Early reader recs(43 Posts)
I don't think my daughter is gifted, I should say at the start. My son is, and you could have an adult conversation with him in preschool. DD is completely normal and you, well, can't. She's bright and happy and curious and what have you, imaginative, lovely, and life is going well and normally in all other ways. BUT - she taught herself to read last summer, has taken off like a rocket with it since, has her nose permanently stuck in a book, and I don't know what to give her now. She's finished all the reading book sets I got from the Book People, and has read and reread every picture book and is now asking constantly for more books. She got given a boxed set of Enchanted Wood stories on her birthday on Thursday and she has read 3 of the 4 already. Those are fine as they're at her maturity and comprehension level, but I am at a loss as to what to give her next. She's too small for CS Lewis, Harry Potter, etc etc. and frankly Blyton school stories would have emotional themes way, way over her head. Can anyone recommend books for a preschooler, with the normal maturity and understanding for her age, but a bizarrely developed capacity and desire to read? If she were gifted in other ways then it would be easier, as she'd be able to manage books for older children. I suppose what I'm asking is for recommendations for chapter books meant for parents to read young kids. I think Dahl would probably scare her, frankly.
Sorry to ask you, but frankly there's nowhere else I can go without it sounding like a stealth boast. I know loads of you will have had this, and can therefore hopefully help.
Narnia should be fine, as should some of Roald Dahl, such as Fantastic Mister Fox, or The Twits. Don't give her the Witches!
Mine was fine with Dahl, Narnia and the first Harry Potter book at age 4, abridged classics from Usborne such as Oliver Twist were devoured. Fantasy novels are also good, as are pony books such as My Friend Flicka.
Encyclopedias, national geographic books, autobiographies, how do things work? Magic school bus, are all good for kids who devour books but can't handle mature themes yet.
I had a similar issue I took them to the library and got the librarian to help him look. We came out with lots of books
Michael morpurgo's mudpuddle farm series, my naughty little sister, wishing chair(also enid blyton), the adventures of Mr penguin.
I'm an idiot, and the library hadn't occurred to me - my son has sensory issues (ASD as well as gifted) so the library was never a winner with him. I'm on chemo right now so can't go, but will ask my Mum to take her, explain, and ask for recs. Should be a damn sight cheaper, too. Once she's old enough to catch up on her brother we're fine, and well stocked (he's home educated at the moment). It's this weird gap now between KS2 ability to read, and preschooler understanding.
Animal stories sound good - she has some godawful Rainbow Unicorn books she got for Christmas and loves, so she should enjoy that. I'm hesitant about Dahl and Narnia because she is very, very easily scared - the stone table, and the Witch's threatened violence were pretty disturbing to me as a kid, and I was older (the Witches gave me nightmares at ten! And as I am chemo bald right now, that really WOULD be a horrific idea for her). I suspect current events are making her more fragile than most, too.
We are getting the How It Works magazines as LittleBird had a cut price sub offer - she's obsessed by Do You Know? and loves maths and science, too, so factual books might be good. She has one on the history of chocolate, which is very precious to her! Wise choice there.
It's a weird one. Her decoding outruns her maturity by a long, long way. She's just like any other child to talk to, and loves play and other children. Just perfectly average in the best and loveliest of ways. But it makes catering to her harder than it was with my son, who was clearly able to manage things much above chronological age, even though he didn't read this well this early.
@Winifredgoose thank you, those sound perfect!
Both my early reading dds loved the Happy Families series at that age - right balance of words to pictures, lots to talk about and discover, some quite complicated vocabulary, nothing scary. The library had them, but they loved them so much that I bought lots of them from charity shops at 10p a pop.
The wonderful expert children’s librarian was fantastic, though. I’d suggest ringing your library - in our borough the children’s expert now only works at one library, so when she moved we followed her!
Also the winnie the witch chapter books, tanglewood zoo series and animal ark series.
My ds was a really good reader, and best thing for him was the selection of books at library. I wouldn't try to give her books aimed at older age, even she can read it, she may not appreciate it. He enjoyed reading any books, even the ones looked like too easy for him.
He practically read all the books in early reader sections of our local library. We also bought lots of books from charity shops, as well as buying them from book people.
