Because a little independence is a very good thing...
From Dick and Jane to Elephant and Piggie... a brief history
Way back in the day, books for children just learning to read tended to pretty boring.
"Jane runs. See Jane run. Run, Jane, run!"
The Dick and Jane primers, published from 1927 through the late 1960s, flourished in the '50s. These books taught a couple of generations how to read, crafted dreams of gentle, post-Word War II suburban bliss, and in the process became immediately recognizable cultural icons.
But they really were pretty dull.
Then, in 1957, two fabulous books appeared. Although intended for children with limited reading skills, they were well-written and imaginative, offering stories and illustrations attractive to not only their intended audience of beginning readers, but also to children not yet able to read.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss offered a zany story, wonderful wordplay and a peek into a fantasy world just beyond adult control. The Cat revealed just how much fun reading and language can be. Else Minarik's Little Bear offered a series of engaging stories about a bear cub and his family and friends. While the storyline and vocabulary were clear enough to be read aloud to younger children, beginning readers understood that Little Bear was not a "baby book." It had chapters!
These two books both set the bar and opened the floodgates. Publishers like Random House introduced its Beginner Books series. Harper followed with its own, I Can Read imprint.
Each decade seems to spawn a new favorite reader series. In the '70s, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel ruled the lily pad. In the '80s, the Amanda and Oliver Pig books by Jean Van Leeuwen captured their readers' imaginations. Throughout the '90s, Henry and Mudge, by Cynthia Rylant, educated and entertained through the adventures of a boy and his hulking, patient mastiff. Early 21st century favorites include Biscuit by Alyssa Capucilli, Minnie and Moo by Denis Cazet, the Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold and the irrepressible and wildly popular Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.
But what is an "easy reader?"
Easy Readers, Emerging Readers, and Beginning Readers are all books for the young child who is just learning to read. Easy Readers typically:
The Geisel Award
The Geisel Award is named for the beloved children's author Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) and is given annually to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished book for beginning readers published in English in the United States.
Click the medal to view a list of Geisel Award winners and honor books since its inception in 2006.
How to find other great easy readers...
Carol Hurst's Classics
CYBILs 2013 list
Gryphon Award Books
Harcourt Green Light Readers series
HarperCollins I Can Read series
PBS Parents List
Random House Step Into Reading series
Scholastic Hello Reader! series
Scholastic Blog Lists
For the latest news from the wonderful world of easy readers,
check out our Easy Reader Book of the Week blog!