The 14 Best Early Reader Books So They Gain Confidence In Their Abilities

Start their reading journey off right.

Written by Jill Layton
Little African-American children reading bedtime story in hovel
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Now that my daughter is in kindergarten, she’s starting to read on her own — or at least on-her-own adjacent. She’s currently reading Level 1 early reader books, and while she’s nailing the sight words, she still needs help with the bigger words. It’s been a rocky road, but she’s finally on the other side of the frustrations that many kids feel when they’re just starting out on their reading journey. Scary Mommy reached out kindergarten teacher Kristen Stuckenberg to learn more about what to look for when shopping for the best early reader books so little ones don’t get frustrated and lose interest.

It turns out, early reader books that grab a child’s interest are the gateway to learning how to fully read on their own, allowing the child to “start building motivation and confidence in their own ability to read,” Stuckenberg says.

The Expert

Kristen Stuckenberg is a kindergarten teacher at Minnie Gant Elementary School in Long Beach, California. She earned an MS in education with an emphasis in teacher leadership from Walden University, and a California multiple subject teacher credential with a supplemental area in science from California State University Long Beach (CSULB). She’s the current grade level representative at her school and is on the staff’s leadership team.

What Is Considered An Early Reader Book?

Early reader books are considered to be the first chapter books for kids ages 4 to 8 who are just starting to learn to read. The story is broken up into short, easy-to-digest chapters with simple, repetitive text paired with illustrations that support the text. “The benefits of early reader books include a variety of avenues for a child to get involved in the book,” says Kristen Stuckenberg. “They might be attracted to the illustrations, storyline, humor, relatability, access to sight words they see around them, or/and words that they can sound out.”

What Are The Early Reader Book Levels?

You’ll notice that many early readers have a 1, 2, or 3 somewhere on the cover, indicating the level of the book. Here’s a breakdown of what those numbers mean:

  • Level 1 books are for emerging readers and have about two to three lines per page. The words and ideas are simple, and the storyline focuses on concepts within a child’s experience and understanding. Stuckenberg adds that “If the child has some sight words knowledge and letter/sound knowledge, then they can begin to recognize and sound out words in the books.”
  • Level 2 books are written for 5 to 7 year olds and have two to five lines per page. The characters are more fully developed and the story can be more complex, but often readers might still need some help with vocabulary.
  • Level 3 books are designed for kids ages 7+ who are reading independently, and have five or more lines per page. The words have more syllables and the sentences are more complex and often form paragraphs.

How To Choose The Right Level For Your Child

“If kids are sounding out or recognizing a few words throughout the book and they remain interested in sitting down with the book, then it’s a good level,” Stuckenberg advises. “If they are unmotivated, frustrated, or too distracted then it may be too hard for them.” (That advice couldn’t be more spot-on for my daughter.)

Stuckenberg also notes that “as students begin to read, it’s important that parents continue to read great stories (higher level picture books or even chapter books) to their child. Therefore, the students will read to their parents in the early reader books and still enjoy listening as the parents read to them.”

With all that in mind, it’s time to find the best early reader books for your child. Ahead, 14 stories that promise to appeal to a variety of interests for your budding reader to get excited about turning the page.


This Set Of Level 1 Small Rhyming Books That Are Super Fun To Read

Bob Books are early reader books that began when a teacher couldn’t find reading material suitable for beginning readers, and since then, they have become go-to book sets for parents and kids.

Each of the 12 books offer only two and three letter words with short vowels that can be sounded out. The sentences are simple with new letter sounds added gradually across the books. The stories and the illustrations are funny and will hold your child’s attention until the end.

Writer’s Review: “I can’t give these books enough praise, as they are the only books my daughter is willing to tackle on her own.” - Jill Layton, Scary Mommy writer


This Level 1 Box Set With A Fan-Fave Literary Character

Remember reading all about Amelia Bedelia’s silly antics when you were a kid? Now your own kids can find out what she was like as a child. There are five books in this Level 1 box set by Herman Parish, including Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend, Amelia Bedelia Sleeps Over, Amelia Bedelia Hits the Trail, Amelia Bedelia Tries Her Luck, and Amelia Bedelia Joins the Club. All the books are housed in a cute little carrying case.

Helpful Review: “Cute set of books. My daughter asked specifically for Ameliabedelia books and I love this set. It comes in a great box that you can store them in! Was a great add on Christmas gift.”


This Level 1 Joke Book For Kids

When it comes to Level 1 reading books, you might as well get at least one joke book to bring on the giggles. If your kids love telling jokes just as much as they love hearing jokes, this Scholastic Get the Giggles joke book will definitely get them excited to read. A beginning reader will probably need some help with the bigger words, which works out nicely, because what good is telling a joke if there isn’t someone there to laugh with you?

Helpful Review: “Fun and funny! Most of the jokes in this book are very ageappropriate and the text is suitable for a beginning reader. The humor in this book makes it a fun read and making reading fun is a key to lifelong learning. Nice book, sound purchase.”


A Level 1 Book With Irresistibly Sweet Rhymes

Ice Cream Soup by Ann Ingalls focuses on what many kids love most — ice cream. In this silly Level 1 book, kids find out what happens when an ice cream cake gets overloaded with too many ingredients. (Spoiler alert: It turns into ice cream soup.) This is a great book for readers ages 4 to 6 as it features easy rhyming words with large text and illustrations that help kids decode the meaning of what they’re reading. It’s a book even parents will enjoy, you know, because ice cream.

Helpful Review: “My 5 year old loves this book. We have a lot of early readers and frequent the library often, and this is probably his favorite. The illustrations are fun and he loves the story.This book is a good mix of beginning phonics patterns and sightwords. Perfect for a beginning reader.”


This Level 2 Boxed Set That Introduces The Classic Boxcar Children

The exciting mysteries featured in Gertrude Chandler Warner’s classic series The Boxcar Children get the early reader treatment in this highly rated box set. Five books are included in the set, including The Boxcar Children, Surprise Island, The Yellow House Mystery, and Mystery Ranch. The stories are perfect for bedtime with your budding reader.

Helpful Review: “The Boxcar Children are such classic books and I love that they have adapted them for early readers. The book is a great size with thick pages and vibrant colors. My daughter commented that the font is HUGE. FYI there are no page numbers and about ~40ish pages per book. My daughter is in first grade and is able to read a book in 1-2 sittings, independently and with little to no supervision (aka helping with the words). I think the level is appropriate as mentioned: 5-7 year olds or K-2.”


A Fun Level 2 Mystery Book For Budding Detectives

Katie Fry, Private Eye: The Lost Kitten by Katherine Cox is a great introduction to mystery books. Your child will read along and hunt for clues as Katie Fry tries to help an adorable lost cat named Sherlock find his home — a clever nod to Sherlock Holmes, I presume.

Helpful Review: “The absolutely perfect book for my 1st grade daughter. We were looking for books that show characters of color, diverse or multiracial families, etc. So pleased that we found this series. Not only is the reading level perfect for my daughter, but the pictures are engaging and the illustrations that include "hand-written" notes give her an extra challenge as she has to learn read words that are handwritten rather than typed. She can't get enough of this book and keeps reading it again and again. The mystery aspect is also a nice challenge for her critical thinking skills.”


A Level 2 Comic Misadventure Detective Book

When kids laugh, they’re engaged, and when they’re engaged, they just keep on reading. That’s exactly what Detective Dinosaur by James Skofield encourages through the misadventures of a prehistoric detective. Even though he’s following clues to solve mysteries, Detective Dinosaur is comically clueless. This is the first in a three-book series, so if your kid is into it, there’s more what that came from.

Helpful Review: “I bought this for my son to get him excited about reading - he is in 1st grade and just started reading but needed some more incentive to spend the time practicing so he could improve. I really liked Detective Dinosaur. My son enjoyed reading it - he found it clever and funny and loved the characters. I plan on getting other books in this series for him.”


