Step into Reading: Two Moms Weigh In
Today’s post came out of a conversation Deanna and I had recently about our kindergarten-aged children and how amazing it has been to see them learn to read this year. We were discussing their progress when we realized that her twins and my daughter all use early readers to practice reading independently. We thought it might be fun to share our experiences here, as early readers don’t always get the attention that picture books or middle readers do. Though they may not be as “glamorous,” they are a crucial part of learning to read.
I have two kids finishing kindergarten in June and it’s been an amazing year watching them grow and bloom both socially and academically. Ruby started memorizing books last year and “reading” them back to us, always a great first step to reading. At the beginning of the year she could read a few sight words, and just a few months ago it seemed like something just clicked. All of a sudden she was reading. It’s truly an amazing thing to see!
Ezra is still in the memorizing phase, and while he has a few site words, he doesn’t have the patience or confidence (yet) to sound out words he doesn’t recognize.
I remember this phase from when my oldest was going through it and it makes me so grateful to be in the kids book business! When I first took this job I had been a bookseller in a large independent known for literary fiction. While I read the occasional young adult novel and loved picture books that were pretty or clever, the beginning reading area is hard to appreciate unless you can see first hand how a good beginning reader makes a difference. Our Step into Reading line has pretty much filled all of our needs, both level- and license-wise. Our kids’ various obsessions have been gratified with books from Barbie, SpongeBob, Thomas the Tank Engine, and more. There have been a few gaps in their pop culture needs such as Star Wars, Lego and My Little Pony. I have picked up some of these books from my booksellers but have often been disappointed when a level 1 or 2 book has very little that can be digested by my kids.
Step into Reading will never be accused of being great literature. The earlier steps in particular are simple, repetitive and don’t use contractions. In other words, exactly what an early reader should be! Listening to a Barbie book for the umpteenth time may be one of my very least favorite parenting moments. But I am sure glad we make them!
My daughter will be finishing kindergarten in just a little over a month. I can hardly believe the strides she’s made in her reading and math skills this year. It’s amazing to watch everything start to click into place, and to see the confidence she derives from her new abilities. Every week, Norah’s teacher sends home a bag of early readers. They’re leveled, and she’s expected to read them independently each night, practicing and mastering the level, before returning them at the end of the week for the next level. While she diligently works with these readers, I can tell she finds them a little pedestrian, so I’ve been supplementing them with Step into Reading books from work. The bonus for me is that I have her review my advanced copies, so she serves as an early reviewer!
At this point, the Level 1 readers are a little too easy for Norah, but she still enjoys reading them since she rarely struggles with the words. I gave her samples of the upcoming Level 1 readers Robot, Go Bot! and Dig, Scoop, Ka-boom to read aloud to her little brother before bedtime, and while the words were very simple, both kids enjoyed the colorful art. Then we jumped to Level 3 readers, which are a challenge for Norah but not impossible for her to practice with. I like the Level 3’s because I can read them to the kids at bedtime and then she can go back and read them to herself later, asking for help with the words but already familiar with the storyline. Both of my kids loved Wedgieman to the Rescue, which was fun and silly with a secret adult-friendly pro-vegetable message. They also got a kick out of Twinky the Dinky Dog, prompting my son to beg me repeatedly for a pet Chihuahua of his own. And we can’t forget Norah’s true favorites, the Disney Princess and Barbie Step into Reading books. Every time her school hosts a bookfair, she comes home with long lists of pink, glittery early readers she is “dying” to read (the ones with stickers are the biggest hits).
Do you use early readers with your kids? Any backlist favorites you would recommend?