So, with my three kids, I can talk for hours about how different each child is when they reach milestones like walking, talking, and reading. Even in the same family. My first child didn’t walk until he was 16 months old, and he learned to read when he was 5. He walked at 11 months and didn’t start to read until he was 7. There is no way I changed anything about them!
It’s not just parents who are in a hurry when they read to their kids, though. My third child can’t read at the age of 5 or 6. If you want to help your child learn to read on their own, my best advice is to wait until he or she is ready and excited. That moment will come at some point. When it does, be ready with short and quick books that will help them start their own reading lives with a zing. These picks are arranged about how hard they are, from “early readers” to “early chapter books.” Your child can read one, then keep going.
‘My Friend Is Sad,’ by Mo Willems
One of the books in the adorable and popular Elephant & Piggie series is this one. It’s one of 17 very short early reader books for kids who are just learning to read full sentences. A nervous elephant named Gerald and a pig named Piggie are two of their best friends. They help each other get through any kind of misunderstanding with humor and love. Gerald is down in the dumps in this one, and Piggie does everything she can to make him feel better. You can also read each character’s lines in turn, and you can read it out loud to anyone who isn’t yet reading.
‘A Friend for Dragon,’ by Dav Pilkey
Pilkey’s five early-chapter Dragon books were first published in the 1990s. They are very short. They are also sweet, silly, and thought-provoking, which is why they are so important to us. Dragon, who is round and blue, isn’t very mean at all. He might even be too nice for his own good, because he’s so kind. An apple looks like a friend to Dragon, but it’s a snake who wants to hurt him.
[Our children’s books editor says that short stories are great for kids in elementary school.]
‘Barkus,’ by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Marc Boutavant.
He knows how to write for all kinds of kids, like the author of “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” This is her first early-chapter book for the youngest readers, and it comes with illustrations by Boutavant that are fun and colorful. It’s a good thing our brave, red-haired narrator has a new dog. He calls him Barkus. There are many exciting things that happen even though he doesn’t talk.
‘Fox & Chick,’ by Sergio Ruzzier
The two friends in this book and its follow-ups don’t seem to be friends at all. A wacky Chick is a high-energy Chick. Fox is the calm, straight man. It’s easy for new readers to keep up with their funny stories: The text is very simple and doesn’t say much at all. It appears in panels with comics-style word balloon dialogue and is accompanied by Ruzzier’s jazzy but simple visual style.
‘King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats,’ by Dori Hillestad Butler. Illustrated by Nancy Meyers.
A dog named King is a great one. In this cute early-chapter book series, he even helps his owner Kayla solve the mysteries. King tells the story, which makes the extra-short sentences seem natural and not childish. Dogs have a good sense of smell. Kayla thinks that King took some treats from the kitchen, but King knows that someone else is to blame.
See our list of great books for preschoolers to read at bedtime, or click here.
‘Dog Man,’ by Dav Pilkey
A new reader might find him appealing because he’s part dog, part police officer, and 100% appealing to some people. This Captain Underpants spin-off is a favorite of kids who like to look at things. It has a lot of pictures, a lot of antics, and a lot of action. All of us love that the books are “written” by George and Harold, two of our favorite characters from the last show. There is heart and soul to spare in this movie.
‘Dory Fantasmagory,’ by Abby Hanlon
In this “hybrid” chapter book, 6-year-old Dory mixes up her real and imaginary lives in a lot of funny ways. As the youngest of three siblings, she uses her personality and imagination to get through things like being in a group of people who don’t like reading. Hanlon used to be a teacher, and at times, she seems to be able to read a child’s mind.
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‘Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen,’ by Debbi Michiko Florence. Illustrated by Elizabeth Vukovic.
Jasmine, an 8-year-old Japanese-American girl, wants to help make mochi, a sticky rice dessert. People say that only men can pound the rice. She decides to show everyone that she can do it too. As a bonus, at the end of the book, there’s a recipe for mochi. This is the first in a series about a young girl who takes on big challenges.
Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems
In my Favorite Animal Books, I put Elephant and Piggie on the list. They should also be on this list, too. These two very different friends make kids and adults laugh all the time.
Fancy Nancy Series by Jane O’Connor
It’s the girl who has a great vocabulary!
For girls in your class, you need these books!
Boys like them, too, because they are funny and have long words.
Nancy is the best!
Fox on the Job Series by James Marshall
I love this show where Fox has a lot of fun.
She falls for him and he gets tricked.
They were written by James Marshall.