This Level 2 Book That’s Full Of Splat-tastic Adventures

From the best-selling picture books you may have read to your child, Splat the Cat Gets a Job! by Rob Scotton follows Splat the Cat as he gets a new job has a newspaper cat. Your kiddo will have fun reading along as Splat the Cat tries to figure out how to handle his new gig. This book is one of many in the Splat the Cat series for all reading levels.

Helpful Review: “Got this book for my 6 year old son to read. His teacher told me his reading level and I got him books based off that level. My son loves these books. I like how thin they are because it fits on his book shelf perfectly.”


A Level 3 Kid-Approved Book About Tricky Animals

Fake Out!: Animals That Play Tricks by Ginger L. Clarke fills kids in on the bizarre behaviors certain animals can do, like fainting goats and color-changing octopus. This Level 3 early reader is great for kids who have an interest in learning cool facts and impressing their friends and family with their random, yet interesting knowledge.

Helpful Review: “Great book. When we found several animals we wanted to see in real action, like the cuttlefish and fainting goats, we YouTubed it as we read through the book, it was awesome.”


A Sweet Level 3 Early Reader About Gaining Confidence

The Giant Jellybean Jar by Marcie Aboff is a beautiful story that can help kids who are working on building up their confidence. It tells the story of Ben who loves jelly beans and tries to guess a riddle each week at the jelly bean shop so he can win an entire jar full of them. He always knows the answer, but he feels nervous about speaking in front of people. With some help from his sister, he gains the confidence he needs.

Helpful Review: “Got this book for my nieces for Easter. Sent a giant jar of jelly beans to go with it so they could guess how many was in the jar. They loved it! Such a cute story!”


This Level 3 Early Reader That’s Perfect For Budding Scientists

For the aspiring scientists, this level 3 STEAM-themed book follows Cece and her friend Isaac as they learn about the opposite forces of push and pull. It’s 40 pages of awesome, but if your child wants even more science content, you can check out more of Kimberly Derting’s early readers, including Libby Loves Science: Mix and Measure.

Helpful Review: “I love these newer books being published because I believe they are doing a great job of showing more representation of all types of students! This book would be a great recommendation to a young reader with a passion or curiosity for science. Its a quick read and has some useful scientific information on the concept of force that could be beneficial for a young learner!”


A Level 3 Early Reader For The Biggest (Yet Littlest) Star Wars Fans

There are plenty of Star Wars early readers out there, but this one focuses on the coolest facts about the spaceships and vehicles from the Star Wars universe. The Level 3 stories are exciting, full of adventure, and are sure to engage your child as they embark on reading independently.

Helpful Review: “I love it because my son loves it. He's not a big reader, or wasn't, but he loves all things Star Wars. DK Readers always does a great job.”


An Adorable First Chapter Book Box Set About a Boy and His Dog

Any kid who loves dogs will enjoy reading about the funny adventures of Henry and his dog pal Mudge. The series has a whopping 28 books, so if your kiddo falls in love with the two best friends, you could fill a whole bookcase with them. There are six books in this particular set, including Henry and Mudge, Henry and Mudge and Annie’s Good Move, Henry and Mudge in the Green Time, Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea, Henry and Mudge Puddle Trouble, and Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. The series is recommended for kindergarten through second grade ages.

Helpful Review: “Great starter set of books for kindergartner. Some challenging words but good for recognizing new vocabulary. Short chapters with a few sentences on each page and some repetitive wording. There are pictures throughout entire book. Kids are excited to read their own chapterbook! Story is simple and keeps their interest to read more.”


A Box Set With A Character That Will Become Your Child’s New Literary BFF

Fran Manushkin’s Katie Woo is a smart and sassy girl who always finds herself in some trouble, but she has a gigantic heart and is totally lovable. It’s hard to read one of her books without wanting to be her best friend. While there are four books in this box set, your child can read on as their reading skills develop as there are 45 Katie Woo books in the series. Included in the box set is Katie Woo and Her Big Ideas, Katie Woo Every Day's an Adventure, Katie Woo Tries Something New, and Katie Woo, We Love You. The series is perfect for kids ages 5 to 7.

For even more early reader options, check out our list of great level 1 reading books.


Kristen Stuckenberg, kindergarten teacher at Minnie Gant Elementary School