Best Books for Beginning Readers

Good quality books for beginning readers are hard to find!

This list is intended for incoming Kindergartners without having to do research and assess your child’s reading. (Which I suggest you do at some point.)

I created this list of books that we will be reading for the year & I am happy to share with other parents who will be beginning reading at home with their child.

Reading Levels

Most reading programs have leveled books. I am not talking about reading levels in this post (if you have questions just ask in the comments) instead I am focusing on offering a variety of texts to support my budding reader.

The books he cannot yet read by himself I am reading to him (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.

Here’s what I use and why:

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  • Baby Books (first 100 or 1000 words and the word reference books are great to build vocabulary, the earliest of all reading skills. Some a great beginning “baby” science readers since scientific vocabulary is so tricky. If it’s too babish for your read don’t get it- that will backfire.)
  • 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 (advances reading 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
  • Chapter Books

Baby Books

Ok, these really are for babies. 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 by reading the ones with a single word & a picture.

Kids can see that “duck” is next to a photo of duck. The point to the duck or the word duck use the picutre clue & read the word.

This teaches 2 different beginning reading strategies;

  • readers use the picture to help them figure out a word
  • 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

The best picture books for beginning readers 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.

Audrey Wood’s The Napping House or Silly Sally are two other excellent choices. They have excellent illustrations, fun rhymes and are silly!

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.

Wordless Books

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.

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 engage in reading stories all by themselves. Look for topics that interest your child first and maybe find a familiar author!

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.

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
  • Picnic
  • Pizza

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!

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 these books can be very tricky. I am 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.

NEst Steps:

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!

Selecting books for beginning readers is tricky!  We have been working really hard on preparing to read & my budding reader is ready to learn about fluency!
This is our book list for the year. It is intended for kindergarten readiness & to support kindergarten reading at the earliest level. I have included all of the books in preparation we have used starting when he was a baby.

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