One of the preschool reading questions I get asked the most is, “How do I find quality books that are at a kindergarten (or first grade) level?” The sad truth is that there is a sore lack of quality children’s literature pitched at these lower levels. Especially given the fact that beginning readers are voracious and need to read LOTS of little books to cut their teeth on and become proficient enough for higher levels.
But don’t fret little buckaroo! There ARE some trade books you can find at the library to feed your hungry reader. I was going to compile a list of my favorite beginning readers like Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggy books or his Don’t Let the Pigeon . . . books or anything by Cynthia Rylant. Then, I found a great site that already has nicely leveled lists at each grade level, although they do seem to be missing some of the newer ones I mentioned above: http://home.comcast.net/~ngiansante/index.html
I also recommend making books for the earliest of readers, with a simple pattern and lots of picture support. Books like: I see a red balloon. I see a yellow balloon. I see a purple balloon. And the last page can break the pattern a bit or have a little surprise like, “See my balloons!” with a picture of a person being carried away by 8 balloons. Large blank note cards make great pages for these little books. Just staple them together and presto, you have a book for your child! Another favorite of mine is the No book. You draw a face with something missing and the text underneath reads: No mouth. Next page: no eyes, etc. Kids get a big kick out of this one.
Another strategy is to take wordless picture books like Goodnight Gorilla or My dog, Carl (there are several Carl books) and write text together for the story with your child. If the text comes out of your child’s mouth, they will remember it and that will help them decode it later on (assuming you don’t write down anything TOO verbose).
I also use nursery rhymes and songs that a child knows well and write them on very large paper. You might also be able to find illustrated books that include these. When the child is familiar with the rhyme/song/poem, it frees them up to pay more attention to the words on the page and you can encourage them to start pointing as they read. We have made lots of fun pointers here to make this task even more enjoyable. Once your child can easily point to each word as s/he reads the words, the finger pointing is no longer necessary and you can encourage them to “point with your eyes”.
Okay, those are my tips for beginning readers.
Ready, set, read!