Books for Beginning ReadersCompiled by Margaret Jensen
© ©1996 Margaret Jensen, Revised 1998.
As a young child approaches the process of reading a book independently, the newly independent reader brings a unique set of skills, a personal understanding of what reading is, and a level of confidence which can differ from day to day. It is the task of the adult to provide a selection of trade books with a variety of characteristics and to encourage the child to examine the books, observing the illustrations as well as the texts. It is the child's task to be willing to try to read on any particular day, being open to the new challenge and using the newly learned word identification strategies. The adult should anticipate that the process of reading a book will change as the child grows in his or her skill, understanding, and confidence. The selection process, too, will change each time the child has the opportunity to select her or his books to read independently.
Rhythm, rhyme, repetition, a controlled vocabulary, a text with a clear context, and picture clues are each characteristic of trade books appropriate for beginning readers. Relatively few trade books contain all the above characteristics, although more than one of these characteristics can be identified in many books.
The books selected for this bibliography are categorized according to the dominant characteristic even though many of the books listed here could possibly be listed in more than one category. The books are listed alphabetically by author within each category. Click here for a version of the list that lists books in order of difficulty within each category.
The books listed are selected with the interests of primary aged children in mind. Almost all of these books can be found in most elementary school libraries and public libraries. The lists are not comprehensive. Adults using this bibliography will want to identify other trade books with one or more of these characteristics and make their own additions to each section of the bibliography.
Be sure to check out MORE Books for Beginning Readers, which was created in 2011 to supplement this list.
Margaret Jensen is a teacher of first and second graders at Huegel Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin. She has spent most of her 26 years as an educator focusing on new readers. Margaret also teaches children's literature to both young children and college students. A former president of the Madison Area Reading Council, Margaret was the first recipient of the Celebrate Literacy Award given by that organization in 1982.
For more information on this subject, please see Start at the Very Beginning: A Conversation with Margaret Jensen about Books for Beginning Readers.
This bibliography may be reproduced for use by educational and nonprofit organizations as long as credit is given to the compiler.
Click on underlined book titles to see the CCBC review of the book, and/or the cover image.
Complete list of CCBC bibliographies
Rhythm and Rhyme
Baker, Keith. Who Is the Beast?. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990. 32 pages. Ages 3 - 5
Brown, Rick. What Rhymes With Snake?. Tambourine Books, 1994.
Brown, Margaret Wise. Four Fur Feet. Illustrated by Woodleigh Marx Hubbard. Hyperion, 1994.
Greenfield, Eloise. Honey, I Love, and Other Poems. Illustrated by Leo & Dianne Dillon. Harper, 1978.
Hale, Sarah Josepha. Mary Had a Little Lamb. Illustrated by Bruce McMillan. Scholastic / Hardcover, 1990. 32 pages. Ages 3-7
Hubbard, Patricia. My Crayons Talk. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Henry Holt, 1996.
Peek, Merle. Mary Wore Her Red Dress. Clarion Books, 1985.
Philpot, Lorna and Graham Philpot . Amazing Anthony Ant. Random House, 1993.
Raffi, . Down by the Bay. Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Crown, 1987.
Taberski, Sharon, selector. Morning, Noon, and Night: Poems to Fill Your Day. Illustrated by Nancy Doniger. Mondo, 1996. 32 pages. Ages 5 - 8
Alborough, Jez. Hide and Seek. U.S. edition: Candlewick, 1993.
Cameron, Alice. The Cat Sat on the Mat. Illustrated by Carol Jones. Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Capucilli, Alyssa Satin. Biscuit. Illustrated by Pat Schories. HarperCollins, 1996.
Carle, Eric. The Grouchy Ladybug. HarperCollins, 1977.
Forbes, Chris. The Tree Stump. Illustrated by Don Sullivan. Scott Foresman, 1994.
Gerstein, Mordicai. Roll Over!. Crown, 1984.
Gomi, Taro. Who Ate It?. Millbrook, 1991.
Gomi, Taro. Who Hid It?. Millbrook, 1991.
Heide, Florence Parry and Sylvia Worth Van Clief . That's What Friends Are For. Illustrated by Brinton Turkle. Scholastic, 1968.
