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.
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).
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
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.
@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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
That's adorable re the potty training! Real insight into how their little minds worked, both of them.
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.
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.
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).
@RueDeWakening those recs are goldmines, thank you. Those we already have are existing hits, and many I'd not heard of. Ideal.
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.
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 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.
Dick King-Smith - The Sheep Pig and loads of others!
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.
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.
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.
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