Winnie the Witch sounds good - someone else recommended The Worst Witch, which I remember from childhood and would probably be about right. I love Paddington, and my son did too, but sadly she's not interested. A friend's child loved these godawful animal stories (Holly Webb?) and that may work. I'll ask someone to pick one up from a charity bookshop and give it a whirl. She might like Ballet Shoes, come to think of it. A lot of it may be dated, but she does live in a house with a home ed sibling, her nanny is here a lot (she won't realise Nanny isn't Grandma) and she absolutely loves ballet. Worth a whirl. The How To Train Your Dragon ones might be good too, as I think they're aimed at younger children. We do have those, so will try and see if she takes to them.
We have a lot of books in the house, but they're either books suitable for her actual age, or books for the rest of us. There's a gap, because at her age my son was able to understand books for older kids, even though he couldn't read them himself. She could theoretically read them in terms of pure decoding, but lacks the understanding. That's the problem, really. She's not evenly able.
Thanks for the specialist librarian advice - we have a children's library in the town centre, so I'll call tomorrow and ask her or him for their input. That's a great tip.
Honestly, I'm not trying to challenge or extend her. I don't really believe in that, not in the early years. The evidence is that they should play at this age to develop their brains, I know. She can't write yet, and that's not something I have any interest in changing. If she wants to learn to do it, then I'm sure she will. This is child-led, her reading ability, and I'm no more going to stop trying to find the books that appeal to her than I'm going to insist she plays with Duplo if she wants lego. With ASD in the family, in several people, I'm also aware that this very precocious reading may not be good news. But right now, reading chapter books is making her happy. She says she, 'likes knowing more about what happens'.
Thanks so much for the help. I didn't know who to ask, because it would be seen as stealth boasting anywhere else, and yet I don't think she's actually gifted either so you weren't my first thought. It's been really useful advice.
Also didn't realise Michael Morpurgo wrote for younger children, thank you.
My Naughty Little Sister series was a favourite here!
Old fashioned stuff is good in terms of higher reading level/lower interest level. Winnie the Pooh is perfect, Alice, Paddington, Pippi Longstocking. My early reader loved joke books and poetry and fact books - particularly usborne look inside ones which have a great level of information but still engaging at a young age. The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and series are adorable. We did have a phase of rainbow magic which are dire but at least got it out of the way! Anything by Jeremy Strong is a big favourite, silly and funny not scary. Ottoline series? Beano annuals? Have fun, there's loads out there. We found DD didn't stop reading picture books till a couple of years after she started reading chapter books too, only trouble would be they'd all be finished in the car on the way home from the library.
Don’t do Ballet Shoes! We made that mistake, all six parents die in the first chapter...
"She could theoretically read them in terms of pure decoding, but lacks the understanding."
It's exactly like my ds, who had decoding age of mid teens at the start of school. I just let him read any books he chose. In reception, he brought home 3 books a day, all easy books. And we went to library every week to borrow more books. He read so many books in ks1. It slowed down in ks2, but he started to appreciate it a bit more.
Reading books and understanding, appreciating them needs maturity, ime. So, going for harder books that are aimed at older children won't always children to progress.
I think there are many great books aimed at children in ks1. They may not be challenging in terms of decoding, but they will do good for appreciating books and comprehensions.
The 'I Wonder Why' series. Approachable scientific books for young children with lots of text and pictures. My son who is 18 is heading for a science career and it's probably these books that sparked his interest.
My dd loved the My Naughty Little Sister books at this age, she wasn't reading them herself but they would be about right I think.
Thank you, that's all really helpful. We had the Owl Afraid of the Dark series for my son, and I'd forgotten them - dug them out, and they were a huge hit. She's wolfed them down. Will also get the Wishing Chair and Naughty Little Sister books, as they're exactly her level emotionally. I'd forgotten them from my own childhood!
I don't care about challenging her. She's tiny, and I didn't read properly until I was 6, which has never held me back academically. It's not a race, is it. But she finds picture books unsatisfying now, because the stories are too short for her to really enjoy. I think they're very beautiful, many of them, and wonderfully written, but she's not interested. She wants chapter books, and I want her to retain and develop her love of reading. That's what makes me happy about her passion for this. So thank you, really, for these suggestions. They're excellent and very much appreciated.
There are many short chapter books aimed at ks1 children. They are not picture books. You should look for early reader section in the local library.
Dick King-Smith - The Sheep Pig and loads of others!
