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.”
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
Scholastic Books’ Associate Editor Rachel Matson recommends “this cute-as-can-be sleepover story which is all about having empathy for your friends,” as one of her top level 1 books. Part of the Scholastic early reader line Acorn, Hello Hedgehog: Let’s Have a Sleepover! is the second of the five book series. The Acorn book line features easy to read text, a short story format, and captivating tales illustrated in full color. “Perfect for kids just learning to read. They have age-appropriate humor (no crude/gross humor), good grammar, and are relatable for young kids. Three to seven year-olds will enjoy them (and their parents). The hide-and-seek part is a big favorite” said one happy Amazon customer.
Jump into reading with this high quality, guided reading level A book by David McPhail. Part of the award winning early reading series from Holiday House, the book features acclaimed author-illustrators that create compelling narratives with simple text and gorgeous original artwork. McPhail uses cozy watercolor illustrations to depict kids and animals leaping in the air with this beginner book perfect for early kindergarten. “Awesome book,” reviews one happy customer on Amazon. “I love how even though these books are for beginning readers the illustrations and books are just as rich as higher level ones!”
This classic beginner’s book written by P.D. Eastman—edited by Dr. Seuss—features silly dogs zipping around town in everything from a car to rollerskates. With so many fun-loving characters, it’s no wonder why this beloved book has been a favorite for generations. One Amazon customer reviews, “from colors and numbers and locations, to the time of day, basic temperature, and size comparisons, there are lots of learning moments in this book. But I think it’s the fun illustrations and simple humor that has kept us coming back to Go, Dog, Go!” Kids of all ages (and reading abilities) will giggle when they hit the classic line “I do not like your hat” (which is so humorously met with a frosty “goodbye”). And parents will rarely tire of sharing this classic with their kiddos.
Chosen as a best book of 2020 by the Chicago Public Library, the Frog and Dog series is guaranteed to elicit giggles from the whole family. The first story in the series, Frog Meets Dog, tells how the two characters first encounter grows into friendship while also highlighting the importance of showing kindness. Perfect for fans of Hop on Pop, the simple text features repetitive rhyming texts allowing early readers to quickly recognize the cadence of the book while sounding out words. “We love this book!” said one Amazon customer. “Such a fun, easy reader that also shows kids it’s important to be kind. The fun and silly illustrations are perfect for all kids learning to read!”
What’s more exciting than scoring a goal? Finally reading a book all on your own — obviously! That is exactly what author Terry Pierce captures in this truly beginner book for the sports-loving kid. Simple sentences chocked full of alliterations and word families makes this a book little learners will enjoy reading again and again. “This is a cute book with easy to learn words and nice illustrations. Definitely coming back for more of this brand,” raved an Amazon customer. This Step 1 book from the Step into Reading series is ideal for a 4 to 6 year old who knows their alphabet and can’t wait to start reading!
Create an instant Elephant & Piggie library with all 25 titles in one complete set by author- illustrator Mo Willems. Any new reader will love giggling their way through the side splitting and always heartwarming adventures of these two wonderful friends. The set includes teacher favorites like There is a Bird on Your Head! and Today I Will Fly!, and come highly recommended by New York City based reading specialist, Shira Stein. “My favorite books for the beginning reader age group include anything by Mo Willems, but especially the Elephant and Piggie books.” states Stein. But don’t forget how much parents love them too! One parent on Amazon reviews, “My daughter loves Elephant and Piggie books. The stories are hilarious, and the characters are kind and friendly. The best part is that the books use simple vocabulary and my daughter for the most part can read them on her own.”
“A must-have for any child with siblings,” recommends Rachel Matson, Associate Editor at Scholastic. The first book of the hit Fox Tails series features brother and sister Fritz and Franny, and their highly imaginative bedtime routine that ends up looking a lot like sibling shenanigans. Any young reader with siblings and only children who pine for a larger family will respond to the rambunctious stories with vivid illustrations. “A marvelous read,” reviews one customer on Amazon. “The story and the illustrations are both charming and imaginative. Includes a drawing tutorial and a “What’s your story” prompt to keep the story going.”
