I love books. I could dream them and wear them and eat them for breakfast.
I have a special place in my heart for children’s books. But the hardest age for me to find appropriate reading material for is the emerging reader—the child who is learning to read well, but is not yet up to the challenge of most chapter books. I know plenty of delightful individual books, but they stand alone. My early reader needs lots of practice: ten books, at least.
Here is a list I’ve compiled of easy reads for first and second grade practice and enjoyment. Best yet, everything on the list comes recommended as part of a set. There are at least three volumes of each, and perhaps as many as a dozen. They might be found as boxed sets or in glorious treasuries to savor.
- The Ezra Jack Keats books. Prized for their beautiful, collage-style illustrations and simple text, Keats’ books celebrate his love of color, childhood, and quiet adventure.
- I Can Read books (by HarperCollins) and Step Into Reading books (by Penguin Random House). Though these books span a wide range of genres and interests, including many I do not prefer, I look for the biography and history titles such as Harriet Tubman, the Titanic, Moonwalk, Balto, and Roger Williams. They are excellent.
- Patricia MacLachlan’s books, starting with Sarah, Plain and Tall. Machlachlan writes the simplest and sweetest of chapter books, with memorable characters and beautiful settings.
- The Putter and Tabby set, by Cynthia Rylant. What will their neighbor Mrs. Teaberry think of next? All kinds of adventures for every season, between an aging cat and a gentle old man.
- The President biographies by Judith St. George. Also called Turning Point books, though they are not searchable by that title. Insightful picture-book stories that focus on the childhood and lesser-known histories of some of America’s famous men. Her book So You Want to be President? is also fun, a wider panorama of life in office.
- The Robert McCloskey treasury, which includes elements of fantasy such as talking Mr. Mallard, yet is set solidly in the real world of Maine’s harbors and hills. From Blueberries for Sal to Make Way for Ducklings, his text and illustrations are unfailingly heart-warming.
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