We went through this stage (she's nearly 12 and at high school now, still got her nose in a book ). Stuff to try:
Animal Ark by Holly Webb
Rainbow Magic (dire)
13-storey Treehouse series
Princess Mirrorbelle by Julia Donaldson
Hurrah for the Circus by Enid Blyton
If you don't want to do Ballet Shoes yet, try Tennis Shoes - no parental deaths in that one but similar storyline.
Usborne have got loads of chapter books aimed at 5 years ish - Oliver Moon, Penny Dreadful, Tanglewood Animal Park, Pony-Mad Princess, Secret Mermaids, The Travels of Ermine, Meet the Twitches are all by them, along with their non fiction Look Inside or See Inside books.
We majored on poetry and non-fiction for a while, quite complex language but not too taxing emotionally. Favourite non-fiction was Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? which I'd heartily recommend.
This website lets you find the books available at the library according to the age, gender and interest. If she is advanced, just type in the age slightly older than her real age.
We've got The Sheep Pig (older brother had it) and it's on her shelf now! My husband went to the charity bookshop today and picked up some of the recommendations here, so again, thanks so much.
She has a lot of early reader simple chapter books, thanks to the Book People, but again she's finding them frustratingly short on story (with the exception of the Tomlinson animals who are... ones, which she is loving). She really is ready for full on chapter books, but they need to be at her emotional level, because other than decoding and comprehension of basic plot, she's just a normal preschooler. Early Blyton's good there actually. She's loving those. And I'll buy the awful rainbow magic ones, after the fairy unicorns have been such a hit. Though I'm also having a rummage on the Mighty Girl site to find come countering feminist early readers! They have some good ones on Rosa Parks, Ruth Bader Ginsberg etc for smaller people. She loves the Paper Bag Princess so she may, hopefully, be receptive.
Sadly I can't go to the library, or take her, as it's too much of an infection risk for me when on chemo. I can't even eat live yoghurt right now and someone else has to do most of the playgroup runs as I could catch something which could make me extremely unwell, very fast. But I'll phone the specialist librarian, as suggested - that was so helpful, thank you for the person who mentioned that.
It's a bit weird for me as she reads so, so much better than her brother at this age, but has such reduced critical thinking and comprehension skills over him when he was a preschooler - he was running basic science experiments and watching The Wonders Of The Solar System and understanding actually quite a lot of it. We could read far more advanced things to him, but his reading at preschool age was the Songbirds level so there was no issue or question in terms of what he was reading to himself.
I suppose it's the old thing about assuming your eldest is what kids are all going to be like, and then the second being completely their own person. I should probably stop assuming that he's the very able one and not her, though, too, because she's learning different things at a different pace, and that doesn't mean either are any brighter or less so, especially as she's very tiny still.
I think many of you will understand when I say that having a very able, and also disabled, older child means I was and am hoping she's an excellent top end of average, because that's an easier and hopefully happier life for her than extremely gifted and ASD. People always assume parents with very able children must be showing off, or whining that there are too many diamond studs on their shoes, whereas we all know differently. He's currently home educated, because schools suitable for ASD can't cater for gifted in this county alongside. We're literally having to move house in the summer to be near one that can. So I am hoping her early reading is a lovely aberration in an otherwise high average child, frankly. I'm not writing her off by saying I think she's an averagely bright kid. I'm hoping that's the case. Gifted is a double edged sword in this educational system, unfortunately. Not one I want for her. I'm hoping you all understand that.
@RueDeWakening those recs are goldmines, thank you. Those we already have are existing hits, and many I'd not heard of. Ideal.
Talking about feminist, DD is recently enjoying "Great Women who changed the World" and "Great women who changed history" by Kate Pankhurst (fairly dense picture non fiction books), and the Mariella Mystery series (chapter books) by the same author. Don't think they're particularly scary or anything. May not be wordy enough for you but similar to e.g. tom Gates or 13 storey treehouse (which my two also love).
Ooh, those sound great, thank you! The Blyton etc are fab stories, but there's such constant subliminal gendered stuff in them, especially older books, and it's good to counter that. I have a lot of those books for my son, too - the boys who dared to be different, kind men who changed the world type ones, and I have the rebel girls series around as well, but the Pankhursts look great for age.