Part of the Penguin Books Young Readers series, this level 1 book explores what happens when an ice cream cake gets overloaded with too many ingredients. Ann Ingalls masterfully crafts a story that is not only appropriate for young readers, primarily ages 4-6, but tells it with easy-to-read text full of short and simple words. “These Penguin Young Readers are what I think of as a true Level 1, for the kid who is just putting everything together and starting to read. It’s such a great feeling for my little man to be able to read the whole book himself. This is the first book my son ever read all by himself, and it’s probably my favorite out of this series,” said a parent reviewer on Amazon.
Created specifically for four to five year olds who are just starting to read by recognizing sight words and sounding out CVC words (consonant vowel consonant words such as ‘cat’ and ‘fan’). These books focus on the 16 most frequent kindergarten sight words (also known as star words or high frequency words) that kids are taught to memorize in their early reading journey. One parent reviews on Amazon, “I bought Level 1, 2, and 3, and my son loves them! The biggest win is that these books, coupled with his few lessons on sight words, have enabled him to quickly be able to start recognizing these words and actually reading full sentences!”
Here is Big Bunny is a visual treat for young readers. Steve Henry creates a cute and captivating story while changing just one word on each page to help budding readers gain confidence and momentum. And during the entire story, there are more than 150 adorable animal characters involved in their everyday city life to enjoy, while hints of Big Bunny are seen behind trees and through windows. “Delivers more every time you look,” said one Amazon customer. “Bursting with energy, the colorful city scenes are filled with animal characters engaged in fun activities. There’s a lot for children to discover, including the mystery of the shapes seen moving between the pages. The text is short, simple, and just right for beginning readers.”
By now we know that representation matters. And that is why we love the Princess Truly books from Scholastic’s Acorn series. Princess Truly features a little girl who has magical curly hair. In Off I Go!, she uses her magical curls to travel the world while making arctic friends. And in I am a Super Girl, Princess Truly uses her magic locks to actually become a superhero! Talk about girl power! This easy to read, highly entertaining book series will not only inspire our young female readers, but teach boys that girls are just as strong as they are. One mom on Amazon reviews, “This is a great story book! My kiddo says ‘Mommy, she has my hair!’,” How awesome is that?
The first little readers pack contains 25 unique eight-page stories that build early reading confidence at just the right level for your developing reader. The books feature simple text, picture clues, and decodable words that will help your child find success in reading with adorable stories about everything from dinosaurs to pizza. “My kindergartener was struggling to use the tools available to beginner readers (e.g. picture clues and sounding out words), so I bought this set for more practice at home,” reviews one parent on Amazon. “The past couple of weeks, I have seen significant improvement at home, and her teacher reported this morning that they’ve also seen improvement at school.” Is your little one totally new to reading? Or are they more advanced? The First Little Readers Parent Packs are also available in guided reading levels A through level G-H.
Does your kiddo love cracking a joke? Or maybe they just love giggling at the punchline. Either way, if your kids like to laugh (and quite frankly what little one doesn’t), then Get the Giggles: A First Joke Book is the perfect level 1 book for your house. The 32-page colorful easy reader features the beginning of a joke on one page with the punchline on the back. One parent on Amazon reviews, “My five year old’s favorite book. If you have an early reader, this is the book you need! My daughter has read this book so much that she has memorized every single joke! It gives her big belly laughs as well as great confidence to read to others. This one is all five stars!”
Get ready to have fun with a zany dog and bird duo who like to moo. Although the other animals are confused by these mooing animals, the book ultimately rings through with the timely theme of shamelessly being who you are (and having a blast doing it). One parent said, “This has been a great reader for my kindergartner. He was tired of repetitive books. This one is more of a short story using a variety of sight words. A lot of the pages look like a comic book style, my kid definitely thought that was fun.” Get ready to have the whole house mooing with the adorable tale of Moo Dog!
“Wonderful for hesitant readers,” said one parent in Amazon reviews. “My child can read, but is hesitant to do so. This book gave her confidence to read. We checked it out at the library so many times I surprised her with her very own copy. Happy Girl!” The adorable easy reader follows the story of an orange tabby cat as she moves through her day. She learns where the best place to sit is, makes a new friend, and in the end curls up to a nice long nap. A great easy reader with sweetly simple illustrations that make this one of the best confidence building level 1 books on the list.
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