Raising Readers: 9 Simple Books for the Emerging Reader

Nov 3, 2014

A few months ago, Erica @ What Do We Do All Day posted a list of easy readers that are actually easy. It came at the perfect time for us because Maxwell is just at the stage in his reading where he is ready for actual books, but so many of the "easy readers" are actually quite challenging . . . to the point of being discouraging (not what you want with a new reader!).

Over the last couple of months, we have been on our own personal quest to find enjoyable stories that are told in simple words and sentences. Some of these overlap with Erica's list (since I used that list to guide my original search), but we also have discovered many other favorites on our own (or by asking the children's librarian for suggestions--always a great resource!!!).

Here are nine of our current favorites (and if your emerging reader is a little beyond these, you might check out our lists of Early Chapter Books and Nonfiction Early Readers):

1. See Me Run and See Me Dig by Paul Meisel
I wrote about See Me Run a couple of months ago because it was Maxwell's first real book to read all by himself. Since then, he has also read See Me Dig and loved it too. Simple words but fun story.

2. Clara and Clem by Ethan Long
Last month’s Raising Readers post was about the benefits of taking turns with your new reader. I told you about how Maxwell and I love to do this with the Elephant & Piggie books. In the month since that post ran, I discovered the Clara and Clem series by Ethan Long.  Like Elephant & Piggie, these books also involve two characters and are told entirely through speech bubbles, but they are significantly simpler with the dialogue confined to 1-3 word sentences and words that are easy to sound out or are first sight words. So if Elephant & Piggie still seems a little daunting, Clara and Clem would be a great alternative.

3. Cat the Cat books by Mo Willem
And speaking of Mo Willems, the Cat the Cat books are fabulously simple, even more so than Elephant and Piggie. They’re quite a bit shorter and don’t follow much of a storyline, but they contain lots of repetition and have a catchy rhythm like, "Cat the Cat, who is that? It's Duck the Duck!"

4. Any book by Jan Thomas
I've written about Jan Thomas' books before (here and here) but not from an early reader standpoint (which just goes to show how versatile her books are—they can be enjoyed by toddlers, preschoolers, new readers, and even adults). I don’t think that they’re traditionally thought of as easy readers (since, along with simple words like “cat,” they include harder words like “vacuum cleaner”), but the text is short and big, which makes it less daunting for new readers. Plus, I actually appreciate the inclusion of harder words because it increases Max’s reading vocabulary without making it frustrating.     

5. Swing, Otto, Swing! and other Otto books by David Milgrim
One of our librarians pointed out these books to me, and we've fallen in love with them. Otto is a robot. His friends are always running into some sort of trouble, and he comes up with an ingenious way of fixing it. Because of this, the story always ends with a bit of a twist when his invention is revealed. It uses a combination of familiar text and cute illustrations to tell the story.

6. Puppy Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant
We love Cynthia Rylant’s books for slightly older readers (Henry and Mudge and Mr. Putter and Tabby), but I didn’t know she had some for younger readers. Puppy Mudge involves the same characters as Henry and Mudge, but they are significantly shorter with only one short sentence per page. (Cynthia Rylant has another easy series, Brownie and Pearl. We’ve read one of them, and I quite liked it, but Max insisted that it was “too girly” for his attention. I tried though.)

7. Big Brown Bear by David McPhail
You probably are already familiar with David McPhail as a children's book author, but did you know he has also written and illustrated several easy readers as part of the Green Light Reader series? They are at the perfect level for Max right now. Big Brown Bear is definitely our favorite so far, and you can't go wrong with McPhail's sweet illustrations.

8. Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
When looking for easy readers, sometimes the best place to look is not in the easy reader section. This is one such example. We have long been fans of this silly book about a dog named George who is lacking an acceptable bark. His mom takes him to the vet who "gets to the bottom" of the problem. The story is built around repetition, which is perfect for emerging readers--it means that even if they don't get "reached" on the first shot, they'll have another (and another) (and another) chance at it.

9. I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
This is another non-traditional early reader, but it has enough repetition and picture clues to make it very accessible. The story is funny and unexpected. If you like this one, then you'll also want to give I'm the Best Artist in the Ocean a go. Maxwell loved both of them. There is something so empowering with reading a book that is "not boring." (The font and placement of the text might deter a few of you, but I would still give it a try: most new readers don't need to be coddled as much as you might think.)

What are some of YOUR favorite books for the emerging reader?

(For more Raising Readers posts, click here.)


  1. Such a great post, pinning this to my Children & Literary board on Pinterest! :)

    1. uhhh that should say "Literacy" -- I need to go to sleep. ;)

  2. What wonderful suggestions for emerging readers! Puppy Mudge has always been popular at our house. You should give the Fly Guy books a try, too. Nothing girly there!

    1. Yes, we love Fly Guy! I need to pull those out for him!


Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground