The Best Level 1 Reading Books For Your Budding Reader

by Megan Hungerford
Level 1 reading books for children.
Amazon / Scary Mommy

The best level 1 reading books can help your future bookworm fall in love with reading. But before you fill that bookcase full of your childhood favorites, it’s important to know that there are levels this -ish, mama. Yes, literal levels. When shopping for books for new or learning readers, you don’t want anything too easy or too difficult. You also want to be sure that it’s something that will actually hold their attention and get your LO interested in books (hopefully enough to want to continue reading on their own). It’s a lot to take into consideration! While filling up a bookshelf with the classics may be an understandable first instinct, it’s important to get what you’re child will both enjoy and learn from.

“Let your child’s library be determined by what they want to read. Building reading fluency is all about practice. And if your child is reading what appeals to them, they will want to read more and more,” advised Rachel Matson, the associate editor at Scholastic. “Passion for the book is more important than if your child is reading above or below level.”

That’s right. It doesn’t matter if the book is about ponies, pirates, or Olaf the Snowman — as long as they want to read it!

What is a level 1 reader?

Generally, there are five different categories (I Can Read, Ready to Read, Hello Reader, Step into Reading, and Brand New Readers) and four easy reader levels (Levels 1-4), each with various subcategories for different ages. Level 1 readers are usually around five or six years old, the age most children begin kindergarten. Unfortunately, there isn’t one set of industry standards across publishers that categorizes level 1 reading books. (Which makes this hella confusing for us parents). However, all the best level 1 reading books have the same characteristics: a simple vocabulary with familiar high-frequency words, repetition, and illustrations that support the text on every page. Shira Stein, a New York-based literacy specialist and tutor, gave Scary Mommy a little insight:

“Most publishing companies issue some version of early leveled readers. And these books can be very helpful in supporting your child learning to read because they are written with this specific audience in mind,” recommends Stein.

The Five Finger Rule

But how do you know if that level 1 reading book is right for your reader? Stein recommends using the Five Finger Rule! “If your kiddo opens a book and runs into 5+ unfamiliar words, that book is too hard. But zero unknown words is too easy,” Stein explains. So, it’s best to find a sweet spot in the middle. A book that has 2-3 new words per page is perfect for your learning reader.

I know that seems like a ton of info, mama — but don’t worry. We’ve sifted through all the leveled easy reading books from different publishing houses to collect the best level 1 reading books that are actually easy to read. Check them out below!

The Best Level 1 Reading Books

Looking for more ideas to get your kids reading, learning, playing, or moving? We’ve got all the best mom-approved kids gear here!