Good quality books for beginning readers are hard to find so that’s why I am sharing our list for beginning readers to help support parents reading at home with their child(ren) at ALL levels.
NOTE: This post is a book list and reference post for basic info for teaching Pre- K to Grade 2 readers without having to do research or assess your child’s reading.
The Best Books for Beginning readers are SIMPLE, easily decodable, have great stories & supportive illustrations (kids enjoy them AND they go perfectly with the story).
Best Beginning Books: a List by type
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- Board (Baby) Books (first 100 or 1000 words and the word reference books are great to build vocabulary, the earliest of all reading skills. If it’s too bab-ish for your reader don’t get it- that will backfire with the exception of some beginning “baby” science readers.)
- Simple Picture Books with repetitive patterns (easy to memorize and build vocabulary, learn about words that rhyme, etc.)
- Wordless Books (helps kids voice their comprehension & practice vocabulary)
- Beginning Readers (like the Brand New Readers Series are meant to be guided reading books to develop fluency- THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE SERIES!!!! These will eventually turn into independent reading books.)
- Beginning Chapter Books (more advanced beginning reader. Be careful to notice that a level 1 in one set of beginning readers is not equivalent to a level 1 in another set. example: I can Read Series vs Scholastic Science Vocabulary Series. They require first grade level skills and lots of sight words.)
- Chapter Books
- Online Books– When printed books are not available online books can be an excellent alternative.
It’s important to have a great selection of books to choose from to diversify your at-home reading.
Simply put you need all of these types of books to support beginning readers. Books that are “too hard” for young readers to read independently can be read aloud and are great for enriching their early reading expereinces.
Most libraries are open again for at least curbside pick up other options for diversifying your reading are to try an online library & to build your at-home collection (purchase a new book or two per month).
For specific title recommendations scroll & our collections of favorite scroll below- we have recommendations for all levels!
3 Types of Beginning Readers (by skills):
1. Pre-Reading: (board books, picture books, wordless books- & try these Bob books)
- Building vocabulary (this is a HUGE support for learning to read that is often overlooked)
- Noticing & talking about the pictures is a form of reading and VERY important for comprehension. Kids can start “reading” the pictures at an early age when you preview the story to help them understand better what is going on. (“Read” the pictures FIRST before reading the words.)
- Understanding book orientation & learning how to handle a book (hold right-side up, turn pages correctly, understand that letters represent sounds and sounds make up words).
2. Basic Skills Beginner:(simple decodable readers- try these )
- Still Learning Letter names & sounds (some letter/sound knowledge)
- Look for books with short simple sentences
- Relies heavily on initial & final letter in words or uses picture to solve unknown words
3. Intermediate Skills Beginner: try these)
- Knows (most or all) letter names and sounds
- Points to words when reading (may need reminding)
- Tries to figure out “tricky” words using picture, letter sound knowledge or “what makes sense” strategy
- reads word-by-word or with fluency on frequently read books
4. Advanced Beginner
- Knows: all letter sounds & most sight words (K-1)
- Solves tricky words with reading strategies; use picture, what makes sense, decodes basic spelling patterns (blends, digraphs, vowel teams)
- Greater fluency (naturally reads more with ease) and stamina for reading (can sit & sustain reading for longer periods of time)
There are 4 ways read with your child that will benefit any level reader:
- Read Aloud (I read)
- Guided Reading/ Shared Reading (We read- take turns or read at the same time. We do a lot of “my page, your page” reading.)
- Independent Reading (you read)
- Talk about the story before, during & after you read it!
Reading to your child at home has always been an important part of learning to read. Now in light of recent world events it is more important than ever!
Choosing “just right” books for your child can help their reading dramatically.
The best books for beginning readers book list is sorted by type of book and includes wordless books for all kids ages prek- grade 2 (to build comprehension skills).
For older kids or experienced readers use the 5 Finger Rule to see if the book their choice is a good fit.
5 Finger Rule
Turn to a random page in the book.
Have your child read aloud.
If they make 5 or more mistakes it may be too advanced for them to read independently. I would set this book aside as a guided reading (we read book) book and they can choose a different book for independent reading.
Best Books by Ability or Academic Age
Ok, these really are for babies. They are indestructible (literally) some are wordless and some have simple text. I had to include them because they are AWESOME, especially if you have a younger sibling who keeps tearing up big brother or sister’s books.
Things That Go! is part of the Indestructibles Series. This is the earliest of beginning reading books and is intended for babies who can grasp, chew, etc. because this type of book is virtually indestructible. My son had a decent collection of these as a baby and he didn’t destroy a single one. They do not fall apart or tear like board books.
