An Overview of the Benefits of Early Reader Books
Discover the benefits of early reader books, how they promote a love of reading and are invaluable to children’s reading development.
Early Reader Books
Early reader books are a fast-growing genre written to support children in their reading development. They bridge the gap from picture books to chapter books and help children become independent readers. They also promote confidence and a love of reading. You may know this type of book as young fiction, first steps, junior fiction, easy readers, beginning chapter books or just-right books.
When I first used early chapter books in my classroom, they were formulaic and a little predictable. Now there is a huge choice with interesting plots, well-rounded characters and varying difficulties.
Benefits of Early Reader Books
Easy reader books establish confidence and independent reading habits with engaging, simple stories and limited pages. Short chapters encourage the reader to focus on the plot and comprehension. Familiar series and characters build independence when choosing books.
1. Characteristics of Early Reader Books
Children will find similar characteristics across the range of early chapter books.
- Layouts to support newly independent or struggling readers.
- Built around a particular character or genre.
- Short stories with predictable text becoming more complex as the difficulty increases.
- Storylines that encourage comprehension.
- Specific sight words and repetition of text.
- Short chapters and paragraphs promoting a sense of achievement.
- White space between paragraphs and chapters.
- Familiar characters from picture fiction, movies and tv series.
2. Importance of the Illustrations in Early Reader Books
Illustrations are a crucial element of beginning chapter books. They support the understanding of plot and mood while keeping the reader engaged. Images become part of the storytelling and add to the sometimes limited text of early chapter books. Illustrations also help the reader:
- develop analytical reading skills.
- understand setting, characters and emotions.
- support the decoding of unknown vocabulary.
3. Themes of Early Reader Books
Children take comfort in the themes of easy reader books particularly once they find their favourite genre and characters. A common theme is for characters to overcome obstacles along with a resolution. Here are some other common themes:
- Lead characters involved in everyday, often funny, scenarios.
- Characters learning to cope in difficult situations and being empowered.
- Humorous, silly, mischievous and surprising storylines.
- Animals who offer support and comfort to human characters.
- Characters dealing with family relationships and issues in sensitive or funny ways.
- Make-believe and unrealistic situations allowing the reader to enter a fantasy world.
4. Recommending Early Reader Books to Students and Parents
It is easy for children to get stuck on a particular series and be reluctant to move onto something new. As a teacher or school librarian, you are well placed to advise students.
A good starting point is teaching your students how to select their own books. You can find more information on choosing books independently here.
Try asking the following questions to help your students take risks with their book choices and think about new reading options.
- Who are your favourite characters and authors?
- What are your favourite book genres?
- What is your favourite book series?
- Have you tried a graphic novel or a nonfiction early chapter books?
- Have you asked your teacher, school librarian or friends for recommendations?
- Do you prefer reading books with animals or people as the main character?
Early reader books are a wonderful tool to help children become independent readers. Choosing a book from a familiar series makes reading less stressful and encourages them to choose what to read next. They provide comfort for children before branching into chapter books.
While there is a large and growing variety of easy reader books, not all are suitable for every reader. This is down to how different publishers level books. If you are interested, I will post an article on different levelling systems and how you can convert from one system to another.
You can find more details about helping choose a just-right book independently in the post How to Choose the Perfect Just-Right Book.
I want to share a resource to help you find quality early reader books. Every year the Geisel Award awards authors and illustrator of beginner readers. You can search the American Library Association (ALA) website for previous winners. It is also a good place to find the names of authors who write beginning chapter books.
What are your thoughts on early chapter books? Do you use them or do you only use books from reading schemes such as DRA, Oxford Reading Tree or PM Benchmarks?
I would love to hear more about how you use early reader books in the classroom or library. Hit the comments below!