Lindsay Bayer

Children's Author, Child/Family Yoga Instructor, Curriculum Developer, Education Consultant

My Beef with Early Readers…but a Shortlist Nonetheless

When a friend commented on my blog that she wanted some book ideas for her kindergarten-aged daughter to read independently, I had to sit on it for a few days. Actually, it was more like a few weeks. (Sorry, Kristi!)

But my trepidation had less to do with personal procrastination and more to do with the serious contemplation of the task at hand. Bottom line: early reader books kind of make me (as my daughter would say) cray-cray. Here’s why:

  • I don’t like the “recommended age” disclaimer on children’s books: these recommendations are especially prevalent on early/easy reader books. Just because a child is 5 years old doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of reading a book recommended for an 8 year old. Age recommendations don’t take the reading capabilities of individual children into consideration.
  • There are no consistent guidelines among publishers for books to qualify as early/easy readers. A book labeled “early reader” and recommended for a certain age group by one publishing house may be much more difficult (or easy) than an “early reader” from a different house.
  • Many books that are great for emerging readers DO NOT feature an early/easy reader label, so may get overlooked by adults looking for appropriate literature.
  • Many books labeled early/easy readers feature popular licensed characters (think Star Wars, Frozen, etc.). While these books may intrigue children, many of them feature vocabulary and content that is too advanced for early readers, making them more frustrating than entertaining for children to read independently.
  • Some early reader books have NO PLOT WHATSOEVER! This drives me up the wall! Books for emerging readers shouldn’t just be a random assortment of words. Kids at this reading level deserve the structure of a well-written story while practicing their reading skills.

So yeah…early readers are kind of my personal mind-scramble. Recommending them is hard. Picking books for emerging readers takes a dedicated effort on the parts of parents, teachers, and caregivers. These adults need to understand the current reading capabilities of their children and chose books that will challenge them, encourage them, and entertain them. This is certainly a tall order.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a few that I DO like. I preface this list by stating that these books may not be appropriate for all emerging readers. I always encourage parents, caregivers, and teachers to read books with their children first to gauge their comfort with the content and their appreciation of the story. If the content aligns with their capabilities (and the child is amused and delighted by the book), set them free to read independently. If the content is a bit challenging and frustrating, place that book in a pile to read alongside your child. And if your child isn’t digging the story, try something else.

So here is my foreboding (but hopefully helpful) list of emerging reader books to consider:

What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas
I not only love the premise of this story, but also the juxtaposition of the type, which adds an enormous amount of charm to the book.

Up! Tall! and High! by Ethan Long
This is a funny story that is crafted using only a handful of words, but packs a big and silly punch.

I Like Me by Nancy Carlson
This book has more advanced words like “beautiful” and “mistake” but communicates sweet sentiments about self-confidence and promotes healthy self-esteem.

My Car by Byron Barton
Simple sentences with a careful selection of words on each page…plus a twist at the end!

Biscuit series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
These books are labeled as early readers, but still manage to provide adorable stories with repetitive words and phrases. This is an emerging reader series that is becoming a classic.

I know I’ve only touched on a few books here, but as I said, books for emerging readers should focus on the abilities and interests of each individual child. I love providing personal reading lists for children and their families, so CONTACT ME at and we can consult to come up with other great book ideas!

Happy Reading!