Children will learn to read at their own pace. As this exciting phase evolves, there are many approaches adults can use to nurture their budding readers in creating a wonderful learning experience.
Often the most challenging stages of reading development is discovering books when rising to the next level prior to leaping into full chapters. Here are some guidelines, accompanied by book recommendations, to demystify the entry levels of beginning reader books:
Provide a foundation for reading readiness. These very short books boost sight word recognition and the ability to anticipate story events. The text has a few single syllable, easy-to-recognize words per page. An emphasis on illustrations with familiar characters supply visual hints for word meaning.
Assist emergent readers to learn to read independently. The text contains familiar words that are easy to sound out. Typically, Level 1 Early Readers have 1-2 short sentences per page, often with rhyming and repetition. Illustrations on each page deliver clues to the text, add interest, and set the mood of the story. The book length is generally limited to 32 pages, without chapters.
Level 2 and 3 Early Readers often overlap with entry-level Easy Chapter books, but have fewer pages.
Offer a first introduction to chapters for independent readers or family storytime. The vocabulary is straightforward without complex descriptors. Easy Chapters use shorter sentences and paragraphs, have less pages per chapter, and include more illustrations than regular chapter books. The number of characters is smaller and the plot is easier to follow, while engaging content maintains reader interest. The font size in entry Easy Chapters is larger with more space between lines and wide margins, and page count is usually around 60 pages.
Tips for Parents
Read, Read, Read
- Create a home environment where words, reading, and listening rank high. Surround your child with books, listen to audiobooks on the go, and keep reading aloud daily after your child is a fluent reader
- Track words on the page while you read, by pointing to each word left to right with your finger (or your child can hold the book, turn the pages, and point to words as you read)
- Involve your child during read alouds by asking questions to boost vocabulary, recall, and understanding of story plot. Read the entire book to your child first time through. Read it again and prompt with open-ended questions such as “What animal is this?”, or “Which animal did we see when we went to the zoo on Sunday?” to relate the story to your child’s own experience
- Use intentionality when introducing new words. When reading aloud a new book, focus on 1 or 2 unfamiliar words and give brief, straightforward definitions
- Teach strategies to attach meaning to unknown words. Look for smaller words in bigger words, use pictures as clues, figure out beginning and ending sounds, or skip the word and continue reading (this process of word identification is called decoding)
- Practice sight words (recognizable at a glance, like “the” and “me”) with playful reading games such as scavenger hunts around the house, or write words with play dough, Wikki Stix, and other fun materials. No drills or flash cards, please! Rote instruction ignores comprehension, the value of communication, and can take the enjoyment out of reading
- Introduce vocabulary and play with language (repetition is important). Play word and rhyming games or sing made-up rhymes, and use some complex words when talking to child about things they enjoy
- Use familiar words in new ways for your child to discover different meanings for the same word (e.g., the dog is “running”, my nose is “running”, etc.)
- Promote language skills and assess reading comprehension by observation:
— Can your child explain the story plot or predict what might happen next? Ask open-ended Why or What questions like “What do you think bunny will do next?”
— Can your child form a mental picture of storyline? Ask your child to retell the story, act out with stuffed animals, or draw pictures
— Can your child make connections from what she is reading to her own life? “Can you think of a time when you had the same feeling?”
— Can your child visualize a movie while listening to a story? Ask her to make up her own story
- Focus on self-esteem. Emphasize strengths and talents (be specific and honest). Give your child 3 things she is doing better than a couple weeks ago and reread familiar and favorite books to build confidence. As your child’s reading skills improve, increase book length rather than words per page to elevate self-esteem
- Patience, perseverance, and encouragement, rather than leading, are valuable agents to support a reader-in-training
As conveyed in the Kidsblog School Readiness series, open-ended play is a powerful way to learn. Embed your child’s reading process with child-directed playful activities and experiences. May your reward be a child who loves to read!
Stay tuned for the next Kidsblog post with additional reading activity suggestions you can do together to support this important and thrilling time in your child’s development.
Galinsky, Ellen. (2010). Skill Three: Communicating. In Mind In The Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (pp. 132-156). 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins.
Shaffer, Sylvie. (2019, March 12). New for New Readers: What (Exactly) IS an Easy Reader? Horn Book [online magazine]
Taylor, Melissa. (2017, August 25). 8 Ways to Help Kids Understand What They Read. Read Brightly [website]
Whitehurst, Grover J. (Russ). (2018, July 3). Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read Aloud With Young Children. Reading Rockets [website]