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Beginning Readers: Home

Books for emergent and early fluent readers typically have brief text, larger fonts, picture clues, and less than 50 pages.


Books especially written for emergent and early fluent readers are called beginning readers or easy readers. A typical beginning reader has brief text, larger print, and 50 pages or less. Wordless books are also useful to emergent readers. The next step in learning to read is early chapter books, which may have more text than illustrations.


Most beginning readers (grades K-3) are shelved in the Picture Books collection ( jE ). More advanced readers (grades 3-6) are shelved in the Juvenile Fiction collection ( jF ). To find specific books, especially nonfiction titles, check the library catalog. Try searching READERS (PRIMARY) or PRIMERS with another subject such as SPORTS or INSECTS. Several databases, websites, and print resources also list beginning readers. (checksections for Professional Resources)


Early horn books and primers were used to teach the alphabet, phonics, and basic sight words. Many people remember using Dick and Jane books in the 1950s. Then Dr. Seuss shook things up and made beginner books fun. Since 2006, librarians have awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal each year to the author and illustrator of a distinguished book for beginning readers (Mr. Geisel = Dr. Seuss). Geisel Award winners and honor books are marked in this LibGuide with a heart ♥

The New England Primer, edition circa 1777

Reading Levels

There are many schemes for measuring reading levels. Commonly used ones are Lexile (100L to 1200L), Guided Reading (A-Z),  AR (aka ATOS; 0.2 to 13.5), and Basal (Readiness to Grade 6). Many CML books have AR or Lexile reading levels written inside the front covers. Reading levels for grade 1 (midyear) are typically up to 300L (Lexile) or up to 2.4 (AR). Many students read above these levels when highly motivated by a favorite subject.

Primary teachers sometimes arrange their classroom libraries by reading level instead of author or subject. This is called leveling the collection. Many websites and databases can sort booklists by reading level, including these:  

Award-Winning Beginning Readers

Early reading books may be fiction or nonfiction. The following are recent Theodore Seuss Geisel ♥ award-winning titles. And yes, it's named for Dr. Seuss.