What Makes a Good Early Reader Book?

This blog was initially going to be about a Julia Donaldson written early reader, and moving your children on from picture books to independent reading. As I sat down to write it last weekend I kept coming back to one of the most frequently asked questions I get asked when I do a book stall – “what makes a good early reader book?” I always answer any book you can get your child to read is a good book, but last week I decided to look into what experts say makes a good early reader, and to look through some of my more popular books and see if they made the grade.

Assessment Criteria:

The most readable of the article I found was one from scholastic – 5 Early Reader Books That Rock. Another interesting read was The Independent’s 11 Best Early Reader Books. From these and other articles I came up with my 3 criteria to assess my six books against.

  1. Word Repetition – repeating words in early reader books basically does what you would expect, it drills the word into a child’s mind, and the more repetition the more that learning will be reinforced. That is why not only reading the words in the book again and again is good, but why children are also encouraged to read the book itself again and again. Of course the more repetition, the more boring the story is. So that brings us criteria 2 and 3.
  2. Interest Factor –  Children have to be interested in the book and its subject, and the story itself has to be interesting. Otherwise they will only read the book once and the repetition factor will not kick in.
  3. Great characters – In a short early reader book it is difficult to develop much of a plot line, so having a character or character’s children can engage with is an important part of keeping them loving in the book so they can get that repetition going.

Choosing the Books to Review:

  1. Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson – simply because I was going to review this book anyway.
  2. Goosebumps – Night of the Living Monsters – Goosebumps are some of my best sellers, and younger children have bought this book because their older siblings have been buying from the Goosebump series, and they want to be be like them.
  3. Marvel Avengers – The New Team (Scholastic Level Reader) – because they are popular, and were mentioned in one of the articled I read.
  4. Maxx Rumble Footy – Crunched by Micheal Wagner – I sell a lot of these books over the internet and via the bookstall, mainly to boys. They all love a book about sport.
  5. Dottie and the Dog Show by Teddy Slater – (Scholastic Level Reader) – girls Love Books about animals and any reader with a dog is popular.
  6. Lego Legends of China – The Legend Begins – this is more in the form of a graphic novel, which interested me, and also Lego TV series books are always great sellers.


How did they rate?:






Interest Level





Excellent – uses a repeating rhyme that not only reuses words, but similar sounds Initially I thought on dinosaur loving boys would  like this, but the ugly duckling story reworked will appeal to many There are scary characters and loveable characters, someone for everyone to connect with Julia Donaldson shows why she is a world leader in children’s literature.
Not really, or not obvious to me. I believe even early readers who loved the movie would find it difficult to read, therefore their interest would drop. Same characters as the movie. Tells the movie story in a very goosebump book way. I would purchase for a reluctant reader rather than for someone learning to read.
New and Avengers are repeated often. Very low level readers, one sentence per page. Children who love superheroes will love this. It tells you all about the Avenger’s individual powers Well known characters, and lots of describing words. Lots to talk about with your children when you re reading – who do they like the best, what ability would they like? With the Avengers a popular group of superheroes at the moment I can see why these books sell, and they are not bad in terms of an early learning book.
There is repetition of words and concepts in this book Sporty boys would be engaged, in fact I was engaged. Maxx builds everything up into an inflated truth, and children will enjoy that alone. Funny and with action sporting kids will be able to identify with. Love Maxx as the cheeky boy, and he has some real villains on the other team I did not expect to enjoy this book so much, I can see why children really enjoy this series.
As you would expect from a scholastic reader, there is very good word and concept repetition. Started slow, a girl and her dog, but the story has a twist, which I did not expect. Lots to talk about when you re reading it. Sam’s dog Dottie is the real hero of the book, but she has some really interesting friends friends with some cool skills. A fun book. I wish reviewer Sam had been sent home with books like this – it would have made reading time much more interesting.
Once again the repetition is not obvious, but some of the key words are highlighted. I am pretty sure you would need to enjoy the China series to really get into the story line, but I was not a bad read anyway. I did like the characters – the bad guy was not really so bad and the hero also had flaws. Not sure children would pick up on that, but makes it more interesting for parents if they have to hear it read a few times. This would not be my first choice as a reader, and some children are put off by the graphic novel format, but would be good to trick children into reading as it does not look and feel like n early reader.


What did I learn?:

Not all early readers are the same, so when you are buying it pays to think about what you are really looking for. If it is just something so children will read then yes, anything they are interested in will do. However, if you are purchasing a book to develop their reading skills then you need something they will read again and again, that you will not mind reading again and again, and that you can talk to them about to reinforce their learning.

I have not included any links to specific books with this blog because the idea is to give you some skills to look around for books yourself. I have a selection of early readers on The Bookbubble, and there are good selections on the the scholastic websites, as well as on Booktopia and The Bookdepository. Happy hunting.

What Makes a Good Early Reader Book

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