It should come as no surprise that Easy Readers are, by far, one of our most popular collections. Well-intentioned parents come in seeking these books for their emerging new reader and we happily walk them to this collection and show them what we have. It sounds logical enough, right? Send the new readers to the Easy Reader section. Job done… or is it? We have found that there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings around Easy Readers, believe it or not. In order to help your child get matched with the right reader for them, we are busting some of the myths we commonly come across that lead to a lot of frustration for parents and even more for their littlest readers.
Myth #1: Any book that says Level 1 is the same reading level.
I cannot tell you how often I have a parent come in saying “My child is a level 1. Where are the Level 1 books?” The parent is referring to the level the publisher has designated as their beginner reading level. The problem? Not all levels are created equal in the world of publishing. To make this point, I grabbed three level 1 readers off of our shelves and used the Fountas and Pinell Guided Reading Levels (commonly called GRL) used by many of our area schools to compare them. Each one, though saying Level 1 on the cover, came up with a different guided reading level! They ranged from a level G to a level K. This is the difference between a first grade and second grade level, which is fairly significant.
Three Level 1 readers
The target audience as defined by the publisher
Example of the Level 1 reader with a GRL of G.
Example of the Level 1 reader with a GRL of K
So how can you know which is the Level 1 your child is reading at? First, ask your child’s teacher what reading system they use and if they have a reading level designated for your student. If you come in and see us, we have a lot of tools up our sleeves to locate books at that level. We also keep a list of books leveled by GRL behind our desk that you can use while at the library. If you are unable to get the level from school and only know the level that was on the cover of the book, we recommend having your reader give books a “Test Drive.” Have your child read a page or two out loud. If they “hit the brakes” (struggle to sound out the words, skip words or mispronounce words without catching their error, or read the word but have no clue as to what it means and can’t figure it out from the context) 4 to 5 times, then it isn’t the right reader for them. When in doubt, ask the librarian at the desk!
Myth #2: Easy Readers are only for kids learning to read.
There are two ends of the spectrum for this myth. First, there are the parents who try and push their kids away from Easy Readers because they have figured out how to sound out words and show they understand what they are reading. Though sounding out words (referred to as decoding) and building comprehension are the basis for most Easy Readers, there is another piece to the puzzle called fluency. Basically it means your child reads smoothly without stumbling over the words and reads with emotion, so they don’t sound like little robot readers. Easy Readers are perfect for practicing this! This also makes your child a more confident reader so that when they are ready to move onto more challenging books, they are ready and (even better) they are excited!
Another point here is that Easy Readers, in our collection anyhow, go up to third grade. Most decoding mastery takes place in kindergarten and first. So why do we go so high? Because not all readers are voracious. There are lots of kids who love to read and are at the appropriate level for their grade but maybe sitting still long enough to read a chapter book is hard yet. These Easy Readers geared at the older kids are vital so that their love of reading doesn’t fizzle. It allows them to mature into the longer books.
Remember I said there were two ends to the spectrum? Well at the other end you will find the parents who steer their child clear of the Easy Readers because they are too young to learn to read. While it is true that Easy Readers are designed with learners in mind, the bright pictures with lots of context clues, the few sentences on the pages, and the shortness in length makes them a great bridge from board books to picture books. I’m not saying that there are not lots of picture books that are great for toddlers and prek kiddos because trust me, there are, BUT the Easy Reader section is great because it eliminates some of the lengthier, more complex picture books that might overwhelm your little one and cause more frustration than joy at story time.
Myth #3: Easy Readers all teach reading in the same way.
There are many ideas on how kids learn to read in the most effective way. Many schools push sight words (or Rainbow Words as they are sometimes called) so there are plenty of Easy Readers that emphasize this concept. Others focus on easy Constant-Vowel-Constant (CVC for short) words like pig, bog, and cup so they write stories with very simple words that can be sounded out based on the child’s phonemic awareness (the sounds the letters make apart and when put together). And speaking of phonics, what about phonics books that teach reading? Yes, we have those as well. The fact is, there isn’t one way that is right or wrong, better or worse. There are different ways for different readers and it is our job to help all learners, so we provide a variety of Easy Readers that address all of these options and more. In fact, we even try to have kits that teach using these various techniques that can be checked out for three weeks at a time. If you let us know what works best for your child, we will happily show you what we have to meet their learning style.
