First Books to Read Independently

Learning to read is hard work and our younger daughter has been working hard at it all summer (see post from June 14, 2017). She recently read her first book independently! Our younger daughter easily identifies letters, matches them to the sounds they make, and recognizes common consonant blends. Her sight word vocabulary also continues to grow. However, reading is still hard work for her and she often runs out of steam before the end of a book. Right now we are focused on building her stamina and confidence with reading.

Easy Readers labeled with levels are one place to start, such as the I Can Read! books published by Harper Collins or the Step Into Reading books published by Random House.  However, I sometimes find that the books are still a bit too difficult for her right now (ask me again in a couple of months!) and that there can be a lack of consistency across books labeled as being at the same level. Instead, in our household, we’ve found Mo Willems to be a great source of books for this stage of learning to read.

 

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Cat the Cat books by Mo Willems

Over the course of four books, Cat the Cat makes new friends, encounters various animal sounds, discusses getting ready for bed, and explores flight. There is limited text on each page, usually one to three sentences, with a lot of repetition built in, making them well suited for those just learning to read. The illustrations are bright and funny, and there is usually a bit of a surprise waiting for you at the end.

 

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Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems

Ready to move on from the Cat the Cat books? Try the Elephant and Piggie books, my favorite books for kids just learning to read. Gerald is cautious and skeptical, while Piggie is optimistic and enthusiastic. Despite their differences, Gerald and Piggie are the best of friends. They have fun adventures together, support each other through difficult times, and work through disagreements. Early readers will be able to relate to many of the issues dealt with such as broken toys, being afraid of losing your best friend, coping with a melting ice cream cone, and wanting to cheer up a sad friend. Again, there is limited text on each page and hilarious illustrations. The facial expressions of Piggie and Elephant, along with the varied use of fonts for emphasis in the dialogue, have even allowed our younger daughter to start reading aloud with expression.

Mo Willems also has a series of books about Pigeon that are well suited for those just learning to read. While I personally find the Pigeon’s personality irritating, they may be a good fit for the reader in your life!

 

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Any picture book by Jan Thomas

While not technically a series, Duck, Cow, and Pig make an appearance in multiple books, while talking dust bunnies are the focus of a few others. The humor often comes from characters misinterpreting others or one character having a distinctly different opinion than the rest of the group. Our favorites are A Birthday for Cow, Pumpkin Trouble, Is Everyone Ready for Fun?, Is That Wise, Pig?, and Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. Like the Elephant and Piggie books, there is limited text on each page and bright, hilarious illustrations.

A note for all of the books discussed above: Even with such limited text in these books, we sometimes come across words that are not common sight words or easy to sound out, and need to provide our younger daughter with help.

Which books you would recommend for those just learning to read? Please leave a comment!

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Unconventional Princesses for Early Readers

Both of our daughters went through a phase where they loved the Disney princesses. (To be honest, it’s still going on with our younger daughter!) In the hopes of broadening their ideas about what a princess can be, I’ve searched for books about unconventional princesses. One of my favorite stand-alone books is the Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. However, finding a series of books about unconventional princesses has been a little more difficult. While Princess Pink is the main character in unconventional fairy tales (see post from June 21, 2017), she’s technically not a princess. As she explains to others, her first name just happens to be Princess. However, there are two unconventional princesses who have become favorites in our household!

 

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Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon

Despite her mother’s best efforts to make her into a typical princess, Princess Harriet Hamsterbone loves to cliff-dive, sword-fight, and ride her faithful battle quail, Mumphrey. She is known throughout the land as a fierce fighter and has adventures rescuing others from magical creatures. Comic relief comes in the form of the dialogue between Harriet and her best friend, Prince Wilbur. There is some violence in the books due to Harriet fighting magical creatures. However, the descriptions are not detailed and Harriet often finds unexpected ways to defeat her foes. We love the Hamster Princess books so much in our household that we have started on the Dragonbreath series, also by Ursula Vernon, hoping to find yet another character or two to love.

 

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Princess in Black books by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Princess Magnolia is a typical princess who wears fancy clothes and lives in a castle. However, when the monster alarm sounds, she sheds her fancy clothes in favor of a black, superhero outfit to become the Princess in Black. Blacky is the alter ego of her trusty steed, Frimplepants. Together they defend their land from monsters, especially those who like to eat goats. The books are filled with funny illustrations and fast-paced action. The descriptions of fighting in the books are mild, as are the illustrations of the Princess in Black’s fighting moves.

 

Trying to decide between the two? The Princess in Black books are better suited for younger readers. The books are shorter, contain more illustrations, and have a straightforward, fast-moving plot. At over 200 pages each, the Hamster Princess books are much longer, the humor tends to be more subtle and ironic, and the pages are more text heavy. However, Harriet Hamsterbone is a clear winner in our household for their humor and richly drawn characters.

Do you have any unconventional princesses to recommend? Please leave a comment!