Posted: Nov 15, 2013 8:00 AM
As a mom and a reading specialist, I had a very hard time finding great beginning readers for my kids and kids I tutored. The trade books that teachers use in schools are generally not available outside of the teacher catalogs. Because each child is unique and needs different kinds of help when learning to read, having more diversity in reading material is important. While most books available to parents are phonics based, it is not the only path to teach your child how to read.

Contributed by: Kyla Ryman

Following are some things to consider when choosing a beginning reader book for your child.

  1. Reading is more than just decoding letters

    Context is important when we read. It helps us to figure out new words that we cannot read and words we do not know. With new readers, it’s fine to guess a word based on the picture or the context, as long as they check the guess by matching the letters in the word and make sure it makes sense.

  2. Children love real stories

    Children (and adults!) are meaning makers. We want to understand our world and we want things to make sense. Having a story, or a logical structure, whether it is fantasy or nonfiction, makes it interesting to read and discover. It reminds the new reader that the purpose of reading is to understand the story or information, not just to figure out the sound of a letter.

  3. Children love rich illustrations that help tell the story

    Because children understand much more complex ideas than they can read initially, supporting their early reading with fine art is essential. This allows their imagination to be actively engaged while they take the most basic steps as a beginning reader. Children are meaning makers and thrive on figuring things out. Good art supports that in a meaningful way.

What to look for in a great beginning reader^

  • First, know your child. It is better to have a book that is too easy for them to read than too hard. The goal is to feel success. Once it becomes a struggle, many children shut down. The perfect match is mostly easy with a few challenging words, so that children are challenged but not overwhelmed. Make it fun and they will want to return to their books again and again.
  • Second, look for beautiful illustrations, a consistent sentence structure on each page (ex. I took a spaceship to the store, I took a ferry to the store, I took a car to the store, etc.) and a strong match between the illustrations and the words. For beginning readers, short and sweet is fine. Usually good ones are small for small hands and have about 12 pages.

Let them reread their favorites over and over. Have lots of great material around for them to peruse. Keep reading great books, even when they start reading. And always keep reading fun and positive!

Kyla Ryman MS. Ed.About the author

Kyla Ryman, MS.Ed, a reading specialist and advocate of organic learning for young children, founded Home Grown Books. She discovered the need for high quality early reader books outside of schools while supporting a Brooklyn home-school cooperative. As a mother and educator, Kyla is dedicated to creating early reading content that is visually stimulating, respects the intelligence of young learners and still engages Mom and Dad.

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