When children start school and start reading a baton change happens where children who have enjoyed having all sorts of wonderful picture books read to them, have to start beginning to read their own books that can often seem rather contrived in comparison. It’s also the start of being introduced to sets of books that seem to go on forever with repetition and fairly little deviation with set ups or characters we can see when we close our eyes (Ah we’ll always have strangely named Biffer and Kip with your magic Key and trusty dog Floppy). They are valuable though in giving burgeoning readers confidence with their development of reading difficulty and repetitive formula but there’s nothing wrong with dash of one set of books mixed with a pinch of another or a soupcon of a third as the most important thing is that your child is practicising reading or sharing reading a book with you.
So, here are 5 sets as a suggestion. I’m not going to mention Oxford Reading Tree of Magic Key fame (apart from right here, right now because I think that’s a series that many people know already.) Of course children of 5 to 8 who are beginning to read with an increased independence still need to be read to by an adult whether that’s a picture book or a more detailed chapterbook that they couldn’t manage alone so they can hear adults model reading, hear glorious stories and most importantly knowing that reading should be for the pleasure of enjoying stories.)
(We’ve included links to buy the books – they are mostly Amazon. They’re just to help you find the book – they’re not sponsored or affiliated, we don’t get any cash so feel free to buy your book wherever you like! In fact, why not post in the Mummy’s Gin Fund buy & sell group and see if you can get a second hand copy?)
Happy Families by Allan Ahlberg.
Okay so maybe these are just a set of picturebooks but oh what a set. Books with great humour, interesting stories, interlinking characters and due to using lots of different illustrators, look great too. There are 20 books in the whole Happy Family set and they are great for adults to share reading with the children. Many have speech bubbles which could be a starting point for the earliest readers. There are positive role models for girls and boys too and lots of fabulously different but ultimately ‘happy’ families. Personal favourites are The Creep family realising their life of crime is wrong and becoming good, the boxers in Mr Biff the Boxer realising that they don’t actually like hitting people for a job and the teacher and his family thwarting the School Inspector into thinking the school is larger than it actually is! Ahlberg has written lots of other great books including that other great series for shared reading…Funny Bones. Buy it here.
Start Reading Series by Wayland Publishing
A series of progressive books with a clear banding system of 1(beginner) to 9 (more able) for children from Reception to the end of Key Stage One and then continue with the ‘I am Reading’ series of chapter for more confident and fluent readers after. Within each band there are a set of 4 books on a common theme or stories about the same characters to develop interest and familiarity. For instance in band 4 there is a set of stories about Ruby and Merlin; a girl and her dog while in band 9 there is a set of stories about The Forest Family; a stoneage hunter gatherer family. A variety of authors, lovely illustrations and interesting tales. Super! Buy it here.
Usborne Phonic Readers
Goose on the Loose, Sam Sheep can’t Sleep, Toad makes a Road etc There are 32 picture books in the series of rhyming, funny stories which constantly use similar synthetic phonic sounds on each page so that the newest of readers can practice them and learn from the repetition. The rhyming and lift the flap element of them means they are fun and engaging to read, so you may be required to “read it again” and the cartoon illustrations are fun to look at. Usborne has a whole reading programme so from these bigger picture book style books that are great for carers and children to take turns reading together they can dip into the beautiful smaller hard backed libraries of “Very First Reading”, then “First Reading” and finally when an established reader “Young Reading”. Buy it here.
Reading Corner Series by Franklin Watts Publishing
I like this series because like the Start Reading series mentioned before, the progression is clear and easily explained so you don’t have to be a qualified teacher to work out which colour refers to which stage (it isn’t always so clear I’m afraid)…it very handily tells you on the inside back page. The books are also a good size for little hands to hold (who knew I was going to go there but it does make a difference) and they are colourful. Most of the stories are stand alone like Storm Treasure (little girl rescues star fish that have been washed up on the shore during a storm) but in early stages words and phrases are repeated. The series is split into 3 colours grades: yellow (up to 100 words), then red (up to 200 words), then blue (up to 450 words). There is also a Reading Corner phonics series that you can start with first with titles like So Scary (where a knight thinks a princess is scared of a big dragon that he’s scared of when actually she’s fine with the dragon she is scared of a spider). These books focus on reading cvc words and simple polysyllabic words in the Yellow Grade and more complicated polysyllabic words and tricky words in the longer Red Grade books. Buy it here.
Banana books by Egmont publishing
I’ve always liked Banana books. Not just because banana is such a good word to say in a minion voice but I liked them when they were in my classroom because they are also colourful, bright and very appealing. They have also always used a large variety of authors & illustrators for their stories including Michael Morpurgo, Julia Donaldon & Jacqueline Wilson and children enjoy reading them. Again the progression is clearly explained on the back cover: Green Bananas which are 3 short (connecting) stories for first readers like the great Diggers and Dumpers by Valerie Wilding (including the 3 stories (Splosh!, Snap!, and Dump!: 2 friends play in the garden but don’t share and end up getting toys dirty, The 2 friends wash toys but clever mummy has to fix a broken one, the 2 friends see some real diggers and dumpers and start to play cooperatively and share their toys), Blue bananas which are ‘Simple Stories for Early Readers’, Red Bananas to build confidence and yellow bananas that are chapter books for when readers are fluent. Buy it here.
Our ‘5 Books’ Series:
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