Recommended Books for Newly Independent Readers

If you have a young reader that is able to read independently (for the most part) and ready to make the change from the more difficult easy readers to chapter books then this is the list to take note of. When a child begins reading fluently their efforts are more automatic and exploring a wider variety of subjects and authors and showing less reliance of the illustrations to glean the meaning of new words and phrases. They are using more expression and taking pauses to coordinate with punctuation and the natural flow of language. Their energy is devoted to understanding, have good command and use of the various comprehension strategies, and can correct their own mistakes most of the time while still being willing to ask for assistance as needed.

Here are some suggestions, including some I brought home for my son this week. As usual, I am 20140303-164915.jpgsure I missed some perfectly wonderful books for this reading level, and if I missed your favorites please mention them in a comment so others can check them out. If you are browsing our fiction shelves in the children’s room looking for books for these readers, I can give you some quick hints to find even more. The transitional chapter books have a yellow dot sticker on the spine with the call number. This makes spotting one or two when you are browsing with no specific author in mind super easy. Do not rule out books in the Easy Reader or Easy Non Fictionsection at this stage either- some books here do have  vocabulary that can help your young reader continue to grow.

Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove.
Explains some traditions and customs of 26 African tribes beginning with letters from A to Z.

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, #1) by Mary Pope Osborne.
Eight-year-old Jack and his younger sister Annie find a magic treehouse, which whisks them back to an ancient time zone where they see live dinosaurs.

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl.
Three farmers, each one meaner than the other, try all-out warfare to get rid of the fox and his family.

Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater.
Nick and Maxine have a new babysitter–the eccentric Mrs. Noodlekugel who lives in the funny little house behind their drab high-rise apartment building along with her feline butler, Mr. Fuzzface, and three myopic mice.

Mercy Watson to the Rescue (Mercy Watson #1) by Kate DiCamillo.
After Mercy the pig snuggles to sleep with the Watsons, all three awaken with the bed teetering on the edge of a big hole in the floor.

The Case of the Lost Boy (The Buddy Files, #1) by Dori Hillestad Butler.
While searching for his mysteriously lost human family, Buddy the dog is adopted by another family and helps solve the mystery of their missing boy.

26 Fairmount Avenue  by Tomie dePaola.
Children’s author-illustrator Tomie De Paola describes his experiences at home and in school when he was a boy.

Other titles or series starters that I would recommend are: Ivy and Bean (Ivy and Bean, #1) by Annie Barrows, The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo by Judy Blume, The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room (The Kids of the Polk Street School #1) by Patricia Reilly Giff, Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs (Roscoe Riley Rules, #1) by Katherine Applegate, Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look, Ellray Jakes is Not a Chicken by Sally Warner, Nate the Great (and the entire Nate series) by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, Snake and Lizard and Friends  by Joy Cowley, Wonder Kid Meets the Evil Lunch Snatcher by Lois Duncan, Stinky: a Toon Book by Eleanor Davis, Bink & Gollie, Best Friends Forever by Kate DiCamillo, and The Big Something by Patricia Reilly Giff.

Nominees for the 2015 Nutmeg Awards Announced!

The Nutmeg Children’s Book Award is the “Children’s Choice” Award for Connecticut.  The goal of the committee is to NUTMEG-LOGOencourage children in grades two through twelve to read quality literature. This Year there is a new category for the Nutmeg Awards, bring the total of categories to four, all grouped by age. The categories are now for Grades 2-4, Grades 4-6, Grades 7-8, and Grades 9-12. Here is a listing of the nominees. the library has purchased and cataloged multiple copies of each book. There might be a waiting list for the book(s) you are interested in most, but if you place a hold on the item we will contact you when it is your turn.

Grades 2-4

1. Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 by Eric Wight
2. Zita the Space Girl: Far from Home by Ben Hatke
3. Balloons Over Broadway: the True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
4. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
5. Stay: the True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean
6. Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelt
7. Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett
8. The Secret of the Stone Frog: a Toon Graphic Novel by David Nytra
9. Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay
10. Sidney and Sydney Book One: Third Grade Mix-Up by Michele Jakubowski
11. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
12. Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci
13. Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball by David Kelly
14. Locomotive by Brian Floca
15. The Trouble with Chickens: a J.J. Tully Mystery by Doreen Cronin

Grades 4-6

1. Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry
2. The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
3. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
4. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods
5. King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige by Wes Tooke
6. Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon
7. Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
8. White Fur Flying by Patricia Maclachlan
9. Shadow by Michael Morpurgo
10. Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

Grades 7-8

1. Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon
2. The Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner
3. The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
4. The Final Four by Paul Volponi
5. Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
6. Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
7. The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
8. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
9. The Raft by S.A. Bodeen
10. See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

Grades 9-12

1. Boy21 by Matthew Quick
2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
3. The Diviners by Libba Bray
4. Every Day by David Levithan
5. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
6. My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt
7. Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
8. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
9. The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
10. The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Guiding Reading What? (What Kind of Reader is my Child, Part Deux)

So, if you read What Kind of Reader is my Child? you will have a  understanding of the general terminology about reading development and where your child might be in the process.  But what about all those crazy level letters and numbers at the end of each definition? Well, here is some of the basic information and resources that can help you get a handle on that part as well. I am going to toss in an extra one, which I know some local schools are assigning to advanced readers.Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 4.49.43 PMWhich systems you need to pay the most attention to will vary by school. Most schools do use the DRA testing system. However I know that Cheshire, Southington, and Wallingford also use the Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading Leveling (GRL) system for classroom use. You can use this chart on the Scholastic website to help understand how the levels correspond. You will note that there are even more leveling systems included on the chart, but I am going to focus on the most used systems in our area.

Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading Leveling system (GRL) starts with level A, being the easiest, and goes up to Z. These levels are based on benchmark assessments or other systematic observations are used to determine the instructional reading level of each student.  Our library offers a variety of fiction and non fiction books from level A through G labeled and sorted by level for check out. Feel free to browse the collection or help finding books, but if you would like help, please stop by the children’s desk for assistance.

Developmental Reading Assessment system (DRA) also starts with level A for the easiest books, but  switches to numeric levels which run from 1 to 80. A child’s DRA reading level is based on is a standardized reading test.  During the test students read a selection (or selections) and then retell what they have read to the examiner. Most of our area schools use this standardized testing system to help gauge reading skills and comprehension, but many combine the information they get from this system with the GRL system.

A Lexile text measure is based on the semantic and syntactic elements of a text. A Lexile reader measure can range from below 200L for emergent readers to above 1600L for advanced readers.  This system tends to be the hardest translate from skill level and rating to book recommendations, at least for me. Most of the focus on these numbers come into play after children are fluent readers. For charts that break down which Lexile ratings are average by grade and further details, I highly recommend exploring their website. The site offers a search tool that allows you to find books based on Lexile level and then limit by age and interests so that you can find reading material for just about any fluent reader.


For more information on the stages of reading development and encouraging reading check out: Early Literacy by Joan Brooks McLane, Gillian Dowley McNamee, Straight Talk about Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years by Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats,  Matching Books to Readers: Using Leveled Books in Guided Reading, K-3 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell (reference book that cannot leave the library), The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller, Games With Books: 28 of the Best Children’s Books and How to Use Them to Help your Child Learn  by Peggy Kaye, Raising a Reader: Make Your Child a Reader for Life by Paul Kropp, and The Between the Lions Book for Parents: Everything you Need to Know to Help your Child Learn to Read by Linda K. Rath and Louise Kennedy.

What Kind of Reader is My Child? (Part 1)

The language dedicated to explaining reading development and skills can quickly become confusing. Part of the trouble is that there are a number of different systems available to measure reading skills, and they rarely translate to other systems very easily. I am going to do my best to explain some of the terms you are most likely to come across, and offer some resources to help you help your child master and enjoy reading.  Lets start with some of the basic terms that are almost universal about the developmental stages of reading. I will tackle the different systems for measuring the skills in a later post.tumblr_n04cig1apM1rmidh1o1_r1_500Aspiring readers, “Pseudo Readers”, or Pre-readers are just beginning to understand the basic ideas of book, print, and the joy of sharing of a book. They are gaining a command of the alphabet along with the ability to recognize and name letters. They are also developing many phonological awareness skills, such as recognizing phonemes, syllables, and rhyme.  They will often pretend reading and telling the story via the pictures on the pages. Reading picture books and board books to your child is a great way to help children in this stage develop their skills and learn to love books.

Early Emergent Readers are beginning to learn sound/symbol relationships,starting with consonants and short vowels,and are able to read consonant-vowel-consonant words, and a number of high-frequency words. Readers in this stage typically are in Preschool through Grade 1 and test to Guided Reading Levels (GRL) A-C, DRA Levels A-3. Picture books and some easy reader books are good choices to help continue your child’s reading development. Read to them and with them as often as you can.

Emergent Readers are developing a much better grasp of comprehension strategies and word-attack skills. They can recognize the difference between fiction and nonfiction, and recognize that reading has a variety of purposes. Readers in this stage have developed an understanding of the alphabet, phonological awareness, and early phonics. They have command of a significant number of high-frequency words. Readers in this stage typically are in Kindergarten through Grade 1 and test to GRLs D-G, DRA Levels 4-12.  It is time to really encourage your child to read to you and themselves, while continuing to read to them to help increase their vocabulary and comprehension.

For Early Fluent Readers or Transitional readers reading is more automatic, with more energy devoted to comprehension than word attack. Readers are approaching independence in comprehending text. These readers are experiencing a greater variety of text and are able to recognize different styles and genres. Independence often varies with the type of text being read. Readers in this stage typically are in Grade 1-2 and test to GRLs H-M, DRA Levels 14-28.  Your child can read to you and themselves more and more now. Encourage reading independence, but do not be afraid to keep reading to them.

Fluent Readers have successfully moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Their reading is more automatic and includes expression and proper pauses.  These readers read a wide range of text types and do so independently. For the most part, they are capable of improving their reading skills and selection of materials independently through increased practice. Readers in this stage typically are in Grade 3-4 and test to GRLs N-Z, DRA Levels 30 and higher. Keep encouraging them to read and let them explore a variety of books so that they can find the ones they enjoy in order to keep them interested in reading.


For more information about reading development and helping your child both enjoy and excel in reading check out some of these books: Silly Books to Read Aloud by Rob Reid, The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children by Eden Ross Lipson, Read With Me: Best Books for Preschoolers by Stephanie Zvirin, How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esmé Raji Codell, Connecticut’s Blueprint for Reading Achievement: The Report of the Early Reading Success Panel by the State of Connecticut State Board of Education, Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach your Child to Read and Write by J. Richard Gentry, and Growing a Reader from Birth: Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy by Diane McGuinness.