Baby Faces is another great Indestructables book. This books shows the faces of multicultural babies expressing themselves during their day. Sometimes they are sad, sometimes they are silly or happy, one is eating yummy food, etc. This series also has it’s own version of popular nursery rhymes like Hey Diddle, Diddle & Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Peek-a-Who? is a silly rhyming board book that both my son and I enjoyed reading night after night. It’s a simple and short bedtime read that rhymes and has a bit of a surprise ending that all kids love!
Not so Baby-ish Baby Books
Re-purpose some of your old baby books AFTER you have learned the vocabulary to “read the picture” by reading the simple books with a single word & a picture. When they can track 1:1 (match all of the letters to the word and all of the words to the sentence) you can go back and re-read their favorites while they point to each word like in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?
Kids can see that “duck” is next to a photo of duck. They point to the picture or the word duck using the picture clue to read the word.
This teaches 2 different beginning reading strategies;
- readers “use the picture” to help them figure out a word
- 1:1 correspondence (what they say matches what they’re reading) readers point to the word they are reading
Kids use pictures as a clue about what the word could be. Not all words are phonetically spelled (and you can teach them that too). I call them “rule breakers” for now until he’s old enough to learn the more complicated spelling/sound patterns.
Roger Priddy is the king of well written baby books (that build vocabulary). First 100 Words is just one of many great books. This one is a wonderful starter book.
For kids who are past the First 100 Words book try My First Dictionary. It’s has 1,000 words, photos and definitions that help kids build their vocabulary.
An amazing “big- kid” word book is the picture book The Word Collector. It’s hard to write about without spilling the beans so I’ll keep it really generic it’s about a boy who has a word collection and what he is able to do with it. This is a must have intro to reading book for teachers and parents who want to expand kids minds & get them on board with what words are for and why we read.
Picture Books for Beginning Readers
These picture books are best for beginning readers (K-1) because they have repetitive patterns and are easily predictable.
Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear This is a classic children’s favorite for many reasons. It has animals, a predectable cadence & the illustrations are great!
Joy Cowley’s Mrs. Wishy Washy’s Farm (or any book by Joy Cowley) is another great predictable pattern book. I love the illustrations, rhyme and that this book takes place on a farm.
Eileen Christelow’s 5 Little Monkeys is one of my all time favorites & is also a great way to learn numbers.
David Shannon’s No David is a very simple story of a super busy and curious boy named David. Just as curiosity got the cat, David often finds himself in trouble. The cadence of this book is simple enough for any child to read and a great opportunity to discuss the story without getting hung up on the mechanics of reading.
Have you tried wordless books?
It’s a really great way to build confidence for kids who say they “can’t read” or kids who need a little help expressing themselves.
The Red Book is a Caldecott Honor Award winning book by Barbara Lehman. There is an inscription in the beginning of the book you’ll want to read to your child but the rest of the book is wordless (except for the final page about the author).
A 2014 Caldecott Honor Book Journey is one of three books in a series by Aaron Becker. This book is a great representation of book lovers get lost in reading and imagination! A must have for any family and truly is a work of art. Don’t waste time checking this one out at the library, buy it for your home collection!
In Chalk 3 kids find a bag of chalk on a rainy day. They begin to draw & then the magic happens!
Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight is a wonderful book that will awaken your imagination (and make you reach for your own flashlight)!
Flotsam by David Wiesner is a literary treasure! The illustrations are impeccable! If you are a beach lover you must purchase a copy for your home library!!
A Ball for Daisy is another award winner, 2012 Randolph Caldecott Award. This is an incredible book about love and loss. Daisy has a favorite toy, and it is destroyed by a bigger dog! This book is not entirely wordless but it’s a great book and good transition from wordless to books with words.
David Weisner received a Caldecott Medal for his book Tuesday in 1991. If you like frogs & need a fun wordless read then pick Tuesday!
Why Choose Wordless books?
Wordless books are really great to help teach kids to visualize the story and use the pictures to help them read. This is a key beginning reading strategy. Read the pictures or take a “picture walk” (read all of the pictures before reading the words & say what you think each page is talking about).
Wordless books are my new favorite right now, especially these gems! I had forgotten all about wordless books until I was preparing to teach my son to read and needed a buffer for drawing vocabulary & comprehension out of him. Also his older cousins are confident readers and he was beginning to get hung up on not knowing (all of) the words or saying “I can’t read”. I helped him finish that statement with yet! I can’t read, yet and we talked about everyone has to learn how to read.
NEXT STEPS for budding readers…
Shared or Guided Reading (Books you read together):
Pick up the Brand New Readers Series (we got the full class set).
