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20 Fantastic Books for Kids Learning to Read

Posted by on June 5, 2012

Here is a list of excellent books for parents, teachers and librarians to share with kids who are learning to read.

As a parent, my main goal when reading aloud to my kids is not to teach my kids to read. Instead, my main goal is to share my love of reading with my kids in hopes that they too learn to love books. I want my kids to become lifelong readers and have no interest in sacrificing that goal in the interest of teaching them to read a little sooner.

To ensure that reading remains fun, I do not make my kids sound out words that they are not interested in sounding out or read books that they do not want to read (unless a sibling picks them out). I believe that if kids enjoy story time and have access to good books and adults who enthusiastically read books aloud to them, they will learn to read when they are ready.

That said, here are 20 books that my kids enjoy and have helped them learn to read. I hope that your kids enjoy reading these books too!

For teaching kids the sounds letters make:

Creature abc by Andrew Zuckerman. Alphabet books can be valuable for teaching kids the sounds that letters make — but only if they are fun to read! Creature abc is fun; it features amazing animal photographs and an entertaining format. On one page is a letter (e.g. “Aa”) and a photograph of an animal’s body part (e.g. an alligator’s hand). When I read this book, I make the letter’s sound, and my kids guess what animal they will see on the following page. For more alphabet book recommendations, see 7 Awesome Alphabet Books. Ages 1+

Puddle’s ABCs by Holly Hobbie. Puddle’s ABCs is another fantastic alphabet book. It contains a story in which Holly Hobbie’s adorable character Puddle teaches his friend Otto the letters of the alphabet and how to write his name. This story conveys the excitement of learning to read and write and encourages children to begin looking more closely at words. Ages 2+

I Spy Letters by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick. While I do not love I Spy Letters, my kids’ enthusiasm for this book suggests that it is worth reading. Most pages feature two large letters surrounded by pictures of a variety of items that start with the two letters. Kids can figure out which of the items begin with each letter. Ages 2+

For teaching kids to sound out entire words:

Charlie Parker played be bop by Chris Raschka. A fun rhyme about Charlie Parker and be bop that includes simple words in big, bold letters that kids can sounds out. Many of the “words” in this book make no sense, so kids are forced to work on sounding them out. E.g. “Be bop. Zznn. Zznn. Lollipop. Boomba. Boomba.” Ages 1+

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. On one hand, First the Egg is a simple concept book that is perfect for toddlers. On the other hand, Seegers’ visual trickery also entertains older kids who are learning to read. This is a great book for teaching kids to sound out words because it highlights a word on each page. When reading “First the EGG, then the CHICKEN,” it is natural to slow down and sound out “EGG” and “CHICKEN” for you child. Ages 1+

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. While author Robert McCloskey did not intend Make Way for Ducklings to be an early reader, he chose names for the eight ducklings in this story that are perfect for your budding reader to sound out: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack and Quack. Once your child has mastered the duckling names, she can try reading the captions. Ages 3+

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills. In this sweet story about a yellow bird teaching Rocket the dog to read, kids are encouraged to learn to read and given the opportunity to sound out words one letter at a time. E.g. “D-I-G” and “W-I-N-D”. Ages 3+

Curious George: Curious About Phonics by Catherine Hapka. A set of 12 simple stories featuring Curious George. Each book introduces readers to a couple new sounds. These books are more challenging for emerging readers to read themselves than the Bob books (which progress very slowly from one story to the next), but they are more fun! Ages 3+

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Along with Hop on PopGreen Eggs and Ham is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books for emerging readers. This book’s repetition can get old: “That Sam-I-am! That Sam-I-am! I do not like that Sam-I-am!” However, when my kids request this book incessently, I know that this is a sign that things are clicking in their little brains; they are beginning to associate the words on the page with the words they hear me reading. Ages 4+

First stories for kids to read themselves:

Hug by Jez Alborough. I cannot recommend Jez Alborough’s books about Bobo highly enough! These books (HugTall, andYes) star a lovable chimpanzee and are told with a handful of easy-to-sound-out words. Reading these books has given my kids a lot of confidence. Ages 2+

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. A humorous story about a gorilla that escapes from the zoo and lets out the other animals. This book is nearly a wordless picture book but does use the words “good night.” Good Night Gorilla has been a hit with all three of my kids. Ages 2+

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett. Like Hug andGood Night GorillaOrange Pear Apple Bear is told with only a few words: orange, pear, apple and bear. Kids will learn to use visual cues to help them read this book. Ages 3+

Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. Hop on Pop begins with words that are accessible to a child who has never sounded out words before: “UP PUP Pup is up…” Each page of Hop on Pop contains a stand alone joke, so your new reader is immediately rewarded when she is able to sound out a few words. In our house, I saveHop on Pop until my kids are ready to read the first few pages by themselves with a little effort. Then, they have the opportunity to decipher the text without having already memorized it. Ages 4+

Wordless picture books:

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka. A Ball for Daisy has a simple plot that is fairly easy for first time readers of wordless picture books to understand. Chris Raschka convincingly conveys Daisy’s emotions when her ball is first destroyed and then replaced by another dog. Ages 3+

Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage. A walrus escapes from the zoo and hides from a zookeeper in a variety of funny places. This is my 5-year-old daughter’s favorite wordless picture book, and I can understand why she loves it. It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite childhood booksThe Moose is Loose by Mike Thaler in which a moose escapes from the zoo and hides from a zookeeper in a variety of funny places. Ages 3+

Chalk by Bill Thomson. Three kids find magic sidewalk chalk at a playground. When they begin drawing, their pictures come to life. Ages 4+

Flotsam by David Wiesner. David Wiesner skillfully tells a fanciful tale about a boy who discovers an underwater camera washed up on a beach. When the boy develops film from the camera, he is amazed to discover where the camera has been.Ages 5+

For kids who have begun reading independently:

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems. Be sure to take a look at Mo Willems entire series of Elephant and Piggie books if you have a new reader. With humor and fantastic illustrations, Willems keeps kids engaged while telling stories with simple vocabulary. Ages 4+


Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel. A collection of five, often-humorous, short stories about two best friends Frog and Toad. Frog and Toad Together has well-developed characters; lovely, muted illustrations; and stories with creative, quirky plots. See also Frog and Toad Are FriendsDays with Frog and Toad, and Frog and Toad All Year. Ages 4+

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. In I Want My Hat Back, a bear searches in vain for his lost hat. Readers will realize before the bear that they have seen the bear’s hat. This story’s humor will entertain 1st and 2nd graders. Ages 5+

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