Recently I read an interesting article in November/December issue of The Horn Book Magazine that addressed the issue of early expert readers, and thought it would be useful to share. The term “early expert readers” refers to children who learn to read far earlier than their peers, possibly before kindergarten. If you have an early expert reader, it can be very difficult to find appropriate books for her (or him). A four-year-old who can read or a first grader who reads at a high level may be able to read Harry Potter books, but is she ready for them? A book that is beyond her level of emotional and social development will not be enjoyable, let alone comprehendible. Young children have a very strong sense of right and wrong, and, though they may love adventure books, they really need books with straightforward storylines that don’t include flashbacks or prologues, stories with adventures that end positively, characters whose motives are clear-cut, and bad guys who get what they deserve. Below are some suggested titles for early expert readers.
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace is the first in a series of 8 or 10 books published first in the 1940s about the friendship between two little girls and the adventures they have. Along with Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Beverly Cleary’s series books about Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby, they present child-centered stories with a safe setting, affectionate parents, friendly adults, and adventures that are never really dangerous. A more recently published series featuring a pair of friends is Annie Barrows’ Ivy and Bean. The girls are likeable and funny, getting into small scrapes, but always getting out of them in the end.
Several of Dick King-Smith’s books have memorable characters, including animal-loving Sophie; Lady Lollipop the pig; Flora the school mouse; clever Ace, a pig who ends up on television; and of course, Babe: the Gallant Pig. Another series featuring a funny (and well loved) pig is Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series. Mercy ends up catching a thief, driving a car, and dressing as a princess for Halloween, among other amusing adventures. In the tradition of Toy Story, three friends who happen to be toys have six adventures in Toys Go Out, and in its sequel Toy Dance Party, by Emily Jenkins.
There are many, many great books for kids who are early expert readers — just ask the youth librarian at your favorite branch to recommend some!