Beginner Readers: the right books to read with young children

Most children enjoy having a story read to them by an adult. But how can you give them the confidence to read to you?

My granddaughter Daisy is a beginner reader. I know she has the phonetic skills to read words. The list of words that she can read on sight is growing daily. The sentences that we leave on the fridge door are now twice as long as they used to be. Daisy reads them with increasing confidence. 

I often find myself sitting with Daisy while she uses the Reading Eggs phonics app on the family iPad. She clearly enjoys the fun challenges and games the app offers her – identifying digraphs and matching words to pictures.  She loves to collect her rewards as she progresses through the stages.

But I also see that this is hard work for Daisy. She’s decoding and reading each word, one at a time, which requires a lot of concentration. I watch out for the signs that she’s tiring. I know that this is the time to stop. 

Away from the more abstract challenges of the phonics app we want Daisy to enjoy the process of reading a book. 

I know she enjoys browsing through her book collection. She likes looking at the illustrations and turning pages (in the correct direction) as if she is actually reading a book. 

Three books ideal for a young reader: Dolphin Rescue (from the Biff, Chip & Kipper series), The Tiptoeing Tiger by Philippa Leathers and The Griffle and Mr Gotobed (from the Puddle Lane series)
A selection of books ideal for beginner readers

We already read to Daisy, usually at bedtime, but this seemed to be the right time for me to start to select books that we can read together. Reading a book together allows Daisy to relax and enjoy the story. It gives her the opportunity to practise her reading skills by reading part of the story too.

Reading together with an adult gives a child a chance to practise their word recognition and decoding skills as the story flows along. This often means taking turns to read a sentence or a full page of a book.

I think that The Tiptoeing Tiger by Philippa Leathers was the first book that Daisy and I began to both read together in this way. 

As I started to read the story, I showed Daisy the word ROAR on the page and we roared together. A few pages later, the word ROAR appeared by the illustration of the tiptoeing tiger and Daisy was ready to ROAR again. We continued through the book with Daisy spotting the word on the page and roaring for us as I read the rest of the text.

A child points to the word roar in the book The Tiptoeing Tiger by Philippa Leathers

Daisy has a collection of Biff, Chip and Kipper books from the library. We select the titles in the series that are at her Phonics reading level but Daisy also picks out books at a higher phonics level. 

These books give us another chance to read together. I read the text and Daisy reads the shorter dialogue in the speech bubbles.

A child points to speech bubble / voice balloon while reading Dolphin Rescue (from the Biff, Chip & Kipper series), with her grandmother

With certain books, we know that Daisy has heard the story several times. These favourites can also become books that we can read together. In these cases, Daisy is so familiar with the rhythm of the story that she’s able to read some sentences with us from memory as we point to the words. 

One favourite is Tabby McTat – Daisy is very happy to sing the lyrics of the song that the feline protagonist sings with his busking owner, Fred!

Recently I was looking through my bookshelves for potential reading matter for Daisy, when I spotted the old Puddle Lane series of Ladybird books. Daisy’s Daddy used to enjoy these when he was learning to read. 

These Stage 1 books are still an excellent resource to use with early readers and are widely available second-hand on eBay. The text is laid out on the left page for the adult to read, with a word or a very short sentence on the other side for a child to read. Now Daisy is the one reading the child’s text with her Daddy!

A page spread from the Puddle Lane book Tim Catchamouse, published by Ladybird, showing text suitable for an adult and suitable for a child on facing pages

Now that reading together is becoming a more frequent activity, it’s interesting to see that Daisy is also spotting other opportunities to read together – recently she caught sight of her Daddy reading Peanuts on his laptop, and wanted to sit in his lap and enjoy a comic strip.

I’m looking forward to Daisy choosing a book for us to read together.

Granny Smith says…

Reading a book together is an activity you can enjoy with a child at any reading level. As a beginner reader becomes more and more fluent, the books that you choose to read together can change to match their reading level, too.

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