You can purchase the books a la carte (each $5.99 pack comes with 4 books) or in a boxed set.
We are using the “classroom” set. This comes with 20 different titles which I purchased so I’d have books he could read for the whole year and it comes with 5 copies of each title, so it’s a great set to . Included in this set are blank DIY books, which is one of his favorite activities.
The Mouse Has Fun Brand New Readers Pack ($5.99 on Amazon) was exactly what we needed. (This is not a sponsored post.)
This set includes 4 books:
- Cat & Mouse
- It’s Super Mouse
The books are really great to build fluency and basic comprehension! They have easy to read stories that little kids can relate to like pizza, pretending to be a super hero or playing a game of tag. The simple easy to decode format includes decodeable spellings & sight words with correlating illustrations.
Brand New Readers Full Set
Based on our trial run of these readers we have started using the full set as the books he will read “by himself”. IT comes with 120 books (5 sets of 20 different titles).
They are really great confidence builders. He is needing very little support from me & is able to pick up most books and read it through almost completely by himself.
The Brand New Reader Series is a little over $100 on Amazon. One family or you could share the cost with other homeschooling families which would be $20 per child, SUPER reasonable!
Beginning readers level 1– letter sounds
Beginning Readers level 2– simple words, consistent sounds and patterns.
Beginning Chapter Books
Sometimes your child has an interest in books that are too hard for them to read alone. You can indulge their reading interests by turning a too hard chapter book into a read aloud. For example
Step into Reading Series (Level 1)
It is great for early readers to begin to engage in reading stories all by themselves. Guided Reading (adult & child) is the best way to get started with these books. Look for topics that interest your child first and maybe find a familiar author or series of books to enjoy!
I like Bugs is part of the Step Into Reading series. This is Step 1 book or kindergarten level (A or B if you do F&P leveled readers). This book is by Margaret Wise Brown, a wonderful children’s author who my son LOVES & he loves bugs too so I know this will be perfect for him when he’s ready to begin reading chapter books on his own (we are not there yet- we’re still doing the Brand New Reader Series).
I Can Read Series (Level 1)
Mac and Cheese is a silly reader about 2 cats. One cat is Mac & the other Cheese. They are like the cat version of the Odd Couple. The book rhymes and is simple to read for an emerging reader (F&P level E). This is not for brand new readers. The text is longer, with more sight words and higher level vocabulary that some kids would not have heard yet like “delish & very blue”.
Frog and Toad are hands down my favorite characters in any series. They are a pair of amphibious best friends who are polar opposites. They navigate their personality differences & help each other out. This is Level 2 series and is a bit more difficult and is for readers who have more expereince reading (F&P level G or H).
A is for Amber is a second grade level chapter book. It is way too hard for him and he knows it. He still wants to read it so I will use these as read alouds. This series has more science & vocabulary so I think he’ll really enjoy them.
Scholastic Science Readers
Another series worth the mention is scholastic science readers! My son loves to read the pictures but they’re WAY too hard for him to read independently especially with all of the science vocabulary. He often chooses these for our read alouds or bedtime story.
Prerequisite reading skills:
- Knowledge of Letter sounds. Review sounds of decode-able words in the story as needed.
- Beginning phonemic awareness; segmenting & blending sounds & syllables to make words
- Able to tell the difference between the picture and print
- Beginning to try to match word for word & letter for letter
Independent Reading Books
Reading all by yourself is a super important step in learning to read.
Selecting books that support independent reading levels can be very tricky. I re-purposing our guided reading books (the Brand New Reader series) to do double duty as independent readers. Practice reading together for awhile before offering independent reading or your children may naturally pick up a book and start “reading” to themselves.
Build confidence, fluency (practice reading aloud) & independence( try the I read, you read format where you alternate turns reading). Do not plan to introduce the early chapter books until later when your child is fully confident & capable and the very beginning readers are feeling “too easy” or they are not making any mistakes.
I am not talking about reading levels in this post (if you have questions just ask in the comments or see how to homeschool reading) instead I am focusing on offering a variety of texts to support my budding reader.
Most reading programs have leveled books. In general books that have printed “levels” on them tend to be inconsistent and misleading (because there are many different models of leveling books).
In other words they are books you will read to them (hard to very complex) the books that are above or slightly above his level we read together (even if he just picks out one or two words he knows) and the new addition to our reading at home are books he can read independently. Everything we read will be repeated if there is an interest.
Make a list of books you’d like to check out at the library (or buy) when your budding reader is ready!
Comment below & let me know what books you’re excited to read with your brand new reader or how I can help support your emerging readers!