Myth #4: Easy Readers are all fiction.
Like most books, Easy Readers come in both fiction and nonfiction. Many publishing companies get help from educational consultants to make sure the content and reading level are in line, especially when it comes to Easy Readers. In our library, the fiction Easy Readers are shelved by themselves but we mix in the nonfiction Easy Readers with our juvenile nonfiction collection so parents and teachers can grab a mix of books appropriate for a child to read on their own and books that can be read together to cover the more difficult language and concepts they may be learning about.
Myth #5: Easy Readers are easy!
Learning to read is anything but easy! It is a complex skill that requires practice. Lots of practice. It seems that calling Easy Readers Early Readers or Beginning Readers is more accurate. To anyone who has sat with a frustrated 5 year old trying to make sense of silent e’s or why the letter sounds of s and h change when they are side by side in a word knows this undertaking can be difficult. Expect it to be a process and stay positive! The more you can encourage and praise your child’s efforts, the more confident they will become.
This spring we did a soft roll out of a newsletter for our Children’s Department. These will be put out quarterly to keep patrons up to date on happenings with the collection and resources we have available. The first quarter was a huge hit! We had lots of parents coming to ask us questions about collection items they didn’t know we had. They also asked us for new books they saw thanks to the newsletter that otherwise would have been missed.
With the next edition about to roll off the presses just in time for school to start, stop in and see what amazing back-to-school resources we have for you and your family! Newsletters can be found at the children’s desk and we are happy to help you get connected with the resources you need! Have an idea for something that should be in the winter newsletter? Let us know in the comments!
We LOVE contests! Especially ones that have our patrons sharing their creative gifts with us! In the past have done various creation contests that fit whatever the summer reading theme is that year such as castles, critters, and beach bags. This year, with a water-theme for summer reading, we went with boats! Our only real rules were that the boats had to fit a base of no bigger than 12″ x 18″ and that no food items could be used to build. Otherwise, anything was fair game (and no, they didn’t have to survive a float test!). The boats that came rolling in blew us away!
We have four categories up on display currently. To make it fair, the categories are preschool and kindergarten, grades 1 through 3, grades 4 through 6, and a family category which is new but hugely popular! The cool thing is that patrons who come in can vote for their favorite in EACH category. The winners will be displayed for a week before going back to their creators with a prize. Voting is going on through the 20th, so if you haven’t voted yet, stop by and cast a ballot for your favorites!
Honestly, we hear the phrase “I didn’t know you have that,” frequently in our library. Through no one’s fault, there are just little gems of specialty collections tucked away that, without really talking up, can be overlooked. One such collection is our puzzles. Many patrons don’t realize that while we have some really cool puzzles to play with while you are visiting the library, we also have some awesome ones you can check out just like you would a book to take home and enjoy! Even better, we have a fresh batch of new puzzles that have just arrived and are ready to go home with you!
Many of our puzzles are geared at the toddler and pre-k set since the wooden puzzles and block puzzles tend to stand the test of time, but some of the more unique puzzles even capture the attention of some of our school-age patrons. The magnetic puzzles and mazes are big winners in just about everyone’s book, regardless of age!
If you haven’t checked out our puzzles yet, ask us to show you them on your next visit! They are just one of many special collections that is worth exploring!
The Captain Underpants books already were flying off our shelves thanks to summer reading, but with the movie out, we knew we had to celebrate so we hosted a Captain Underpants Party! We hosted a fun mix of games and crafts to keep our active superhero patrons busy. This event was an hour and a half and patrons could come and go as they pleased so having activities that were open-ended and adaptable to almost any age was the goal. From the feedback we got from our 150 guests, the things we planned achieved these goals! The best part? These are things you could easily recreate if you are having a party, whether it is for 5 guests or 150! Read on to see what we put together.
Professor Poopypants Name Changer
As people came into the event, we had them start by finding out there Captain Underpants name using Professor Poopypants’ Name Changer. This was a downloadable from the Scholastic site.
