes gauge the "level" of an easy reader by the illustrations. In the basic books (sometimes called level 1), illustrations are still a prominent feature. Usually they fill most of the page and there is a word or a sentence or two at the bottom. As you "move up," the illustrations shift. First, they may move to one page while the text is on the other. Then there may be half-page illustrations on both pages and then smaller illustration on one page of a two-page spread.
Fifty years later, you can still find "antiseptic" books that take the fun out of learning to read. Luckily, there are authors and illustrators who have followed in Dr. Seuss' path, creating engaging books that help kids grow as readers and have fun learning, too. Here are two places you can go to find some of the best easy readers available.
Visit the American Library Association (ALA) Website and see the Geisel Award Winners. Each year, the ALA sponsors the (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award to recognize and celebrate the legacy created by Dr. Seuss. The award, first presented in 2006. "recognizes the "the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year." In addition to a medal winner, the ALA commemorates honor books, too. The 2009 medal winner is Are You Ready to Play Outside? By Mo Willems. This is the latest addition to Willems' Elephant and Piggie series.
Check out the 2008 Cybils List . Since 2006, the Kidlitosphere has had an award program to recognize distinguished books for children. The Children's and Young Adult bloggers Literary Awards, aka "Cybils," annually recognizes books that combine the highest literary merit and "kid appeal." For the first two weeks in October, nominated by parents, librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, nominate "favorite" for the year in one of nine categories.
Easy Readers was a new category last year. The panel winnowed 31 Easy Reader nominees to a list of 5 Easy Reader finalists to 1 winner: I Love My New Toy (Elephant and Piggie series) by Mo Willems. The 2009 nominations won't close until Thursday, but already there are more than 35 titles in the Easy Reader and Short Chapter Book category.
I could do a whole post on Mo Willems, but I'd have to arm wrestle Pam, and I know I would lose. I'll just say this: I love introducing kids to Elephant and Piggie. The stories are wonderful, engaging, and always have a little twist. What I like best is that they are "built" to give new readers confidence. Willems uses different sizes to help kids visually recognize how the word should be read. They can instantly see the difference between what? And WHAT?
When you are ready to for new stories to sit side by side with The Cat in the Hat and his friends, you can't go wrong using these lists for recommended reading. Do you and your kids have a favorite Dr. Seuss book or easy reader? I would love to hear about them!