Favorite Beginning Readers

Beginning reader books are an excellent and often-used resource for children who are just starting to take steps to reading on their own. Many of us remember them from our own childhoods: thin paperback books with short chapters and large print, divided into “levels” to help build reading skills. In recent years, however, this genre has grown to become more expansive and diverse than ever, with many new, original stories appearing on the shelves each year.

Perhaps this is due in part to the establishment of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in the early 2000s. This award is given each year to the “most distinguished” beginning reader book, and as a result we are starting to see new additions to our shelves that are funny, heartfelt, well-written, and downright enjoyable.

Today we’re recommending some of our favorite beginning readers. Most of these books are part of a series, so if your child really clicks with the Princess in Black or Ballet Cat, the fun doesn’t stop with just the first book!

Beginning Reader Books


The Princess in Black, written by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Princess Magnolia is not your average princess. Well, she is some of the time—but she’s also the Princess in Black, a butt-kicking, monster-fighting superhero. These books put a great spin on the traditional princess narrative!


Don’t Throw It to Mo! written by David A. Adler, illustrated by Sam Ricks

Poor Mo! He’s the youngest kid on the football team, and the smallest, too. Can he use his size to help the Robins to victory? A 2016 Geisel Award Winner, and a companion to Get a Hit, Mo!



What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virjan

What this story needs is a pig in a wig, on a boat in a moat with a frog, a dog, and a goat on a log… but what this story really needs is a bigger boat! The Pig in a Wig books are particular favorites of ours, because—don’t tell anyone—they’re really phonics books disguised as beginning readers!


Written and Drawn by Henrietta, a Toon Book by Liniers

If you haven’t read this story-within-a-story yet, prepare yourself for an exciting tale of suspense, mystery, and unexpected friendship, all written and drawn by Henrietta. It might just inspire young readers to try their own hand at writing a story!


Go, Otto, Go! by David Milgrim

Meet Otto, the most adorable little blue robot in the galaxy. Otto has come to Earth from outer space, so he works and works to build a spaceship that will take him home to his family. This 2017 Geisel Honor Book is a Pre-Level 1, so it’s a great way to bridge the gap between picture books and beginning reader books.


Katie Fry, Private Eye: The Lost Kitten, written by Katherine Cox, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Katie Fry loves to solve mysteries. When she finds a lost kitten named Sherlock, Katie knows she’s just the girl to figure out where he came from and how to get him home. Young readers will love hunting for clues in the illustrations right along with Katie!


Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea

Ballet Cat LOVES ballet. She loves leaping, spinning, and twirling. But her friend Sparkles the unicorn isn’t leaping and twirling as usual; what’s bothering him, and can Ballet Cat help? The first of three silly books starring this dancing cat!

What are your favorite beginning reader books? Tell us in the comments below!

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