Making and Choosing the Right Books

My son is in the first grade.  He is bringing home little books to practice reading.  He seems to be able to read these books.  I went to our small local book store to look for the same type of book to buy him for Christmas and also just to get him extra books for the rest of the year so that he would have a little variety.  I wasn’t able to find him books that are as easy to read as the ones he’s bringing home.  Do you have any suggestions for finding some books that my beginning first grader could read independently?  Thank you in advance for your help.

This is a great question that I often get from parents.  In formatting my response to this question, I consulted with Susan Sullivan, a Reading Specialist with over thirty years of experience.

The first resource you have is your son’s teacher.  She should also be able to give you a feel for what reading level your son is on.  Remember that children develop reading skills at their own pace, so while one first grader may be at a “readiness to read stage” (a kindergarten level), another might be reading on a 3rd grade level.  Some books will have a reading level indicated either on the jacket (front and/or back).  If you are at the children’s section of your book store, you might pick out “easy step” books which always show reading levels.  After some experience, even when no level is indicated, you may be able to pick out books on an appropriate level by just reading a page or two.  By typing in a few paragraphs or pages from a book into your computer, you may be able to check the reading level right from the word processor (write to me for instructions), or at free online sites such as,

There are a number of good publishers of children’s books.  Among those are Sterling and Scholastic.  Sterling Publishing has a series for young readers.  Scholastic has packets of easy phonetic readers with characters such as Clifford, Dora, Diego, Curious George, and Biscuit.  You can order from Scholastic Book Club online.  These books are very reasonably priced.

If your child is just beginning to read, even the easiest books may be difficult.  You can introduce the more challenging books later in the year after your child has a few more sight words and some early reading strategies to help with tricky words.  Remember that reading should be fun and children want to do things that make them feel successful.  So be sure to include easier books in your acquisitions, and be ready to provide more time, praise and encouragement when you mix in harder books.

The best way I have found to obtain books like the “easy readers” that schools buy from book companies, is to make them.  They are inexpensive to make and you can control content, letter size, spacing, vocabulary and picture clues. These homemade books have a very good chance of becoming your son’s favorite books, especially if he helps make them.  Your child’s teacher should be able to give you a list of “sight” words that he is expected to learn during the school year that you can integrate into these books.  Following you will find some directions and suggestions as to how to make your own books.


You can print neatly or use the computer.  The computer is more effective because it is easier to read.

  • Use good size letters
  • Make a little extra space between words
  • Extra space between lines when your child progresses to two line text
  • Comic sans is a good font to use for emergent readers
  • Books should be 5 –7 pages
  • Pictures should support the text below
  • The following are some of the ideas that I have used but the possibilities are endless:

Sample Book#1:

Page 1 – I love my Mom.

Page 2 – I love my Dad.

Pages 3, 4, and 5 – Continue with other family member, including grandparents.

Last page – Put in a little twist / I love my family.

Include appropriate photograph on each page

Sample Book #2:

Page 1 – A frog can jump.

Page 2 – A bunny can hop.

Pages 3, 4 and 5 – Continue with other animals.

Last page – Put in a little twist / I can run.

Use a photograph of your child running.

Sample Book # 3:

Page1 – I love to eat blueberries.

Page 2 – I love to eat pizza.

Pages 3, 4 and 5 – I love to eat …

Last page – I love to eat everything!

Use supermarket flyers for this book.

Source materials for books: Supermarket flyers, magazines, family photographs, family pet photographs, discarded books, cheap books that you can cut up to recycle into your own special books, hand-drawn pictures, etc..

When reading your creations, remember to have your child point to each word so that their words match the text.  Read the books over and over.  You will be building a confident reader.

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4 Comments + Add Comment

  • Maggie,

    You are right, the parent’s question is a great one and one that is very difficult to answer unless you are the child’s teacher and know the child’s reading level. The reading ability level in first grade varies greatly and books for children to read independently who are at the very beginning stage of reading are very difficult to find in book stores and libraries. As a reading specialist myself, I think you have given parents very good advice–especially about making books with their children. I agree that these books are likely to become favorites and creating them with/for their children should make learning to read a very positive experience. In addition, it is a great way to bond with children.

    I am a fan of the Scholastic Hello Reader Series. These books are readily found at bookstores and reading levels are indicated on the top right. The reason I am such a fan of these books is that many of them are written in rhyme and are great for helping build phonemic awareness–a critical component of learning to read. If your readers have not read your post on phonemic awareness, I suggest they do. You gave great advice there too.

    Thank you for discussing such great topics.

  • Great answer! I also liked those “Bob” books or other similar books with simple phonetic patterns for beginner readers. The idea of making your own book is great and real makes it something kids can relate to, so they are excited to read. :)

  • You response to the question “making and choosing books” was on target. I love the idea of making your own book for a child. My children are adults but I enjoy being a grandparent. You have given me an idea so I plan to make my grandson a book which will deal with his family. Thanks very much for this great information.

  • I second your idea of making your own books. I did a few for my kids using activities and things they were familiar with e.g. I like to draw, I like the playground etc…. I had pictures of them to accompany the text. I laminated the pages and then put a key ring to hold it all together. They love those books because they love to see pictures of themselves. It’s about them. What’s not to like right?

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