Finding books that are interesting but at a level that is appropriate for your child can be challenging. Many books for young children are written for an adult to read. Others are too low level and not interesting if your child is older. The selection at your local bookstore or library may be limited. What are the best books for learning to read?
Types of supported readers and text
There are different types of texts which provide some support to children learning to read.
Decodable texts are written to maximize the phonemic decoding of the text. Most of the words in the text can be sounded out and the books gradually get harder and become more like real language as your progress.
Controlled vocabulary books have limited vocabulary that is repeated and slowly more words are added. Think of the DIck and Jane Readers and your will have an example of how these are organized. Again initially the books are simple and gradually work up to longer and more complex narrative.
Predictable books have phrases that are repeated on each page. The child learns to memorize the phrase as the book is read over and over again. Think of a book like Bill Martin’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear which repeats on each page.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Each of these types of books has its own merits and downfalls.
Decodable books are great if your child is struggling and still needs practice at decoding words. If your child easily gets frustrated with harder words, then these can be a good way to get them started with reading longer passages.
However, they should not be the only books that the child is reading. Over reliance on these books can lead to frustration when other more natural texts are introduced and they are trying to sound out all the words.
Through controlled vocabulary, the child is learning through memorization of the words. As such, it can lead to the child guessing words instead of sounding out new words.
Predictive books rely mainly again on learning the words through memorization. They may also rely more on the pictures than the text.
In the end, all of these texts can oversimplify the process of reading. While it may be helpful in the beginning, it is a good idea to round out the selection of texts with a balance of these texts with other texts.
Importance of variety
It is important that we use a variety of texts so that we may not be relying on one strategy too much. As well, it is important to read to your child or have them listen to grade level texts, so that they are hearing the vocabulary and building the understanding of the harder texts, even though they might not be reading them yet.
Finding what works for your child
There are lots of different types of books out there and you should try different books to see what works best for your child and to be sure that you are not reliant on one strategy of simplified books for too long.