Expert-Approved Books for Beginning Readers

Here's how to support your child's growing skills and plant the seed for a lifelong love of reading.
By Courtenay Smith
Feb 07, 2020

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Expert-Approved Books for Beginning Readers

Feb 07, 2020

Hearing your child read words aloud for the first time is a lot like watching a baby take their first steps. There is the thrill of the milestone balanced by the knowledge that there's still a long road ahead. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of first reader books and early reading titles that have been created to meet newly independent readers (typically kids in kindergarten through 2nd grade) right at their level, with easy-to-follow plots, simple vocabulary, and lots of sight words.

The most important thing you can do to support your early reader is to help them love reading, says Katie Carella, a former teacher and executive editor at Scholastic who oversees the Acorn and Branches book series for early readers.

"When I was teaching, that moment where I saw kids light up about a book was when I knew I'd made a difference," says Carella. "If you miss that window in the first, second, or third grade, kids go on to say, 'I'm not a reader' and 'I don't like reading.'"

Here is a varied list of early reader books, with input from Carella, that will get your growing bookworm saying, "I love to read!"

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For Kids Who Just Started to Read: Try a Simple Series

The books in the Acorn line provide kids with an entertaining window into topics they care about. They grow reading confidence with short chapters, each of which can be read as a stand-alone story. Each book has a Grade 1 Scholastic reading level, but is designed to appeal to kids in kindergarten through second grade.

"As a teacher, it was hard to find fresh and engaging stories for this age group," says Carella, who launched the Acorn line. "I wanted to create books that could really light a fire in kids." 

The Acorn line includes the laugh-out-loud A Crabby Book: Hello, Crabby, about a cranky crab who drives his friends crazy by refusing to get cheered up, and Unicorn and Yeti, a magical exploration of friendship. There's also Dragon #2: Dragon's Fat Cat, which explores some hilarious mishaps — a trademark of author Dav Pilkey, of Dog Man fame. 

For Kids Who Just Started to Read: Revisit Favorite Childhood Books

If you lived for the cuddles of a daily read-aloud routine with your littles, get ready to reap a serious payoff now. Revisiting already-familiar books is a great way to build reader confidence, according to Scholastic Parents contributor Christie Burnett, an experienced early childhood educator and a mom of two.

Kids already have a strong emotional connection to these books, and early childhood books share many commonalities with early reader books, like simple sentences and easy-to-decipher pictures.

Even if your child can read these books from memory, "every word read, in each and every book, is valuable to their beginning literacy skills," wrote Burnett in an ode to board books. These so-called "baby books" are great options to revisit once your kids start reading on their own.

For Kids Who Just Started to Read: Try Scholastic Level 1 Readers

The education experts at Scholastic use the latest research on children's literacy to develop leveled readers (levels 1, 2, 3) designed to build reading confidence throughout elementary school.

The Level 1 readers tell an engaging story with simple sentences and a mix of familiar words and new vocabulary. A beloved character like Clifford, Noodles, or Peppa Pig helps kids feel even more connected.

Shop the full list of Scholastic Leveled Readers at the Scholastic Store Online.  

For New Readers Ready to Build Stamina: Try Branches Early Chapter Books

Branches books are specifically designed to help early readers work their way up to traditional chapter books. Branches books have more illustrations than chapter books, but offer more complexity than other early readers.

With accessible text, fast-paced plots, and plenty of cliffhangers, Branches books encourage kids to keep reading. If kids can connect to the first book in the series, they have a ready-made trove of reading material they'll love.

"A lot of parents will tell me, 'Oh, we read the first book together, and then they stayed up all night reading the next three on their own," says Carella. 

Shop popular Branches picks below, or shop the full series at The Scholastic Store Online.

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