Henkes, Kevin. Once Around the Block. Illustrated by Victoria Chess. Greenwillow, 1987. 24 pages. Ages 3 - 7
Kopper, Lisa. Daisy Thinks She Is a Baby. Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
Lee, Hector Viveros. I Had a Hippopotamus. Lee and Low, 1996. 32 pages. Ages 2-5
Lester, Helen. Lin's Backpack. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. Scott Foresman, 1994.
Mazzone, Kelly. A House for Hickory. Illustrated by Pat Reynolds. Mondo Publishing, 1995.
McDaniel, Becky Bring. Larry and the Cookie. Illustrated by Clovis Martin. Children's Press, 1993.
McKissack, Patricia C.. Who Is Coming?. Illustrated by Clove Martin. Children's Press, 1986.
Mollel, Tololwa M. . Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper. Illustrated by Barbara Spurll. Clarion, 1991.
Powell, Richard. I Spy on the Farm. Illustrated by Steve Cox. U.S. edition: Penguin, 1997.
Rathmann, Peggy. Good Night, Gorilla. Putman, 1994. 36 pages. Ages 2-5
Reiser, Lynn. Any Kind of Dog. Greenwillow, 1992. 24 pages. Ages 3 - 6
Rowe, John. Can You Spot the Spotted Dog?. U.S. edition: Doubleday, 1996. 24 pages. Ages 5 - 8
Shannon, George. Dance Away. Illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. Greenwillow, 1982.
Stinson, Kathy. Red is Best. Illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis. Annick Press, 1982.
West, Colin. "Pardon?" Said the Giraffe. Harper and Row, 1986.
Winter, Susan. Mee too. U.S. edition: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.
Zemach, Margot. The Little Red Hen: An Old Story. Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1983. 32 pages. Up to age 6
Asch, Frank. Little Fish, Big Fish. Scholastic, 1992.
Asch, Frank. Short Train, Long Train. Scholastic, 1992.
Asch, Frank. Moonbear's Books. Simon and Schuster, 1993.
Carle, Eric. From Head to Toe. HarperCollins, 1997. 32 pages. Ages 18 months - 4 years
Charles, N. N.. What Am I?. Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Scholastic, 1994.
Ehlert, Lois. Color Farm. J. B. Lippincott, 1990. 38 pages. Ages 3 - 7
Ehlert, Lois. Color Zoo. J.B. Lippincott, 1989. 28 pages. Ages 2 - 7
Greene, Inez. My Puppy. Illustrated by Larry Nolte. ScottForesman, 1994.
Henkes, Kevin. Shhhh. Greenwillow, 1989. 22 pages. Ages 18 months-3 years
Hudson, Cheryl Willis. Afro-Bets ABC Book. Just Us Books, 1987. 24 pages. Ages 2-7
Hudson, Cheryl Willis. Afro-Bets 1 2 3 Book. Just Us Books, 1987.
Hutchins, Pat. 1 Hunter. Greenwillow, 1982.
Lember, Barbara Hirsch. A Book of Fruit. Ticknor and Fields, 1994.
Lester, Alison. Clive Eats Alligators. Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
Lillie, Patricia. When This Box Is Full. Illustrated by Donald Crews. Greenwillow, 1993.
Mandel, Peter. Red Cat White Cat. Illustrated by Clare Mackie. Henry Holt, 1994.
Marshall, Janet. Look Once Look Twice. Ticknor and Fields, 1995.
McDonnell, Flora. I Love Animals. U.S. edition: Candlewick, 1994.
Murphy, Mary. I Like It When. U.S. edition: Harcourt Brace, 1997.
Schneider, R. M.. Add It Dip It Fix It. Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
Strickland, Paul. One Bear, One Dog. U.S. edition: Dutton, 1997.
Van Fleet, Matthew. One Yellow Lion. Dial, 1992.
Young, Ed. Seven Blind Mice. Philomel, 1992. 40 pages. Ages 3-6
Alborough, Jez. Where's My Teddy?. U.S. edition: Candlewick, 1992.
Aliki, . Jack and Jake. Greenwillow, 1986.
