Our Favorite Books and Publishers for Emergent Readers

As many of you know, my son Junior, who has T21, has become a voracious reader. Hence, we make several trips to the library to keep him well supplied. To simplify my never ending job of finding reading material, I find a publisher/series that I like and order as many books from that series that I can from the library. Here are our favorite books and publisher series for emergent readers.

Sight word-based readers

Since Junior learned to read words by sight before reading phonetically, we have gone through many sight-word based readers. Many of these readers use words taken from the Dolce list.

  1. The absolute *best* dolce word readers come from the Gr. 1 Faith and Freedom books published by Seton Educational Media. I’ve blogged about them before and even adapted the pre-primer for children with Down Syndrome and other learning delays. Once a word is introduced, it is used throughout the rest of the series to ensure mastery.

2. Next up comes the Dick and Jane series, which are now being published by Penguin Young Readers. The Dick and Jane series is a secular version of the Faith and Freedom readers, however they are not as consistent with providing continual practice with previously learned words.

Once Junior read through all twelve Dick and Jane books and the Grade 1 Faith and Freedom readers, moving on to the books by Dr. Seuss was easy.

3. The I Can Read it All by Myself Beginner Books feature works by Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman, and co. You can get many of these books individually or as part of compilations:

4. I Like to Read books, published by Holiday House are written and illustrated by a variety of authors and illustrators, exposing children a broad range of styles. These are leveled readers, so you can easily choose what is most appropriate for your child’s reading ability. The publisher also offers free downloadable flashcards for each of their books, so you can teach your child any unfamiliar sight words before proceeding with the book. I really appreciate this series.

5. Many of The Magic Castle Readers are out of print but I was able to get almost all of them from our library. Some are still being published by childsworld.com. These use a lot of words that are not in the Dolce list, but whenever we came across a word Junior was not familiar with, I simply told him what it was. Often he remembered it, especially if it came up further on in the book.

Phonetic Readers

Of course, it’s also important for children to practice using phonics. If you’re just starting phonics with your typically developing child, check out this post on the Three Keys to Teaching Reading. If you have a child with special needs, see my post on Our Favorite Resources for Beginning Phonics for adapted materials and a systematic way of teaching phonics. Junior used several phonetic readers from each of the series listed here just for fun and extra practice.

  1. The Long and Short Vowels series by Childsworld.com are a great way to introduce sounding out words. These use real photographs, and the text is in a large font. This publisher also has similar books that provide practice with sight words. And when your child is ready, they also have books on vowel blends and consonant blends.

2. Bob Books are small leveled readers – cute and fun to read. Junior really enjoyed several of these, as did all my other children. As with most of the books listed in this post, I was able to borrow a lot of these sets through inter-library loan.

3. All About Reading Readers are beautiful hard covered readers with attractive illustrations and funny stories. There are three readers for each level. These may be difficult to find at the library, but if you request them, your local library may be willing to order them. At $23 each these books are pricey. However, they are each about 200+ pages long, so your child will get a lot of reading out of them.

4. The Little Angel Readers by Stone Tablet Press is a very thorough reading program and not nearly as expensive as the All About Reading readers. I have used them with all of my children… Yes, even Junior (much to my surprise) has tackled Readers A, B and C, but only after lots and lots of practice with easier phonetic readers. Tip: As of now, I do not require Junior to read all those word lists.. umm.. frankly, he simply won’t! We practice phonics using the Montessori Language Series, which is much more doable and enjoyable. We use these readers just for fun and review. These have many lovely stories that model family life, virtues, and the Catholic faith.

5. The Usborne Phonics Readers feature cute pictures, large text, and lots of rhyming. However, they introduce a lot of words that children at this level are probably not yet reading. I recommend reading this book aloud with your child and letting him/her point out and read the words he/she knows. For example, Ted in a Red Bed has words such as snore, stream, and sheet. If your child is just learning the short vowels, this series may be too challenging for him/her to try to read independently.

Publisher Series for Emergent Readers

  1. The Penguin Young Readers series is a fairly new series for emergent readers. The sentences are short and easy and are mostly sight-word based. I do wish the publisher used a larger font.

2. The I Can Read series published by Harper Collins has a long standing tradition for producing quality readers for beginners. Remember the Frog and Toad stories, the Little Bear books, and Amelia Bedelia? These are some of the classic readers from I Can Read. There are oodles of I Can Read Books categorized by characters and reading level. I recommend going to the website, finding the reading level and titles you think will be most interesting to your child, and putting those books on hold at your local library. At the easiest levels, we particularly like books about Biscuit and Little Critter.

3. Step Into Reading is another huge collection of books for beginning readers. You can choose books by level, interest, or characters. According to their website, “Step 1 books are designed for the emergent reader. Text is extremely simple, with mainly one- or two-syllable words. Rhyme, rhythm, and repetition are often employed to engage new readers at this level. Books are thirty-two pages long.”

Favorite Collections

Finally, here are our favorite story collections for beginner readers. These are listed from easiest to hardest.

1. The Andy and Sandy Collection written by Tomie de Paola and Jim Lewis features uncluttered pages, large font, simple words, and sweet stories about two little friends.

2. Gossie and Friends: Big Book of Adventures feature highly repetitive and predictable text.

3. Just a Little Critter Collection also has lots of repeated text which helps kids learn new sight words. Cute stories about a little critter who always gets into trouble but means well.

4. Richard Scarry’s Best Read-It-Yourself Book Ever has been a favorite at our house for many years.

5. The Early Reader’s Bible pub. by Zonderkidz is a wonderful teaching tool. Each chapter introduces five new sight words. It’s a great way to teach your kids to read bible-based vocabulary. The sentences are short and use a lot of repeated words.

If you have a reluctant reader, I hope your find something here that will perk their interest. If you have a voracious reader, these sources should keep him/her busy… at least for a while!

Happy reading!

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