Because we wanted a more colorful sign, we just typed recreated it in Canva which worked very well. Kids quickly wrote their new name on a name tag and off they went to the next station.
Since capes prove tricky in regards to expense (and sometimes liability), we opted to have a mask station where are patrons could create a mask to go with their new Captain Underpants identity!
Personally, I’ve always loved when George and Harold hypnotize Mr. Krupp for the first time. The image of him on the desk pretending to be a chicken before he becomes Captain Underpants just cracks me up! That said, we knew we had to have a station with the Hypno-Ring. We created a giant hypnotic swirl on paper and attached to what is usually a ship’s wheel decor piece from our summer reading. We then thought up some super silly actions for kids to act out. We created slips for each task, cut them apart and threw them in our handy dandy cauldron. To get “hypnotized” kids had to stare into the swirl while pulling an action to act out from the cauldron. Honestly, I was worried some of the older kids would play the too-cool card and walk past this station but it turned out I was worried for nothing. We had some super silly actors of all ages at this station pretending to be a hot dog about to be eaten, an angry chicken, a cat taking a bath, and more!
Toilet Paper Stacking Challenge
This station was a lot of fun and definitely easy for any age! Kids could test to see how high they could stack the toilet paper without it falling and how fast they could stack. We actually posted a volunteer at this station to time kids. She also helped with our Pin the Cape Station!
Pin the Cape on Captain Underpants
We blew up and painted a large image of Captain Underpants himself for this version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Kids would put the blindfold on, spin three times, and then try to pin (er, tape, to be accurate) the cape to Captain Underpants’ neck. I’m sad to say I don’t have an after pictures of this station because this guy was covered in red capes!
I’ll be honest, this station went best with a parent or grown-up willing to be silly! The objective? To stand behind the long red line and fling a pair of tighty whities as far as you could. From that line to the first shorter line was about 4 feet. Each red line after took you another 2 feet. A lot of kids got to see a whole new side of their grown-ups that day as they were learning to use the elastic waistband to launch the underpants! Even if they didn’t get the concept of how to fling them with the technique we were thinking of, a lot of kids were giggling as they threw giant underwear around the library.
Turbo Toilet 2000 Turd Toss
Yeah… you read that correctly! The Captain Underpants books are well-known for their toilet humor and we couldn’t help help but go there! Using a toilet seat, round trashcan, card stock, and some good ole’ duct tape, we created our own version of the Turbo Toilet 2000. We then created “turds” from scrunched up newspaper covered in wrinkled brown construction paper that was wrapped up in packaging tape so it was durable but gave a squishy feel. Kids had a chance to see if they could get 5 turds into the toilet before their turn was done. Hands-down, we got the BEST feedback about this station from parents and kids alike!
Jerome Horwitz School Sign
We have a magnetic pillar in our department that we have done some fun stuff with in the past, but this may have been my favorite! We created a school sign like in the books and put out magnetic letters for kids to leave their own silly messages! We had tried to use smaller letters but the magnets didn’t quite cut the mustard so we ended up with large foam letters instead and the kids still had fun with them!
Coloring and Activity Pages
These printables were all free on the Scholastic website.
Have you ever tried Doodle Stations before? We throw them up at events periodically because they are a HUGE hit with patrons, young and old. Basically we cover table tops with white craft paper or butcher paper. We set out colored pencils and leave a note letting patrons know we want them to draw on the paper. We get some awesome art work doing this! Check out these examples!
The activities you just scrolled through are located all throughout our department. It prevents congestion and chaos in a main meeting room and still encourages people to check out the collection. It also meets the needs of kiddos with special needs or families with very young children. We keep more challenging crafts or activities where materials could be messy in our Children’s Program Room. For this event, we had three activities in our program room. We had the fidget spinners craft we gave you in our sneak peek, a Captain Underpants Bookmark, and a Playdoh Poo station set up for kids to explore at this event. Even the big kids LOVED the Playdoh! And who doesn’t love a fidget spinner these days?!
Throwing this together during Summer Reading was not an easy task, but it was worth it! Our community absolutely LOVED our Captain Underpants Party!