Stepping Stones of Early Readers: What to Read and When.

Early Readers - Good Books in order of difficulty

The past year has contained a magnificent breakthrough in Ali’s reading. At the beginning of the school year, Ali despised reading. We would painfully make it through two pages of a super simple book before she and I were both exhausted. We kept at it, and finally made it to the promised land. I now regularly catch her reading without being prompted – a miracle indeed. She has read 120 books this school year, and can now read two books in about ten minutes.

And, since we’ve been through 120 early readers this year, we’ve read a lot of good ones, and a lot of bad ones.

We have read some seriously crappy little books.

I had the epiphany last year that I never wanted to read bad read-alouds ever again (which birthed by 101 Read-Aloud books post,) so I thought that this year, I would share my list of early reader books that are worth reading.

I’ve organized them in four levels of reading proficiency to make it most effective for you and your child.

Disclaimer: I am not an education professional. This is merely a non-scientific listing based on our experience. Feel free to disregard everything I say from here on out.

LEVEL ONE: These books are simple and easy to read, with very few words on each page.

Fly Guy Books – These are my absolute favorite super-easy readers. They’re cute, have personality and plot twists, and are fun to read. Ali loves them too, for what it’s worth.

Biscuit Books – Not the most creative storylines, but that’s hard to find in beginning readers! Cute, simple books about a dog named Biscuit.

Dixie Books – Another series about another dog. Dogs are apparently popular with kids these days.

Dora the Explorer Ready-To-Read and Go Diego Go Ready-To-Read – These are simple readers that have pictures interspersed with words. I’m not sure that this strategy would help all early readers – it might confuse more than help. However, Ali enjoys it.

Clifford’s Scholastic Readers – These are simple and easy to read. And Clifford doesn’t completely annoy me. Most of the time.

Mia Ballerina Books – Ali loves these since she’s taking ballet this year. They come in a couple of different levels, but all tend to weigh toward the easy side of reading.

Olivia Ready to Read Books – So Olivia is a pig. And kids like her. She’s cool.


LEVEL TWO: These books typically have about 30 pages (31 pages to be exact – I have no idea why it’s such a popular page quantity) and 2-3 sentences on each page. They have a slightly more advanced vocabulary that can help spark conversation.

I Can Read Narnia Books – We recently discovered these and love them! They tell short snippets out of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and are illustrated with screenshots from the movies. We are currently reading through the Narnia Series for our read-aloud, so these are especially timely.

Pinkalicious Books – These are cute girl’s books with personality. Similar to Fancy Nancy, but without all of the fancy vocabulary and crazy hair.

Fancy Nancy Books – The epitome of girl reading. Fancy Nancy has personality, spunk, and plot twists. They tend to all run together after a while, but are loved by girls everywhere, including mine.

Splat! and Snail City – These two books are by Jane O’Connor, the author of Fancy Nancy, and I adore them. I wish she would write more off-topic books – they are my favorite readers in this section. They’re so creative and enjoyable to read.


LEVEL THREE: These books are longer, may have chapters, and take dedication to finish. They can be read earlier, though, if digested in multiple sittings.

Dr Seuss Books – When Ali started to read, I was surprised at how long Dr. Seuss books were! It’s great because it challenges her, but they’re twice as long as most modern books in the “I Can Read” series. Some are easier reading than others (Hop on Pop, Red Fish Blue Fish One Fish Two Fish, The Foot Book, The Ear Book, The Eye Book), but most have about 60 pages and will need a dedicated reader to finish them (or will need to be read over several days.) They’re great books, though – No one writes quite like Dr. Seuss!

Katie Woo Books – These books are set up in chapters, which is fun for a new reader, because it makes them feel accomplished. They’re cute stories and typically have a good lesson in them – about not being bossy or sharing or something that you probably want your kids to learn.

Hooray for Amanda and her Alligator – This book by Mo Willems is SO fun. It’s cute, quirky, original, and attention-grabbing. It’s also set up in chapters to help kids feel accomplished.

Big Max Books – These are fun, longer books but still easy to read. They have creative storylines which make for more interested kids and parents. I just wish there were more of them!


LEVEL FOUR: These books have one or more paragraphs on each page and are much longer stories.

Amelia Bedelia – Although they have recently added a few earlier readers, most of these are longer books meant for kids with a longer attention span and dedication to reading.

Berenstain Bears – These books are great for teaching integrity, values, and morals, but are also a bit higher of a reading level. They’re great for reading out loud until they get there, though!


Now we need new book ideas! What are your favorite early readers? Please add them in the comments!