Of course we love our students! But what I’m referring to here by "readers" are those books that are specially designed for beginning students of reading.
Here are some examples of "readers."
Bright & Early Books for Beginners – Random House
In a People House – Dr. Seuss
Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb – Al Perkins
The Eye Book – Theodore Lesieg
I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words – Michael Frith
Thomas and Friends: Fast Train, Slow Train – Rev. W. Awdry
The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree – Stan Berenstain
Hello Reader Series – Random House
My Tooth Is About To Fall Out – Grace Maccarone
Monkey See, Monkey Do – Marc Gave
More Spaghetti, I Say! – Rita Golden Gelman
Two Crazy Pigs – Karen Berman Nagel
Even Steven and Odd Todd – Kathryn Cristaldi
A Quarter From the Tooth Fairy – Caren Holtzman
Step Into Reading Books Series
I Like Bugs – Margaret Wise Brown
Bones – Stephen Krensky
The Dragon’s Scales – Sarah Albee
Volcanoes! Mountains of Fire – Eric Arnold
To the Top! Climbing the World’s Highest Mountain – Sydelle Kramer
Grosset & Dunlap’s All Aboard Reading Series
Play With Max and Ruby – Rosemary Wells
Pal and Sal – Ronnie Ann A. Herman
Dog Wash Day – Maryann Coca-Leffler
Egyptian Gods & Goddesses – Henry Barker
Eek: Stories to Make You Shriek – Jane O’Connor
Tony Hawk and Andy MacDonald: Ride to the Top – Alice Dieterich
You’ll find within many of these collections a wide variety of titles. Some are cute little ditties to teach word families, and some explore nonfiction issues like science and history. Some are masterful and some are just plain dumb.
When my students come to my room they usually make a beeline for the "readers." Why?
- These are books that students can be successful with. The vocabulary is usually controlled to allow for fluent, meaningful reading without too many pauses for unfamiliar words. (If students have difficulty with more than 5%–yes, five percent!– of the words in a text, then their fluency and comprehension are likely to break down.)
- There are topics for everyone! I’m delighted with the interesting nonfiction titles that are being published. My fifth graders would much rather read about the Titanic than about talking animals. (And so would I.) But you’ll find quality fiction in these collections, too.
- "Readers" usually can be finished within 1-3 sessions, so my students’ interest remains high. Children also enjoy the satisfaction of "finishing" a book so quickly and painlessly.
- They are relatively inexpensive. This is an important factor since an effective reading program needs lots and lots of books!
There’s just one thing that I’d like the publishers of these books to change: My students are very cognizant of the little icon on the front cover that indicates the "grade level" of the book. These children are already painfully aware of their reading difficulties and don’t need yet another reminder. Perhaps the publishers can develop an unobtrusive code like the one found on the back of some easy novels (something like "RL 2," meaning Reading Level of Grade 2) that teachers and tutors can refer to.
In an effort to use alliteration or rhyme, a small number of these books are over-controlled in their vocabulary selections. A few of these books have the vocabulary so tightly restricted that the story hardly makes sense! If the text sounds unnatural to you, it certainly will sound confusing to your student. And we want our students to develop a love of quality literature.
I can’t recommend one series over another since there is so much variability within each collection. You’ll find large collections of "readers" in any bookstore or online bookseller.
I urge you to include "readers" in your book collection. These are excellent materials that can get your students excited about books.