How to Choose Books for Your Child in Grades 1-2

A lifelong journey of learning has begun! Here’s how to support your child’s reading skills in the earliest years of their education.

Jul 15, 2022



How to Choose Books for Your Child in Grades 1-2

Jul 15, 2022

Elementary school marks the beginning of a new and structured group learning environment for your child, one that demands attention and focus — and also provides plenty of fun distractions, like new friendships. 

Developmentally, your child is ready to play and express themselves around others. Their literacy is also rapidly evolving. At this age, children will understand cause and effect in stories and unspoken character emotions. They may be able to recount basic details like the who, what, when, and where of a story. 

Joining a classroom setting means that your child’s reading progress will quickly become apparent to you and your child’s teacher. Be sure to check in with them regularly and ask questions throughout the school year about areas of improvement. It's helpful to be aware of common reading milestones for early elementary school.

This time in school can be a blast: Children’s personalities are emerging and they are eager to have fun. Here are tips for choosing books for your child in grades 1-2 that take the pressure off them (and you), while still prioritizing reading skills.

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1. Aim for reading confidence instead of just reading level.

Reading regularly builds vocabulary, comprehension, recognition, and engagement. While the topic of reading levels will begin to creep into teacher conversations and book-buying adventures, it’s important to remember that there’s a just-right book for your child — and this is the book they will grow with and ultimately learn to read from. 

“We want to build a love of reading and encourage lots of practice,” says Karen Burke, SVP of Data Analysis and Academic Planning at Scholastic Education Solutions. “Reading level at home is less important than reading lots of books and talking about what children are reading or being read. The research is clear that reading often and a great deal helps build background knowledge that children will draw upon in many situations.”

The professionals who determine reading levels of books consider many factors, including sentence structure, text layout, and vocabulary. Your teacher will conduct an assessment at the beginning of the school year to gauge your child’s reading level. At home, one way to tell if a book is the right fit for your child is the “Five-Finger Rule,” according to teacher Wandiza Williams.

“Students will begin reading a page and put a finger up for every word they don't know,” Williams says. “If they have five fingers up by the end of the page, that is an indication that this book may be too challenging to read independently — but could be a good choice for a shared reading or read-aloud.”

2. Match book characteristics to your child’s reading progress.

Read-alouds are the perfect time to encourage your child to practice reading — this gives them confidence and opens up a dialogue about what they like and don’t like about their book. 

“Sometimes children in grades 1 and 2 are reluctant to read on their own,” Burke says. “Encourage them to ‘read’ the pictures and tell you about the book. If they use some of the words that are in the book, you can point those out.”

When choosing books for your child, consider where they are in their reading journey and which book attributes would best benefit their unique needs.

“When selecting books to read to our youngest learners, look for colorful illustrations that will draw a child’s attention and draw them into the book,” Burke says. “A limited number of words on the page involves the child and moves them through the book. This builds reading stamina.”

For more advanced young readers, Scholastic’s early chapter book line, Branches, offers a guided transition from picture books. Branches books like Dragon Masters and Owl Diaries pair colorful illustrations with fast-paced, more complex plots. Your child will gain reading confidence and also develop a taste for book series, which are shown to sustain reading engagement.

Everyone loves a funny book, too. Scholastic Executive Editor Amanda Maciel says humor is the order of the day for first and second graders. 

“This is a great time to let kids pick out books that make them laugh, even if you don’t think they’re quite as funny as your youngster does.” 

The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report indicates humor is the top characteristic children look for in books. Funny books can be therapeutic, empowering, and even “make teaching stick.”  

Choose a funny book that does double duty as an educational tool, like the zany adventures of Ms. Frizzle’s class in The Magic School Bus series. Today there are new books in the series that teach STEM skills (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) while keeping kids engaged in learning. 

3. Complement classroom learning with activity books.

By the end of second grade, Burke says children’s language fluency will have improved dramatically and they should be reading more words on a page.

“Children should have more stamina to read for longer periods of time without taking a break,” Burke says. “They will have moved to chapters in books with fewer pictures on the page, and they’ll be reading both fiction and nonfiction on a more regular basis.”

It’s a rapid ascent. If you’re looking for ways to supplement your child’s classroom learning at home — or perhaps when school is out — consider activity books. This might be an important time for advancement and absorption of knowledge, but your child will be having too much fun with these books to notice that they’re sharpening their skills simultaneously.

Kids can learn about social-emotional intelligence with Scholastic Early Learners: My Growth Mindset Workbook, which helps readers identify emotions and suggests coping strategies, while Scholastic Early Learners: My First Science Experiments teaches children about the world around them on an easy-to-grasp level.

Shop popular books for kids in grades 1-2 below. You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.

For more tips on finding books at the right level for your child, visit our guide on reading levels for kids. You'll find plenty of helpful insights, including a reading guide for ages 8-10

Alphabet Recognition
Book Selection Tips
Age 7
Age 6
Leveled Reading
Early Reading
Reading for Pleasure