There are many graded readers out there and an awful lot of them are just dire. Dull dull dull, and often ineptly illustrated as well. If you have a struggling or otherwise reluctant reader, it is worth your while to search out the most entertaining offerings you can. Here are a few gems we have found and enjoyed.
(P.S. There is no shame in beginning with a phonics book set featuring a favourite TV or other pop culture character. In our case it was Hello Kitty.)
1. Hop on Pop, by Dr. Seuss
This is reading made painless, and funny to boot. There’s no story, just a series of situations with the words presented, followed by simple sentences using them. Ie. “ALL TALL, We all are tall.” and on the next page, “ALL SMALL, We all are small.”
The Dr. Seuss easy readers are still the best out there, for sheer simplicity and entertainment value. From this title move on to One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and other titles under the Cat in the Hat banner, like Go Dog Go, Are You My Mother? etc.
2. Cat Traps, by Molly Coxe (Random House Step Into Reading series, step 1)
This is one of the dime-a-dozen kind of graded readers, but this title is actually quite funny and contains just the right amount of repetition and age-perfect jokes to warrant repeated readings. My nephew read this to my daughter years ago, and this summer she was finally able to read it back to him – giggles all round.
3. Elephant and Piggie series, by Mo Willems
These books are very simple, extremely engaging and hilarious. All about the relationship between two very good and very different friends. Misunderstandings lead to over-reactions but friendship triumphs in the end.
From the author who brought you Knuffle Bunny, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and many other books. This series has 15 titles, including Today I Will Fly!, My Friend is Sad, I Am Invited to a Party!, I Will Surprise My Friend!, and my personal favourite, I Am Going!
4. Buzz Boy and Fly Guy, by Tedd Arnold
Cute cartoon book about a boy and his pet fly. In this one they imagine they are superheroes and have a pirate adventure. Action-packed without recourse to meanness or violence! There are 10 titles in the Fly Guy series, including Hi Fly Guy, Shoo Fly Guy, and Fly Guy vs. the Flyswatter.
5. Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series, by Dav Pilkey, ill. by Martin Oliveros
A little more advanced, but extremely engaging. A little mouse has a giant robot for a pal, which comes in handy whenever the world needs saving. In each book devious alien creatures invade and Ricky and his robot battle them. Some action, pummelling and karate kicking and so forth, but nothing too extreme. Pilkey more famously brought us Captain Underpants, but this series is thankfully free of the potty humour and insults of those books.
Highlights include fight scenes in “flip-o-rama”, where you flip one page back and forth to see a scene animate. Also for the artistically inclined there are detailed instructions on how to draw the characters at the end of every book! (Love this!) Another recommendation from a nephew (thanks Sam!) that is very popular in our house.
Other titles include Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Jurassic Jackrabbits from Jupiter, Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. the Voodoo Vultures from Venus, etc.