Illustration of "Brianna's Book Stop" by Jeffrey Duckworth / Book Cover for WHERE DO DIGGERS SLEEP AT NIGHT? (on the bookmobile) by Christian Slade

Monday, June 17, 2013

Keep Reading Fun Day: How Easy Books Can Help Young Readers!

There has been a lot of talk lately about what books are assigned for school reading and what books kids should be reading. A lot of talk got stirred up with this article  For an awesome response to that article read this fantastic blog post.

The basic complaint of the original NPR piece really struck a chord with me. A negative chord. (As it did with many readers. You'll see if you read the comments following the article).

While the piece is talking about high school kids (and I agree with those who debate that many books are often much more complex than a simple analysis of sentence length and word complexity would suggest), there still seems to be a basic assumption in the article that it is good for kids to be reading challenging books (which I agree with) and bad for kids to be reading easy books (which I disagree with).

 This assumption about easy books being a negative exists many other places as well. I often hear people complaining about younger kids' book choices in much the same way.

A child brings a book up to a grown up. "Oh no," says the parent or the teacher. "That one's too easy. Choose something harder." of "for your age." or "at your level."

Now I am a huge fan of pairing kids with "just right books". But "easy books" have a place too. A really important place in my opinion.

Here are just a few ways that easy books can help young readers (and older readers too):

1. Easy books are fun and relaxing! 

And fun and relaxing is good. If you never read anything fun and relaxing, you probably won't become a reader. We must remember that the goal of reading instruction is  to develop readers. Kids (and eventually grown-ups) who want to read outside the classroom.

(Think about your fun "beach reads"! Don't kids deserve to have those too?)

2. Easy books can allow readers to solidify what they've already learned.

If you're always working at the cusp of your abilities, it can sometimes be hard to put it all together.

Recently, for summer reading, my son enjoyed reading books that are several steps easier than what he was reading during the school year. And everything is coming together. His fluency. His expression. His word solving abilities. Definitely an awesome feeling (for him and for me)!

3. Easy books help kids gain confidence as readers.

After reading some easy books, a kids can begin to feel like a good reader. LIke s/he really has the hang of this reading thing. And, once a kid feels this way, that kid will often willingly take on more intense reading challenges. Because s/he will feel good enough to try.

(As a kid, I loved relaxing with every single Trixie Belden mystery and with Archie comic books too, but I also explored a huge range of books including every book by Louisa May Alcott, every book by L.M Montgomery and classics including THE SECRET GARDEN and THE THREE MUSKETEERS. I later went on to earn my B.A. with High Honors in English and American and did my senior essay on Henry James' THE GOLDEN BOWL (definitely NOT an easy book :o) ). If my parents had been worried about the easy books I enjoyed, I don't know that I would have gone on to enjoy the more challenging ones. Or to love reading so very much.

In fact, a close friend did finally start to read an easy series when he was a child. He was feeling really good about it too. He finally found some books he enjoyed. Yay! He liked reading. But the teacher asked him to switch to something harder... and he stopped reading new books... Oh how I hate that story!)


These are just a few of the reasons I feel passionately that it is important to give kids the opportunities to read easy books. I want every child to get experience reading books that feel easy. These books can really help!

So, what is your opinion of easy books for young readers? (Can't wait to hear what you think!)


  1. I can't ever imagine telling my kidlet 'to pick something else'. If he's coming up to me w/a book, I'll do anything to encourage it! Well...maybe if he's sixteen and still wanting to read The Hungry Caterpillar, we might have a problem... =)

  2. I completely agree, Leandra! I love it when my boys pick out books-- any books. But I really have heard people making sure the book a child picks out isn't too easy. (Which drives me a bit crazy. :o) ) The only limit my oldest knows is that he can't take the whole bookstore home. He's got to pick out just a couple of favorites each time. (But that's what makes trips to the libraries so awesome. They can take home as many books as they like!)

  3. The parental push is often misplaced, such as in the insistence on pre-mature graduation from "easy books." Besides, many so-called easy books are quite profound in content. Most parents think of the technical aspect of reading when they classify books, not the content.

    1. Oh yes, Mirka! Many "easy books" can definitely be quite profound. But far too often books are judged by the number of pages or other silly factors.

      Sometimes, though, I believe that technically easy books are also helpful. Especially for beginning readers who are still developing critical fluency and comprehension skills. If they are always working hard, they may be missing out on much of the enjoyment we want them to experience when they're reading. :o)