The following is taken from an old hand-out I gave at one of my seminars. It describes the three kinds of readers (books) which parents and teachers often use when teaching children who are beginning to read. Our online shop sells readers of at least 2 of these kinds. Click here to view those listings.
Three Types of Early-Literacy Readers (books)
One kind is a phonics-based reader that uses groups of phonetically-similar words to practice. Phonics readers can be used in both the typical reading programs as well as alongside Peppermint Stick Learning Company Inc.’s “Let Me Read” program. Some books are only sentences of rhyming words (“word families”) or words with the same initial sounds written in grammatically correct sentences but without meaning to a plot line of a story. However, some books use these same types of words together and make an interesting story with them. Try to use the books with interesting storylines (even very short meaningful stories) rather than the type with unrelated sentences strung together in a paragraph.
Another kind that I call an “integrative-based reader” is a one-topic or one-event reader in a single thin book. In it are simple sentences that often make up an interesting story. The words are not related in phonetic groups, nor are they always repeating specific sight words. Rather, there is a variety of a dozen or more new words that a child is taught to read or guess what the word is, given the context of the story and picture. The topics in these type of “readers” often relate to other subjects a child is studying in that grade level, for example, in science, social studies, or math. Sometimes they may be listed as literacy readers or books for pre-emergent or emergent readers but the general description of the single thin books are that they integrate learning to read with other academic subject areas. Having a few of these kind of books available for children to read can also be helpful.
Finally, there is my mother’s favourite kind of reader, which we call a story reader (or just referred to in “Let Me Read” as a “reader”). It is the foundational type of reader for learning to read with our curriculum, even though I recommend using all three kinds of readers within your school lessons. This is the kind that has words arranged into an interesting story. The words are repeated often throughout the story and entire reader. Both phonics and sight words can be taught from this kind of reader, using topics from a variety of subjects of interest to children. My mother thought it would be more motivating and exciting for the children to start right away at the beginning of the school year with actually reading sentences and complete stories by themselves rather than waiting until later on in the year. This kind of reader was commonly used in the 1940’s to 1980’s and some are being reprinted again. You may be able to find old readers on the internet or in your community for sale or perhaps from an older relative or friend. The stories often feature children and sometimes animals which may be “old fashioned” but still relevant enough because children still like reading about families and their adventures even if in a setting from the past.
In conclusion, for choosing readers, try to find readers that have interesting stories with action in them (i.e. remember that a good story has a beginning, middle, and end to it) rather than the kind that just puts words into sentences or phrases to describe a picture or event on the page, followed by a page that has no relationship to the previous page. Also look for readers that bear some kind of resemblance to how we (young children or adults) verbally tell a story (talk) in normal daily life. Readers that keep the same (or similar type of) characters throughout the reader series can also be helpful to children. It motivates them to find out “what next” happens to the characters they have just read about.
Remember, it’s better to practice reading by reading (not mainly writing)!
For your interest, we have a partial list of “old readers” (i.e. story readers) that you can download (free, pdf format) by clicking here: Old Readers List