Reading is all around us. I encourage parents to take advantage of everyday opportunities to demonstrate to your child what reading is about.
Inspiring a love of reading in children can be as simple as making smart book choices.
My selection criteria for the ‘Top 5 books for early readers’ are without apology influenced by my experience with my own three children as well as the hundreds of children that have passed through my classroom. These encounters have shown me that it is a child’s imagination and personal experiences that make books a powerful medium.
A good book should transport children to imaginary places (Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak); allow them to explore their own emotions (Dogger, Shirley Hughes); make connections with their own experiences in the real world (You’ll Soon Grow into them Titch, Pat Hutchins); or have them convulsing with laughter (I want my Hat Back, John Klassen).
Successful readers also know how to navigate a multitude of different genres and apply comprehension skills and strategies to text that may differ widely in structure, format and style. For this reason, I have included a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry to encourage that flexibility.
For the sanity of parents, I also understand that it must be a story that adults can engage with - as it will be read many times over!
Here are 5 must read books for early readers:
- An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston (iIllustrated by Sylvia Long)
This book explores the marvellous diversity of eggs. From the delicate ova of the Green Lace Wing, to the rosy roe of the Atlantic Salmon, to the bulk of an Ostrich egg. The simple readable text that describes egg engineering is supported by watercolour depictions of a wide variety of eggs. This is a book that helps expand children’s understanding of the world around them and always leads to further inquiry.
NB this book can be followed up with ‘First the Egg’ by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.
- Waiting by Kevin Henkes
In this story five toys sit on a windowsill each waiting for something amazing to happen. A cast of toys is used to explore the concept of waiting – a tough one to convey to a small child, as well as constancy and change. The careful placement of text and images establishes a slower pace, encouraging the reader to slow down, examine the pictures and discuss. Gently repeating patterns and an economy of words is perfect for Preschool and Kindergarten children but is complex enough to maintain interest over multiple readings.
- Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Two brothers set out to dig a hole hoping to find ‘something spectacular’. In this book the readers are in on a joke to which the characters are oblivious. Any boy that has ever dug a hole in search of treasure will love this book and will enjoy playing spot the difference once they figure out the joke.
- A Great Big Cuddle, Poems for the Very Young by Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell
Offers young children a selection of poetry – beautifully illustrated new poems for early readers and anyone who loves having fun with words. Hearing poems and rhymes from their earliest reading encounters helps children develop phonological awareness and a rich vocabulary which are critical to pre-reading skills. Reading rhymes aloud or repeating rhymes also helps children practice pitch, voice inflection, and volume. This collection is a good place to start.
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
There are so many ingredients here to help the early reader through the book: the link between the printed word and the familiar oral tradition; the predictable repeated structure; the build-up of tension; the shock of confrontation; the sustained fright of the flight back; and, the relief of reaching safety.
Reading should be fun. Making time to practice reading in a comfortable and enjoyable environment every day will go a long way to developing literacy skills and inspiring a life-long appreciation of reading.
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