Aliki, . We Are Best Friends. Greenwillow, 1982.
Aliki, . Best Friends Together Again. Greenwillow, 1995.
Asch, Frank. The Last Puppy. Simon and Schuster, 1980.
Boyd, Lizi. Black Dog Red House. Little, Brown, 1993.
Brenner, Barbara and Bernice Chardiet . Where's That Insect?. Illustrated by Carol Schwartz. Scholastic, 1993.
Cebulash, Mel. Willie's Wonderful Pet. Illustrated by George Ford. Scholastic, 1993.
Coffelt, Nancy. Tom's Fish. Harcourt, Brace, 1994.
Cohen, Caron Lee. Three Yellow Dogs. Illustrated by Peter Sís. Morrow, 1986.
Ford, Miela. Follow the Leader. Greenwillow, 1996.
Guback, Georgia. Luka's Quilt. Greenwillow, 1994. 32 pages. Aes 4 - 8
Inkpen, Mick. The Blue Balloon. U.S. edition: Little, Brown, 1989.
Landstrom, Olof and Lena. Will Goes to the Post Office. R & S Books, 1994.
Little, Jean and Maggie De Vries . Once Upon a Golden Apple. Illustrated by Phoebe Gilman. U.S. edition: Viking, 1991.
Mayer, Mercer. All by Myself. Western, 1983.
McKissack, Patricia. Who Is Who?. Illustrated by Elizabeth M. Allen. Children's Press, 1983.
McKissack, Patricia. Monkey-Monkey's Trick. Illustrated by Paul Meisel. Random House, 1988.
Mueller, Virginia. Monster Can't Sleep. Viking/Penguin, 1986.
Nashone, . Where Indians Live: American Indian Homes. Illustrated by Louise Smith. Sierra Oaks, 1989.
Oppenheim, Joanne. The Show-and-Tell Frog. Illustrated by kate Duke. Bantam, 1992.
Parish, Peggy. Be Ready at Eight. Illustrated by Cynthia Fisher. Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Pilkey, Dave. Big Dog and Little Dog. Harcourt Brace, 1997.
Sadler, Marilyn. It's Not Easy Being a Bunny. Illustrated by Roger Bollen. Random House, 1983.
Sandin, Joan. Pioneer Bear. Random House, 1995.
Sun, Chyng Feng. On a White Pebble Hill. Illustrated by Chihsien Chen. Houghton Mifflin, 1994. 32 pages. 4 - 8
Winter, Susan. My Shadow. Doubleday, 1994.
Yee, Wong Herbert. Eek! There's a Mouse in the House. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
Clear Context and Sight Vocabulary
Blake, Jon. You're a Hero, Daley B.!. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. U.S. edition: Candlewick, 1992.
Calmenson, Stephanie. What Am I? Very First Riddles. Illustrated by Karen Gundersheimer. Harper and Row, 1989.
Calmenson, Stephanie. It Begins with an A. Illustrated by Marisabina Russo. Hyperion, 1993.
Carlson, Judy. Here Comes Kate!. Illustrated by Gordon Kibbee. Steck-Vaughn, 1989.
Caseley, Judith. Dear Annie. Greenwillow, 1991.
Gregorich, Barbara. Elephant and Envelope. School Zone, 1985.
Hutchins, Pat. What Game Shall We Play?. Greenwillow Books, 1990.
Hutchins, Pat. Shrinking Mouse. Greenwillow, 1997. 32 pages. Ages 2 - 6
Koontz, Robin Michal. I See Something You Don't See. Dutton, 1992.
Lopshire, Robert. I Want to Be Somebody New. Random House, 1986.
Lopshire, Robert. New Tricks I Can Do. Random House, 1996.
Medearis, Angela Shelf. Sharing Danny's Dad. Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Scott Foresman, 1994.
Namm, Diane. Little Bear. Illustrated by Lisa McCue. Children's Press, 1990.
Narahashi, Keiko. I Have a Friend. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1987. 32 pages. Ages 3-6
Petrie, Catherine. Joshua James Likes Trucks. Illustrated by Jerry Warshaw. Children's Press, 1982.
