Books for Progressing Readers, Fountas & Pinnell Level K,L & DRA 18 - 20

There's a lot of controversy about sharing a child's reading level. I like to think of it this way: you would never walk into an advanced tennis class before picking up a racket, right? You want to practice new skills on your skill level in a way that teaches the concepts you are working on while also challenging you to the extent that makes you feel engaged, confident and ready to try again.

Learning to read is similar. My short advice: let kids explore all books, while also reading a few books on their reading level to stretch and grow their skills. Present the leveled books as a gift and a special time together rather than a punishment. My hope is that these lists help parents provide the right books for their kids so that all kids become confident readers!

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio

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The Dot by Peter Reynolds

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Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell

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Cordurouy by Don Freeman

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What Do You Do WIth a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

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Owen by Kevin Henkes

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 Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

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The Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston

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 Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

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Books for Progressing Readers, Fountas & Pinnell Level I, J & DRA 16 - 20

There's a lot of controversy about sharing a child's reading level. I like to think of it this way: you would never walk into an advanced tennis class before picking up a racket, right? You want to practice new skills on your skill level in a way that teaches the concepts you are working on while also challenging you to the extent that makes you feel engaged, confident and ready to try again.

Learning to read is similar. My short advice: let kids explore all books, while also reading a few books on their reading level to stretch and grow their skills. Present the leveled books as a gift and a special time together rather than a punishment. My hope is that these lists help parents provide the right books for their kids so that all kids become confident readers!

I Want My Hate Back by Jon Klassen

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Hush! A Thai Lullabye by Minfong Ho

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Blackout by John Rocco

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We're Going On A Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury

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Noisy, Nora by Rosemary Wells

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Leo The Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus

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A Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

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Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant

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Is My Child on Track? Literacy Milestones from Infancy Through Third Grade

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When you become a new parent, there is an overload of information. It seems there are a million markers, tests and charts to ensure your child is on track and the pediatrician is walking right alongside every week to check off your child’s progress. There is a marker for every little hiccup in early childhood, but then when our kids enter school, milestones can feel vague and confusing. It seems you must wait for the report card or progress report to know if your child is progressing.

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To provide a little help, I've created a short write-up of literacy milestones to look for and encourage in your child from birth through third grade. You might cringe when kids begin to recognize the C or M for Chick-fil-a and McDonalds because now you are going to need to stop for a snack, but this is actually a positive sign. They are learning to read logos and symbols, and this skill will help them when they learn to match a sound to a letter shape. To get the developmental chart click the link below and I’ll send it to your inbox. As always, let me know if you have any questions or ways that I can help!

The Best Toys for Young Readers

You want your child to have beneficial toys but don’t want to waste your money on tons of plastic things that clutter your home. You want to feel like your toys are developmentally appropriate but don’t want to bombard them with “school” time at home. I hear you! The following list includes my favorite toys and activities for young readers that I’ve come across in the past decade of being a reading specialist. You will find the items listed by developmental stages with a little note about why I appreciate these toys over the many options on the market. Enjoy! 

Pre-Readers

1. Alphabuild – I love everything the Kid-O brand makes because their products are beautifully designed and also always developmentally appropriate. Much like magnatiles, your children will not tire of their products and find lots of different ways to utlize them. Alphabuild blocks align with the philosophy that beginning readers and writers are identifying letters based on the letter's shape. Children first learn shapes, and so the best way to teach letter formation is to build on what they already know. One way to reinforce this activity is to have your child practice writing the letter on a chalkboard or white board after they build it with the alphabuild blocks. 

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 2. Magnatab – Another Kid-O product, the magnatabs help children feel the formation of each letter as the magnets slides over the letter formation. The brand offers both print and cursive versions, as well as upper and lowercase versions. One reading specialist tip for parents of children who greatly struggle with writing speed is to consider teaching cursive before print, as this method is actually easier to learn first. 

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Beginning Readers

Bananagrams – This particular Bananagram is most useful to beginning readers because the short vowels and blends are identified and categorized by color. Even while children are learning how to read basic words, they can build them and sound them out by recognizing that each word can be made by putting together two consonants and a vowel. As your child progresses, then you can add in the blends, which ideally come as one piece or one Bananagram.

