Of course, any book children love and have been read often can be a book they choose to read by themselves, whether it’s a book with some complex vocabulary like Where the Wild Things Are or a simpler text like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. If they’ve heard it a million times, you’ve probably already noticed that if you skip one word reading it to them, they will point out the error of your ways.
Some books are particularly suited to young children starting to read by themselves. A word of warning, though: Most important is a good story. If the vocabulary is stilted and contrived to fit a pattern, it will actually be more difficult for children to read. Luckily, there is a wealth of entertaining easy-to-read books to choose from. Here are a few to whet your child’s appetite for independent reading.
I Love My New Toy by Mo Willems,
Piggie is thrilled with her brand-new toy, even though she isn’t quite sure what it does. When Elephant examines it, more than the toy threatens to break. Luckily, Squirrel is able to rescue both the toy—and the friendship. A terrific book for new readers, especially those who have loved the word-bubble format and humor of Mo Willlems’ Pigeon series. And more good news: the happy-go-lucky and risk-taking Piggie and her more cautious and sometimes gloomy friend Elephant are the main characters in 8 more books in a growing series.
Grasshopper on the Road by Arnold Lobel
Grasshopper embarks on a journey, meeting lots of other creatures on his way. But they are too busy and involved in their own little worlds to notice what is going on around them in the natural world. With its off-beat characters—Worm is a favorite!—this book is funny to adults as well as beginning readers. The pastel illustrations are a perfect complement to the setting.
A Good Day by Kevin Henkes
All Kevin Henkes’ books are great, so no surprise that this one is a top recommendation. This book connects with young readers who know what it’s like to start a day off with everything going wrong. That’s what happens to the four characters in this tale: a bird, a dog, a fox, and a squirrel. But before their days are ruined, it turns out t be a good day after all. The animals’ expressions are priceless, whether they are dejected and disappointed, or as in the happy conclusion, animated and delighted. There is the added pleasure of a gentle parable in the delight of the nameless little girl who finds the bird’s lost feather, which makes her day a good one as well as the little animals. The pictures are charming and the text is clear and easy to read. Highly recommended!
Gossie by Olivier Dunrea
Gossie is an adorable little goose. She loves her bright red boots and insists on wearing them everywhere. Imagine her dismay when they go missing! And her additional distress when she finds them—on the feet of another, younger, gosling! The book comes to a satisfying conclusion where the two goslings become friends. This is the first book in a very appealing series, loved by toddlers—and still charming for early readers with its beautiful ink and watercolor illustrations, tiny hidden details in the background, and plots that connect to the daily experiences of young children.
Ballerina Girl by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Anne Kennedy
An easy-to-read book written in rhyme, this story appeals especially to the young dancers in your family. The pictures add important clues, which help young readers make sense of the story and add depth.
Tales of Amanda Pig by Jean Van Leeuwen, illustrated by Ann Schweninger
Amanda the Pig and her little brother Oliver live with their wise and wonderful parents, who provide security and advise as their piggie children encounter and resolve everyday situations: food they don’t like, going to bed, being scared of monsters, or just settling disagreements with each other. Never preachy, the stories are engaging and fun—and easy to read!
Hello, Lulu by Caroline Uff
There are many things to love about Lulu, a little girl who lives with her parents, big sister, baby brother and her Teddy whose ear is a bit wobbly. The big pictures are friendly and inviting. The text is simple, but not overly so. There aren’t too many words per page, so when this becomes a favorite in your house (and it will), you won’t be too exhausted after reading it for the millionth time. Hello Lulu introduces you to Lulu and her family and friends. There are several other books in the series, including Happy Birthday Lulu, which is a great pre-birthday present. One note of warning- if you find the British words charming, check the edition you buy. For some reason, they’ve Americanized most of the charm out of the board book versions of these book.
Fox Be Nimble by James Marshall
This picture book is a favorite in the Fox series. Kids love to see Fox showing off as a guitar-playing rock star, babysitting for a wild family of bears, and learning to be brave over a small injury. This is a character that adults can enjoy as well, as he is written with considerable wit and gets into lots of wacky situations.
Three by the Sea by Edward Marshall, illustrated by James Marshall
After a delightful picnic lunch, three friends–Lolly, Spider, and Sam- decide to relax by telling stories. One of the fun things about this book is the way it makes fun of predictable, limited vocabulary, children’s books. When Lolly tells a really boring story about a cat and a rat where nothing happens, Spider and Sam try to out do each other while keeping the story about a rat and a cat. Great parody—and kids really enjoy it. You may also want to check out the two sequels: Four by the Shore and Three Up a Tree.
Messy Bessey by Pat McKissack and Fredrick McKissack, illustrated by Dana Regan
We meet Messy Bessy in this first of a series of picture books about a messy little girl. The stories are about situations that young children encounter everyday like the complications of being a friend at a birthday sleepover, having an absolutely disastrously messy room, or working hard in a garden to help things grow. Children identify with Bessy, and enjoy the easy-to-read format and engaging illustrations.
Mr. Putter and Tabby Make a Wish by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
This humorous series by the great author Cynthia Rylant has just the right balance between words and pictures to draw in young readers. Tabby is an adorable cat, with great expressions that change through the stories. All the books have a gentle subtext on the kindness of friendship. This one points out that no matter how old a person gets, they still feel like a kid inside.
Just for You! The Mystery Of The Missing Dog by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Nancy Devard
Alex can’t find his dog, Jet. For children who are engaged by books about pets, this easy-to-read “mystery” is just the ticket. The story is appealing even though the language is quite simple. And it is also encouraging to find more easy readers with human characters as well as animals.