Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Easy Readers with children of color as the main characters

When children are in the beginning stages of learning to read, they need three things:
  * a story that engages them,
  * words that are not too difficult to read, and
  * pictures that help kids put the meaning together.

Easy Readers are a type of book addressed specifically to children learning to read - typically in late kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade.  One of my concerns is that so many Easy Readers use animals as the main characters or stereotypical white children, so they do not reflect our student body today. So, I am continuing my search for great Easy Readers with children of color as the main characters.
Luke On The Loose
by Harry Bliss
NY: Toon Books, 2009
ages 4 - 8
Luke is a little boy that reminds me of so many kids I know.  He's standing by his dad on a walk, looking on at the pigeons, while his dad is lost in “boring Daddy talk.” Before you know it - Luke takes off chasing the pigeons!  He's running wild through New York City, and his dad has no idea what's happened to him.  Every parent's nightmare, right?  But all Luke cares about are those pigeons! Yaaah!  As you can see from this sample, Luke on the Loose is written in the style of a graphic novel or comic book.  But it works so well as an Easy Reader because the words are never complex and the pictures support the meaning of the words.

I love Luke's endless energy as he follows the pigeons wherever they go - across the street, up the fire escape, and onto the roof of a tall building.  This is a book worth searching out.  I also think it would work for older children (2nd, 3rd or 4th graders) who are struggling with reading.  They'll love the comic book style and the way that Luke looks like a real kid.  One idea, when you read this with your child, talk about how you read comic books, how you follow the panels.  Also, read all the extra words ("Screech! Honk!") with lots of energy and enthusiasm - and encourage your child to do the same.

The Pet Vet, by Marica Leonard, is another great Easy Reader.  It uses pictures of real kids, and these photographs really engage young children.  This Easy Reader is a phonics-based reader, which means that most of the words use the same word pattern, in this case "-et" like pet, vet, Bret.  This makes it easier for children who are just sounding out words.  But many phonics readers do not have engaging stories.  This one does!  Bret is a young boy who asks his friends if their pets are sick, and they bring him their stuffed animals to heal.
The Pet Vet
(Real Kids Readers)

Marcia Leonard
CT: Millbrook Press, 1999.
ages 4 - 6
My daughter enjoyed The Pet Vet because she's played doctor with her stuffed animals many times.  She could imagine herself taking part in this story.  She is a very new reader (kindergarten), and so she liked the simple sentences surrounded by lots of white space.  I loved the ending when we meet Brett's dad, a real vet.  This is a very early Easy Reader, so is right for ages 4 - 6.

My next quest: Easy Readers with children from Hispanic or Asian backgrounds.  If you have any to suggest, please let me know!

My review copies came from my local public library. Stop by your local bookstore and order yours. Or use this link from Amazon and support Great Kid Books buying more books to review and share with you.  If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.

1 comment:

  1. I always enjoy Harry Bliss's illustrations will have to look for Luke on the Loose. It looks like a lot of fun.