Top Ten Early Reader Recommendations

There are wonderful picture books, middle grade novels and young adult books available to readers.  I never have trouble with recommendations for children or adults looking for books within those categories.  However, I discovered that finding books for early readers (K-2) could be a challenge.   Aside from the fact that I think it is harder to write for this age group, readers in this group vary in ability from just starting to read to those who are reading full-length chapter books.  What a challenge for authors and teachers!

It is also easy for a teacher who may not be familiar with books in this category to get caught up in recommending titles such as Junie B. Jones or The Magic Tree House series or the vast array of Sparkling Fairy Books.  Readers love series and they love predictable formats at this age.  It helps develop reading confidence in our youngest readers.  However, I am hoping that the list below might have a few new titles to consider when picking books for young readers.  My first five picks are for the earlier beginning readers and the last five picks are for those that are ready to step into a chapter book format.


1. Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems

I love the friendship and silly conversation between Elephant and Piggie, and so do my students.  Willems has mastered writing enjoyable stories with simple language.  Not an easy task but it’s one that he has made look easy.


2. Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

Toon Books created a series of early graphic novels for Kinder to Second grade readers.  Though I like nearly every book in the whole series, I think the brother and sister combo of Benny & Penny are my favorites.


3. Mouse and Mole, A Winter Wonderland by Wong Herbert Yee

I am a long time fan of Frog and Toad and when I read Yee’s Mouse and Mole series for the first time, I felt like I was returning home to old friends.  Mouse and Mole stories have a certain charm with a touch of humor thrown in.


4.  Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman

If you haven’t noticed, friendship is a big theme for children in this age group and in my 4th choice, Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, a little girl partners up with her favorite horse for some fun times.


5. Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold

In this series, Tedd Arnold takes friendship to an extreme with a boy befriending a fly.  Sometimes I have to shake my head with some of the silly antics, but boys seem to really love the humor in this one.

The next 5 books are early chapter books for when children are ready for more pages and a more developed story line.


6. Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight

This graphic novel/early chapter book is a hit with my stronger first grade readers and my 2nd and 3rd grade readers.  Frankie and his dog Argyle are great fun.  I have used this for read alouds, discussions, and to hook kids into reading.  I find myself recommending this series quite frequently.

7. Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist by Jim Benton

Franny is anything but your average schoolgirl.  She is a mad scientist, who with her lab partner & dog Igor, get in and out of some sticky situations with an experiment or two.  These fun stories will make for some enjoyable reads for both girls and boys.


8. Stink by Megan McDonald

Judy Moody’s little brother is a big hit in my book.  Shhhh, don’t tell Judy but I think I am a bigger fan of Stink.  The Stink books have just the right balance of humor, lessons to learn, and silly behaviors to engage readers and to not be annoying.


9.  Keena Ford and the Second Grade Mix Up by Melissa Thomson

Keena is endearing without being annoying.  This second grader gets into her fair share of sticky situations but her mother keeps her honest, and I love her “coffee” chats with her dad.  Author, Melissa Thomson is also fun and a Nerdy Book Club member.


10. JJ Tully Series: The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin

Donalyn once said that a chicken on the cover usually means that the book will be funny (my paraphrasing).  And this is certainly no sad dog story.  Cronin has managed to make the classic film noir a big hit with second and third graders. The sense of mystery and the fact that not everything is always as it seems lends just enough twists to keep children guessing as to what will happen to J.J. and the chickens.

Stop on by my blog for another ten favorite early reader/chapter books. (The permalink to this post is

 Alyson Beecher is a principal of an elementary school in Southern California.  She has been a long-time member of the Nerdy Book Club.  In 2011, she co-founded Bridge to Books (, a grassroots group that seeks to build collaborations among teachers/librarians/booksellers/publishers/authors/illustrators in order to connect children and teen to books.  Currently, she sits on the Scholastic Book Fair Principal Advisory Board and the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California’s Board and Award Committee.  When she is not working or sleeping or serving on a committee, she blogs over at