The Best Emergent Readers
For homeschoolers (and others who lack that big classroom library!)
I've enjoyed introducing both my nieces to the Brand New Reader stories during their kindergarten year. I've also had a lot of success using them with children I tutor. They make reading seem doable. They engage... And they're easier to come by than Rigby Readers.
We all want our little ones to become readers. Most of us, though, have been deeply shaped by our own experience as students -- experiences that may lag decades behind modern research. Research in literacy and educational psychology suggests that children learn to read by using multiple cueing systems. That's a fancy way of saying that phonics and sight words are important, but so are contextual clues. If a child is struggling to read more than 10% of the words in a beginning reader, chances are s/he is reading so slowly that comprehension is lost. Successful intervention programs like Reading Recovery use text at the instructional level (as opposed to frustration level) and include integrated cueing in their "bag of tricks".
The public schools often have wonderful sets of leveled readers so that even very beginning readers can have "just right" books. Even if you're a parent educator, you can still find quality emergent readers from Amazon -- or at your local library.
But Won't Children Memorize The Text?
This is a common concern: If a book has a pattern that makes it easy to predict what comes next, then won't children just memorize the words? Many bright children do memorize the books after repeated readings. But thanks to the little introduction that is included in each story, even very beginning readers can often read the story the first time around -- especially if the parent or tutor reads a page or two first. Memory won't be enough. You'll see the children working hard to decipher words here and there,staring intently at the letters... and also the pictures. And if you rotate books frequently, children will continue to do that, though multiple readings. Ideally, a child is working hard to read some of the words -- but only some.
There's still learning to be done, though, even after children have begun to memorize. There's a reason so many literacy coaches and reading curricula ask children to do repeated readings of the same text. The practice builds fluency, and fluency is a crucial building block to comprehension!
Using Cueing Systems to Teach Beginning Literacy - Research and Practical Strategies
Here are links to pages that discuss integrated cueing and other guided reading strategies. Most of these are pretty user-friendly (ie not so heavy in jargon from the college of education that a lay person would have trouble with them). They can be useful for homeschooling families as well as educators.
- Integrating Use of Cueing Systems Into Daily Reading
Using patterned text and other strategies.
- Cornerstone Lit
Guidelines for coaching beginning reading.
- Reading strategies
Includes link to a related video.
- Research basis
Theoretical basis behind using multiple cueing systems.
- Reading Fluency
Distinguishing between independent level, instructional level, and frustration level books.
- Guided Reading
This is a good general introduction to guided reading -- grounded in research, but written in a way that's accessible to those outside the education field.
The Brand New Readers series is my favorite series. I have used these beginning readers with pre-kindergartners and kindergartners and also with primary students who are at the earliest stages of literacy. The series uses multiple cueing systems. What's more, it brings a smile to little one's faces.
Mouse, Monkey, Dinah Dinosaur... Children love these characters, and want to read the stories again and again. Boxed set includes paperback stories, stickers, an incentive chart, and an additional story book that children can design themselves.
- Strategies are in line with research on beginning reading
- The series includes engaging characters kids love
- There are colorful pictures
- Boxed sets include fun extension activities
- It's an economic alternative to guided reading sets
- The books include instructions to make it easy for parents to teach beginning reading.
Try Brand New Readers Online
My six-year-old niece has been reading these online today. She especially enjoyed the one about the monkey who popped the balloons, which she read half a dozen times. She said it had the easiest words. She proudly read all three to her parents (my brother and sister-in-law).
Reading Levels For Brand New Reader Series
- Reading Levels
This resource, from Candlewick Press, gives guided reading and early intervention levels by title. (Guided reading levels range from A to C.)
Thoughts on Integrated Cueing Systems?
Is it important to teach multiple cueing systems?
More Online Reading
- Progressive Phonics
A Well Known Series: Rigby Readers
Rigby leveled readers are widely used in kindergartens and primary schools around the world. You probably won't find them in you local library or bookstore, but they can be ordered online.
A set of Level 3 benchmark books for beginning literacy assessment and instruction -- colorful and engaging.
Are These Readers For Everyone?
No series is for everyone. Children differ in their processing style and in their profile of strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, some families from very Orthodox Judaic or Muslim backgrounds may find animal characters that they object to in the stories. However, I have known quite a few children between pre-kindergarten and second grade -- English language learners and native English speakers from various cultures -- who have taken joyous first steps into literacy with these books.
Share them here.