Dr. Seuss, Easy Readers and more: I Can Read MEME for March

Most Loved Children's Books - MAT@USCWelcome to the March I Can Read! Feast for celebrating new readers. From beginning to end, March is filled with events to commemorate and celebrate reading. There is Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2; World Read Aloud Day on March 7; and of course Share a Story – Shape a Future, our annual blog tour!

It is also National March Into Literacy month. As a way to celebrate this event, MAT@USC (Master of Arts in Teaching Delivered Online) created this infographic of the Most Loved Children’s Books. It’s worth clicking through to enlarge!

There are probably a few books you recognize … including one that Dr. Seuss intended to be an easy reader: The Cat in the Hat.

This month we are hosting the I Can Read Feast for New Readers here at Family Bookshelf. For the next three days we will be cheering on new readers and the people who nurture them by pulling book reviews for easy reader, short and illustrated chapter books. We’ll also pull your reading ideas, and book recommendations into one place.

In the spirit of March’s bounty of reading, Dr. Seuss birthday, and book celebrations in general, I am going to go kick us off with an excerpted version of a post I wrote for the PBS Booklights blog:

Learning to Read: Dr. Seuss Started Us Off with Mischief
Do you know the story of The Cat in the Hat? Not the one about hat-wearing mischievous feline, but how he came to be the world’s most recognized cat.

In 1954, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist John Hershey wrote an article for Life magazine called “Why Do Students Bog Down on First R?” In his article, Hershey said that the primers given to kids to help them learn to read were “antiseptic.” For one thing, the children were “unnaturally clean.” He said what they needed were better illustrations … like the kind Walt Disney and Theodor “Ted” Geisel created.

As a result of the article – and Rudolf Flesch’s book Why Johnny Can’t Read and What You Can Do About It (1955) – publishers Random House and Houghton Mifflin joined forces and hired Ted Geisel (known for his illustrations) to create a primer using new-reader vocabulary. The result was the 220-word story known the world over as The Cat in the Hat. This book catapulted the writing career of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.

green_eggs_and_ham.jpgThrough repetition and rhyme, Dr. Seuss books not only have given us hours of pleasure reading with our kids, but they helped many of us become accomplished readers. Many of the Dr. Seuss books we love sharing with our kids are, in fact, what we now call the easy reader.

Fifty-odd years later, you can still find “antiseptic” books that take the fun out of learning to read. Luckily, there are authors and illustrators who have followed in Dr. Seuss’ path, creating engaging books that help kids grow as readers and have fun learning, too. Here are two places you can go to find some of the best easy reader books available.

mo_play_outside.jpgOn the American Library Association (ALA) you can find the Geisel Award Winners. This annual ALA-sponsored (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award recognizes and celebrates the legacy created by Dr. Seuss. The award, first presented in 2006. “recognizes the “the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year.” In addition to a medal winner, the ALA commemorates honor books, too.

the Children’s and Young Adult bloggers Literary Awards, aka “Cybils,” website also has great lists. Each year, the Cybils recognizes books that combine the highest literary merit and “kid appeal.” The Cybils Awards date back to 2006; since 2008 there has been a category just for new and transitional readers. Go to www.cybils.com to see the finalists and winners for each year.

When you are ready to for new stories to sit side by side with The Cat in the Hat and his friends, you can’t go wrong with these lists for recommended reading. Each of the easy readers on these lists offer plenty of humor and fun … so much so your developing reader will ask you for more.


As you can see by my contribution, one of the great things about the I Can Read MEME is that you don’t have to create a new post … we’ll add posts up to one year old (i.e., March 2011). So add your link in the comments or to our InLinkz box and I’ll come back and pull them into the post. We collect easy reader and short chapter book reviews, as well as personal stories or ideas to help build the confidence of developing readers.

[amazon_link id=”1554535786″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week[/amazon_link]Jennifer at Jean Little Library has a review of Jasper John Dooley, Star of the Week by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Ben Clanton (Kids Can Press, 2012).

Summary: Jasper John Dooley has been waiting forever for his turn to be Star of the Week at school. He has it all planned out from Show and Tell to special treats. However, the week gets off to a bad start when Jasper’s Show and Tell of his lint collection is completely eclipsed by his friend Ori’s new baby sister – and then all the kids laugh at him! The misunderstandings continue from bad to worse until Jasper and his wooden “brother” Earl get sent to the principal’s office. But with some help from friends and perseverance, the week turns out well after all.

Jennifer’s Thoughts: The plot thread of Ori’s baby sister is the funniest part of the book … I’m excited to see more beginning chapter books, especially featuring boys, but I wonder if the boys will be excited? There are so many of these series for girls – Judy Moody, Clementine, Ramona, Princess Posey, Junie B. Jones, etc. but it seems like there are fewer for boys – Roscoe Riley, Horrible Harry, Stink, etc. In my library, at least, while the girls will voluntarily choose these stories (and they pick the ones with boy main characters as well as girls – lots of girls like to read Stink for example) it’s moms picking these books for boys, who, if left to choose on their own, seem to gravitate towards nonfiction, Star Wars, and comics. Occasionally a realistic chapter book series will grab them – Roscoe Riley was very popular for a while – but the “gentler” realistic reads, focusing on kids’ emotional reactions to family and school, appear to be choices of moms and teachers.

Jennifer asks if anyone has thoughts on this, so head over to the Jean Little Library and leave a comment.

[amazon_link id=”0679881263″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Big Egg (Step-Into-Reading, Step 1)[/amazon_link]Over at Perogies and Gyoza, Jen has a review of Big Egg, a Step-into-Reading easy reader written and illustrated by Molly Coxe (Random House, 1997)

Summary: Big Egg features a mother hen tending to her chicks, even though one is almost the same size as her. The sneaky fox tries to convince her the big egg is his, but she rescues the egg just in time!

Jen’s Thoughts: Spinky and I have been working on his reading for about 6 months now, slowly but surely. He has read all the Beginning Bob Books but is looking for a little more of a challenge. This is the first real book he read all by himself. This is a great first book. It features actual conflict, the pictures give enough context to figure out the words, and it incorporates some rarely seen letters like x and q. This only word that was tough for my son to figure out was “says” because that doesn’t fit into the rules he has learned so far.
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Note: Bookcover images link to Amazon.com, with which the Reading Tub has an affiliate relationship. Any income earned via purchases through those links goes to getting books to at-risk readers.

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