One of the issues with her reading independently at this age is she's not got the critical thinking skills to notice this stuff yet - her brother did, so he raised it. He was appalled to overhear Malala's situation on the Today Programme one morning and racism made about as much logical sense, so he deplored it. ASD can be very useful when social justice is involved - lack of logic is so instantly apparent with prejudice. My little girl is fiercely imaginative, but logic less of a strong suit! Best example was potty training: at two, I explained to my son that poo and pee in pants equals nappy rash, and how the acids interacted and irritated his skin. Never pooed another nappy. My daughter, at 3, smiled fondly at me and explained I was completely wrong: monsters lived in her bottom, extended ladders at night, came down and bit her when we were all asleep, and then we saw it the next day. Nothing to do with poo or pee at all. Didn't matter what we said: SHE KNEW! Along the same lines, my son worked out that Santa was nonsense before he was 6, on solely logical grounds - think my girl will be happily choosing to believe at 10! Just so different.
I’d give her non fiction op - children’s books about the world, space, the body, science etc you may as well get her learning as she’s reading
I would encourage her to work on her ‘weaknesses’ though. Do 5 mins drawing or maths a day. Short bursts of the things she’s not so good at.
That's adorable re the potty training! Real insight into how their little minds worked, both of them.
She's actually fairly good at maths, given she's a preschooler. She can count to 100, knows times tables up to about 5 (she taught herself that, using a lift the flap book her brother had) and she can do basic arithmetic. She enjoys drawing, too. It's not as startling as her reading, but she's doing okay, and mildly ahead of expectations, in all other areas. The only gap is writing - she can do her name, more or less, but that's all she is interested in - but as she loves drawing, bead-threading, playdoh etc that's not any sort of issue that I can see. Most of the world think we teach writing too soon, anyway. She's got years ahead for that. I'm happy to let it all be led by her.
She's normal in most ways really. A little ahead, but nothing very dramatic. And she's so small and they learn at fits and starts at that age, so who knows if she's going to be ahead at all in a few years, and really, does it matter? I'm keen to feed her interests, but that's about it. I think it needs to come from her, not us, for it to have value.
She loves science. Loves the Curious Pearl, Science Girl books. Adores Maddie from Do You Know? and has been to several of her live shows. We do some early years kits with her, which she loves. But she's just not got the conceptual grasp her brother did at this age, and again, that's fine. I do also think it's very easy to assume learning has to be formal information and facts - that they're little vessels, there to be filled. The way I see it this age, everything's learning. Almost the whole world is new to them, and so many experiences are as well. They learn as much baking pretzels, with yeast being fed, and ingredients weighed, and then shaping and then melting butter and cinnamon, and discussing the history of spices, as they will from a longer book. More, in many ways, as it's so hands on and sensory. I do really think that reading should be about joy - at all ages, partly, but at her age solely. We give her a lot of options (the Wonder series someone mentioned below sounds perfect, thank you) and then she can choose what interests her. Really I was hoping for what you've all given me, which is recommendations to expand the options I can provide. They'll remain options, and she can follow her own interests. And I do have to say, as a mum with a child who has limited imagination, that there's a risk in assuming the only learning is in facts. Emotional learning is equally valuable, and the imaginative fuel for that in novels is equally important, to me.
She's enjoying life, and I am mostly keen to ensure her sensory experiences and social life isn't harmed by her brother's restrictions, really. Lots of dolls, train sets, lego and representative play are my priorities for someone this small. Her love of books is wonderful, and I'm absolutely hoping to provide enough to keep that interest going, but I'm also aware that there should be a balance. Life is going to make a lot of demands on her, as she grows up, as it does upon us all. I want her early years to be ones that build her confidence and sense that the world is joyful, really, and right now books are integral to that for her.
Again, thank you all for the understanding, interest and suggestions. They are invaluable.
Rue’s list is spot on and reminded me of The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog, Mammoth Academy and Milly Molly Mandy. There were in a junior classics collection that introduced a load of fantastic authors, but it’s currently in a dark room with a sleeping dd. I’ll try to find it in the morning.
Some excellent suggestions on here, OP. I was going to say books like Winnie the Witch chapter books, Worst Witch, Paddington Bear and Winnie the Pooh - as other have mentioned.
Knitbone Pepper is a series worth trying.
But I wouldn’t do How to Train your dragon yet. My nearly 8 year old (good reader) is reading these and I was reading some with her tonight. They are brilliant books, but the vocabulary is a bit more sophisticated/longer more complex sentences than many of the books mention on this thread. I would honestly leave these books until she is a bit older to get more enjoyment out of them.
