I know you have a teaching background, but I would really hesitated before jumping into the "books at your level" thing at home. Some of my daughter's greatest growth in reading was from reading books a bit beyond her comfort level. Certainly you want him to read for meaning and comprehension a lot of the time, but frankly that focus all of the time kills the fun of reading at home.
Classic Easy Readers - Page 2
Here's an added wrinkle--our son is mixed race (black and white), Jewish, and has two moms.
We really don't want a stack of books (like Dick and Jane--not to pick on Dick and Jane) that are all heteronormative, white, middle class families.
Little Bear and Frog and Toad and some of the Dr. Seuss books are appealing because they are animals--even though when parents are mentioned it is a mom and a dad. Harold is appealing, even though he is white, because there are no parents --the rest of the family is missing.
I'm sorry that you didn't like my suggestions. I thought we were compiling a general list, I didn't realize it was a list specifically tailored to your family's needs. :(
I didn't mean it personally--just adding an additional, previously unstated, need. We've been able to develop a library of books up until now that are very diverse, and the books I have found so far written at this early reading level are remarkably heterogeneous. Just because Dick and Jane aren't up my alley doesn't mean they shouldn't be on this list. Knowing my son, he'd probably pick them up and love them, just as he did with this book from my mother-in-law where the father tucks the kids into bed and prays with them--not our cup of tea AT ALL, but DS loved it for a few weeks. i was glad when he lost interest and we could hide it in the closet so we don't have to read it again.
We just want to make sure our family is reflected in some of the literature our son reads, and many books out there are tremendously not reflective of us.
And Tango Makes three ( penguins)
THe Family book - Todd PArr (all good books!!)
Mommy , mama, and Me (two moms)- leslea Newman
All kinds of Families- Hoberman
We're different, We're the same (sesame street)-- good easy reader!!
Shades of People- Sheila Rotner
Some of these may be 'harder' to read than others, but there is sometimes a fine line between picture books and easy readers, some board books that you may have used when he was younger may also be good 'starting' books!
I saw a shelf of easy reader books about Hanukah at Borders! (levels 1-3) that also may be just right for this year!
Such a great list so far!
I would add The High Rise Private Eyes (series), also by Cynthia Rylant and Houndley and Catina (series) by James Howes.
And I would like to join the group of moms who strongly caution you with regard to labeling which books are for him to read to himself. I, too, am a teacher, and I can tell you that so much can work like it does in the classroom, but you are so much more than that to your child and even I have been surprised by the effect some small thing I have done has had on one or both of my children. I think it's fine to give books you think he can read himself a special place that's more accessible to him. Bells rang in my head at the idea of you telling him he had to read them himself, though. Learning is not linear. Kids go through periods of blazing independence and growth and also periods where they want to cycle back. My oldest reads at a very high reading level, but still enjoys when I read books way below her reading level to her. My youngest can read very well, too, but still wants easy books read to her at times, too. Your son will grow and love to read. It's hard to pass this along gently, but please take note that many of us here had our ears prick up at that.
I agree that the library is great at this level. We had problems with many of the classics because they are antithetical to our life philosophy. I urge you to check out many of the series listed above. My children have read so many of those series over and over and over and we do not own them. We just keep checking them out from the library. You are absolutely right that diversity is sadly lacking in early readers. Some of them do have great values and fun stories, though.
Minnie and Moo (series) - those books are hysterical! All animals - the main characters are two best-friend cows; they do sometimes seem like a couple to me.
Poppleton (series) - all animals, all single - lots of good friendships there
Mr Putter and Tabby (series) - so much good stuff about friendship - old lady with dog lives next to old man with cat (they're white, but they are good stories and easy reads)
High Rise Private Eyes (series) - all animals, good stuff, funny
Iris and Walter (series) - again the main characters are white, but the friendship stories are great, the teacher they love best is African American, their friends are somewhat diverse
Henry & Mudge/Annie & Snowball (series) - main characters are white, but Annie just has a dad; my girls prefer books about girls, but just adore Henry
Houndley and Catina (series) - cat and dog best friends, with other animal friends, who have lots of innocent misunderstandings and then solve them
Just some thoughts for you. The above list I wouldn't mind owning; my kids have read them so much! The Thanksgiving Minnie & Moo is particularly hysterical.
