First readers, easy readers, leveled readers, beginner readers… they go by many names. These small books play a mighty role in your child’s reading development, but they can be mighty confusing as well. But fear not, grownups of growing readers! Today, I’m here to give you an explainer.
Here at Heights Libraries, we try to do some of the leg work for you in figuring out which books are best for your child’s reading level. Our catalogers place these books into three categories: F-A, F-B, and F-C. The F stands for First, as in First Readers. These roughly correspond to the different aspects of language on which books focus.
F-A primarily focuses on letter sounds, letter combinations, and sight words. These are the absolute basics of language. F-A books have very few words per page and usually use only the simplest words. They’re often very repetitive, too. When your child is ready to try reading more independently, this is the section you’ll want.
Some of my favorite F-A titles are The Adventures of Otto series by David Milgrim, the Otter series by Sam Garton, and the series by Candice Ransom including School Day!, Garden Day!, and Grandparents Day!.
F-B will use some longer or more complex words and include more words per page, but they still are very simple overall. When your child has strengthened their letter and word recognition skills and is ready for complete stories, it’s time to start adding in books from this section.
Some of my favorite F-B titles are the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems, the Splat the Cat series by Rob Scotton, and, of course, Kelly Light’s series featuring a little girl named Louise.
F-C will increase the length and complexity of words and stories, sometimes including multiple chapters or stories in one book. F-C books are for strong independent readers who are still growing. When your child is confidently completing F-B books on their own, you’ll want to start looking in this section. These titles will get your child ready for their first chapter books and graphic novels!
Some of my favorite F-C titles are Kimberly Derting’s series Cece Loves Science, the King & Kayla series by Dori Hillestad Butler, and Arnold Lobel’s classic Frog & Toad books.
These categories are not exact, especially since literacy development is not totally linear and quantifiable. The differences between each are more of a gradient, and transitions will be slow. You may be checking out books from two or more of these levels at once. Kids can become frustrated as their skills develop, so be sure to continuously offer support and continue reading to them.
You’ll notice that many first readers include popular picture book characters or stories from television shows, movies, and other franchises. Nonfiction first readers are also common, especially ones about animals or historical events. These subjects keep this challenging new skill exciting, but familiar. They also help new readers learn that books are a way to have fun and learn about the world. Depending on a child’s interests, they may have characters and subjects that follow them all the way from board books to chapter books, easing the transition at each level.
Whatever your child’s reading level or interests, there is a book out there for them. When in doubt, your youth services librarians are always here to help you find the right books for your child.