All these suggestions have been brilliant, thank you - she's really enjoying several of them already!
Will leave the Dragon ones for a bit, then. My ten year old actually still loves them, but he was a good year or so older than her now when he got into them, and as said, his understanding was ahead of hers even if reading ability was behind.
Many I thought of have been suggested. I found the library helpful in trying new books and you may be able to order online or by phone ( we can the latter), so just involves asking someone to pick up if order in?
Dottie Detective books from the library
Winnie the Witch
The Worst Witch
Giraffe, Pelly and me by R Dahl
Geronimo Stilton books
Claude books ( may be too simple but lovely books to read in one go)
The magic Faraway series
Someone of the simpler Terry Deary history books
The National Geographic Kids magazine
The Dragonsitters books
My DS was an early reader, I had always read to him, he had big books of CBeebies character stories which he loved, I started buying him packs of short stories of characters he knew, Bob the builder, Fifi & the flowertots, Topsy & Tim, Ladybird books, books with one page of words & one of pictures, short stories of dogs, Animals of Farthing Wood. We graduated to Paddington, Olga Da Polga, Humphrey Hamster, Horrible Histories. I encouraged him to make up stories that we wrote together & he drew pictures, don't underestimate the value of comics, he loved comics that had his favourite characters in them, quite a few of the ones from television follow the phonics reading system & have exercises that children can complete with writing & stickers.
Just wanted to thank everyone again for the great suggestions - turned out we had a lot of them and I'd forgotten (Winnie the Witch, Jill Tomlinson) but others were new, and received with delight.
In case this is of any use to other people finding this thread for suggestions for their own children, she's also really loved the Amelia Fang series, the Andy Shepherd Growing Dragons series, MM Kaye's The Ordinary Princess, and the Sibeal Pounder Witch Wars series. She's hoovered up any Enid Blytons offered to her, and she's also loved lots of science and maths books, which surprised me but thank you to the person suggesting that.
Less successful ("This is BORING!") were E Nesbit and Noel Streitfield - think the language is too dated and complex, and the pace of older books slower. Will try that when she's older, as she's plainly too young still to understand and engage, even if she has the decoding ability.
Always really grateful for any more suggestions, though! And again, thank you. It's been a rough old year for the kids, as I was in active treatment for breast cancer until 6 weeks ago, so her being able to lose herself in reading has been such a massive boon - for me, as she's been fine on long waits, and for her, as there's such joy in a good book! You have helped with that, and it's truly appreciated.
Anything by Holly Webb my dd is 4 and enjoys a lot of her books they're animal themed.
Giraffe the pelly and me by roald Dahl, hodge heg by dick king Smith,
pug adventures by Laura James
@perfectstorm thanks for starting this thread - I'm in a similar position with my 4 year old, though my DD is a less advanced reader than yours I think, and the suggestions here will be really useful.
We have found good chapter books in the Usborne early reader series, as well as the Winnie the Witch ones. Also something called Magical Animal Friends which has a very minimally scary witch in it. But it's hard to find chapter books that are at the right cognitive/emotional level.
I was an early reader myself and apparently Olga da Polga worked well for me at that age - I think the length of text would be too much for my dd currently but not for yours from what you say.
Admittedly I am reading these to my 4 yo (we are still very much at the letter recognition stage), but we have read some Mr Pepperpot books, Paddington chapter books, Julia Donaldson chapter-style books. Has she read yellow bananas? They are they early proper chapter-style books used at my older son’s school.
NOT How To Train Your Dragon! Not suitable for a pre-schooler. The series is wonderful, so we'll constructed and the writing is superb, but there are many themes and topics that would scare a small child, and are just plain unsuitable. I would say 7+ tbh. (Just as Harry Potter is)
Milly Molly Mandy would be perfect.
My Naughty Little Sister
DS can technically read Agatha Christie but although we have some chapter books he prefers to read books with pictures in them. It just means he reads a lot of shorter books.
The library has been great as he can go in and choose a whole range of books and chat to the librarian about them too. The non-fiction books tend to have pictures in them even at a more challenging reading level whereas the he tends to choose some very simple fiction books because of the pictures. The librarians never make an issue over early reading so I guess they see it a lot.
If she likes fiction but doesn't mind lack of pictures then I can recommend the Jill Tomlinson books (Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and various other ones).
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