Edited by expecting-joy - 12/3/10 at 7:23am
For more older classics:
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel - Virginia Lee Burton
The Little Engine That Could - Walter Piper
Make Way for Ducklings - Robert McClowsky
Corduroy - Don Freeman
The Snowy Day - Ezra Jack Keats
The Story of Ferdinand - Munro Leaf
The Carrot Seed - Ruth Krauss
The Story about Ping - Marjorie Flack
Blueberries for Sal - Robert McClowsky
My disclaimer is that they're not necessarily my favorite books.
I hear you all--and apparently, my original post was not clear, because it really is not an unhealthy, threatening or Draconian dynamic in our house. there have been a variety of concerns raised:
1. that we have set him up to believe that as he hits the milestone of reading, we will stop reading to him--which will undermine his willingness to read to himself.
2. that we are thwarting his reading ability by not providing him with enough of a challenge because he doesn't have access to challenging books.
3. that we will harm his psychological stability by not allowing him to move back toward us when he needs reassurance and respite.
None of you know me, so my statements of reassurance that none of those things are happening sound like hollow defensiveness. But, I know the dynamic in our house, and I am confident that none of those things are happening. He needed some reassurance that the books we set aside were ones he was capable of reading by himself--he picks up my books, and tries to read them and get frustrated that he is not capable of reading them. He also needed some reassurance that the books we set aside are things he can explore privately, and know that they are "his" to conquer, and that we won't step in with them until he asks us to. Saying, "We won't read these books to you" is not a threat, but rather a reassurance that he has the time and space to push himself with them, and that he won't be pushed by us about them.
Well, this really did sound much more draconian than what you're now saying. It didn't sound like you were "giving him privacy and ownership to explore on his own unless he asked for help": it sounded like you were laying out rules that you would not read to him from books of a certain level of difficulty, that instead he had to read them to you.
I personally have found no need for a "levelled reader" approach to books when my kids were learning to read. They bounced around a lot, choosing material from a huge range of levels, according to their interests, inclinations, desire for challenge, need for comfort, etc.. And they progressed very quickly. When my eldest was by all accounts at a 1st/2nd grade reading level she disappeared into her bedroom with a stack of National Geographics and spent hours a day looking over them. She loved the pictures and the maps. And when she emerged a couple of weeks later having looked through the entire stack she was reading at a high school level. Six months later I recall her going through an obsession with picture books, having me read her favourites aloud to her over and over, wanting no part of chapter books. Level schmevel. Kids find what they need when given freedom to choose.
I want to put in another vote for Mo Willems' "Elephant and Piggie" series. The vocabulary is simple enough to be read easily by young kids, but the facial expressions on the characters are gloriously expressive! I like some of the themes of the books, like caring for friends, helping people, and playing with differently-abled friends (one book is about playing ball with a snake). My kid can "read" chapter books -- he decodes them, anyway -- but he loves going back to these books.
I'd also recommend some of the other books and series listed in this thread already, especially Corduroy, Frog & Toad, Henry & Mudge, Little Bear, the Todd Parr books, Robert McCloskey's books. Sadly, most don't show explicitly non-traditional family structures. My criteria for kid lit that we own (as opposed to check out from the library) have been "classicness" and literary quality, art quality, exclusion of violence or punishment, and modeling positive social interaction.
I wanted to second the suggestion of the Houndsley and Catina series. The author James Howe is an openly gay author and I like that the characters aren't pigeon-holed in typical gender roles. The main characters are a cat and dog who are best friends. Also, the illustrations are lovely, with great attention to detail, unlike most "early readers."