Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books

I’ve taught four children to read, and I know how boring and banal most easy readers/graded chapter books are. When you add in the fact that your emerging reader is reading the words so  s l o w l y  that you can hardly remember what the beginning of the sentence was about by the time you get to the end, well, it’s enough to make you want to poke out your eyes. Here are some early chapter books that are good enough to enjoy in their own right, thus preserving your eyes for your own reading adventures.

For the very earliest of readers:

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, illus. Maurice Sendak (and sequels)

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel (and sequels)

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, illus. Fritz Siebel (don’t bother with the sequels; they’re eye-pokers)

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea by Cynthia Rylant (and sequels, especially Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears)

Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner, illus. Don Bolognese

Abigail Takes the Wheel by Avi, illus. Don Bolognese

The Drinking Gourd by F.N. Monjo, illus. Fred Brenner

Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley, illus. Arnold Lobel

The 18 Penny Goose by Sally M. Walker, illus. Ellen Beier

The Long Way to a New Land and The Long Way Westward by Joan Sandin

The Big Balloon Race by Eleanor Coerr, illus. Carolyn Croll

Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express by Eleanor Coerr, illus. Don Bolognese

Chang’s Paper Pony by Eleanor Coerr, illus. Deborah Kogan Ray

The Josefina Story Quilt by Eleanor Coerr, illus. Bruce Degan

A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban, illus. Lilian Hoban (the other Frances books are excellent, but better as read-alouds)

Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson (and sequels)

I usually start my emerging readers with Mother Goose rhymes (try the versions illustrated by Tomie dePaola, Sylvia Long, and Rosemary Wells) and A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. One rhyme or poem per day makes an admirable reading lesson!

For advancing readers:

The Last Little Cat by Meindert DeJong, illus. Jim McMullan

The Minstrel and the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski

The Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin, illus. Peter Spier

Cora Frear by Susan E. Goodman, illus. Doris Ettlinger

Phoebe the Spy by Judith Berry Griffin, illus. Margot Tomes

A Lion to Guard Us and The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla

Catwings by Ursula K. LeGuin, illus. S.D. Schindler (and three sequels)

The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff

A Grain of Rice by Helena Claire Pittman

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illus. Ruth Chrisman Gannett (and two sequels)

The Cobble Street Cousins: In Aunt Lucy’s Kitchen by Cynthia Rylant (and five sequels)

For just-becoming-independent readers:

Henry Huggins books by Beverly Cleary

Adventures of the Greek Heroes by Mollie McLean and Anne Wiseman (my son loved this book as an 8-year-old)

Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (there are sequels, but they’re only for die-hard fans)

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh

My children also enjoyed the Discovery Biographies (various authors), the Landmark Books “Meet…” series of biographies, and “The First Book of…” series published by Watts. 

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