Reiser, Lynn. The Surprise Family. Greenwillow, 1994. 32 pages. Ages 3-6
Roe, Eileen. Con Mi Hermano / With My Brother. Illustrated by Robert Casilla. Bradbury, 1991. 32 pages. Ages 3 - 6
Spohn, David. Nate's Treasure. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1991.
Sykes, Julie. This and That. Illustrated by Tanya Linch. Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1996. 26 pages. Ages 3-5
Walter, Mildred Pitts. Two and Too Much. Illustrated by Pat Cummings. Bradbury, 1990.
Wheeler, Bernelda. Where Did You Get Your Moccasins?. Illustrated by Herman Bekkering. Pemmican Publications, 1984.
Yee, Patrick. Winter Rabbit. Viking, 1994.
Putting It all Together
Bauer, Marion Dane. Alison's Wings. Illustrated by Roger Roth. Hyperion, 1996. 47 pages. Ages 4 - 7
Byars, Betsy. Ant Plays Bear. Illustrated by Marc Simont. Viking, 1997. 32 pages. Ages 6 - 8
Clifton, Lucille. Everett Anderson's Goodbye. Illustrated by Ann Grifalconi. Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1983. 28 pages. Up to age 8
Flournoy, Valerie. The Twins Strike Back. Illustrated by Melodye Rosales. Just Us books, 1994.
Friedman, Ina R. . How My Parents Learned to Eat. Illustrated by Allen Say. Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
Griffith, Helen V. . Grandaddy's Stars. Illustrated by James Stevenson. Greenwillow, 1995. 32 pages. Ages 6-8
Hayashi, Akiko. Aki and the Fox. Doubleday, 1991. 40 pages. Ages 3-6
Henkes, Kevin. Margaret and Taylor. Greenwillow, 1983. 64 pages. Ages 4-9
Igus, Toyomi. When I Was Little. Illustrated by Higgins Bond. Just Us Books, 1992.
Jukes, Mavis. No One Is Going to Nashville. Illustrated by Lloyd Bloom. Alfred A. Knopf, 1983. 47 pages. Ages 5-9
Mayo, Gretchen Will. Meet Tricky Coyote!. Walker, 1993. 36 pages. Ages 6-9
Mayo, Gretchen Will. That Tricky Coyote!. Walker, 1993. 36 pages. Ages 6-9
Mayo, Gretchen Will. Here Comes Tricky Rabbit!. Walker, 1994. 38 pages. Ages 6 - 9
Mayo, Gretchen Will. Big Trouble for Tricky Rabbit!. Walker, 1994. 37 pages. Ages 6 - 9
Miller, Sara Swan. Three Stories You Can Read to Your Cat. Illustrated by True Kelley. Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 48 pages. Ages 5 - 7
Miller, Virginia. Be Gentle!. U.S. edition: Candlewick, 1997.
Moon, Nicola. Lucy's Picture. Illustrated by Alex Ayliffe. Dial, 1995.
Paterson, Katherine. The Smallest Cow in the World. Illustrated by Jane Clark Brown. HarperCollins, 1991. 64 pages. Ages 4-7
Pomerantz, Charlotte. The Outside Dog. Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas. HarperCollins, 1993. 64 pages. Ages 4-7
Rice, Eve. Once in a Wood Ten Tales from Aesop. Mulberry, 1979.
Roop, Peter and Connie. Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie. Illustrated by Peter E. Hanson. Carolrhoda, 1985. 40 pages. Ages 5-11
Roop, Peter and Connie. Buttons for General Washington. Illustrated by Peter E. Hanson. Carolrhoda, 1986. 48 pages. Ages 5-11
Rylant, Cynthia. Henry and Mudge: The First Book. Illustrated by Suçie Stevenson. Bradbury, 1987.
Selsam, Millicent E.. Greg's Microscope. Illustrated by Arnold Lobel. HarperCollins, 1963.
Stolz, Mary. King Emmett the Second. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Greenwillow, 1991. 56 pages. Ages 6-8
Wetterer, Margaret K.. Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express. Illustrated by Karen Ritz. Carolrhoda, 1990. 48 pages. Ages 7-10
This list may be reproduced and distributed by educational and/or nonprofit organizations so long as credit is given to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.