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Phonemic Awareness Linking Letter Cubes - Another toy that identifies the short vowels by color and allows kids to interact and manipulate the entire word and match it with a picture. 

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Vowel Bingo - This simple game is proving to be a big winner in my own home. Plus, it makes my reading teacher heart so happy that it displays the vowels with long and short vowel symbols.

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Advancing Readers

Sentence Building Games - As children progress in their reading and writing skills, it’s harder to find engaging and challenging toys. I like this fun sentence builder and this advanced version. The activity can be extended by either writing the sentence on a white board for beginners or using the silly sentences as a story writing prompt for older students.  

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Phonics Dominos - This phonics toy is similar to the cubes above, however, the toy below is slightly more advanced because your child must determine how to manipulate and generate words without simply rhyming. The short vowels set is good for beginner and pre-readers, the blends set is good for advancing and the long vowels set should be used for advanced readers. This toy can be used as a bridge into more complicated word games like Boggle and Scrabble

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Story Cubes - Once children are reading fluently, they will find it more fun to make their own stories as they grasp story structures and plots. Story Cubes allow them to both master structure and also develop their own stories. Once they start writing be sure to check out the Story Pirates podcast

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Book Making Kit - If you have a budding author on your hands, give them the gift of seeing their own words in print. The My Awesome Book kit helps your child write a story and the Illustory brand offers a Comic Book version.  

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Picture Books to Teach Sight Words

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Sight words make up over half of all the words children are reading. I love teaching sight words in creative ways because it can be a lot of fun and helpful, but overall, any new concept we learn is most easily retained when we discover it within context. In other words, it's more meaningful when we read the word in a book rather than simply write it a few times. One easy way to do this is to utilize rich and interesting picture books that repeat sight words. Try reading these books at night for bedtime or when your child is practicing sight words.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers. "Like the bird, I'm here to fly and soar high over everything. Like the trees, I'm here to grow. Like the mountains, I'm here to stand." Besides teaching the sight words, I, am and like, this book has a powerful, necessary message for all children and adults. 

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I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. This silly story is rich in sight words and repetition. A great place to start is to teach the word 'seen' before reading the book. Children can read this story over and over again to practice fluency. After reading it a few times independently, they will grasp the humor.  

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Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, Illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls. This picture book can provide very deep conversations with older children, and also simple but necessary teachings for younger children. The story asks the question, "Why am I me ...and not you?... Why is everyone who they are?" Examining humanity, children develop empathy for others through guided conversations. 

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Home by Carson Ellis. The sight words home, are, and is are repeated throughout this book. It's a visually stunning book that reminds us we don't come from the same places or surroundings, yet love can make a home anywhere. It's also a great one to read when preparing your kids for a move. 

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When's My Birthday? by Julie Fogiliano, Illustrated by Christopher Robinson. I mean, who doesn't love planning their birthday? This book is perfect for children who already have a few sight words under their belt. I'm also a sucker for all Christopher Robinson books. If your child can read short phrases, then they might enjoy When's My Birthday?

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Wait by Antoinette Portis. Every parent and child can relate to hectic mornings. This book tells the story of a mom who is in a hurry and a child who needs to stop to observe every single beautiful thing about their journey to school. The entire book consists of only two words, hurry and wait. Children can read it to themselves after being introduced. It would be fun to extend the reading with this sight word activity afterward. 

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Now by Antoinette Portis. Portis really knows how to present repetition in a beautiful way. Each page in this book begins with, "This is my favorite..." The book shows a girl going about her day and experiencing each moment as her favorite. A reminder to us all to be fully present.

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Egg by Kevin Henkes. Egg presents words in a systematic and graphically stunning way. The author repeats words such as wait and crack over and over again on a single page so kiddos can discover the word once and then practice it. Preschool students through first graders enjoy this book. 

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They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzal. This book delivers both repetition and a socially conscious message. Teach the word saw. Read the story to your child and stop when you come to the word saw, letting your child chime in. This practice takes some pressure off and helps to build confidence.  

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