IDENTIFYING AGE-APPROPRIATE VOCABULARY AND STORY-DEVELOPMENT,
A BOOK GUIDE
The table below is from Books for Children to Read Alone: a guide for parents and librarians, by George Wilson and Joyce Moss. This unique tool helps parents, teachers and grandparents find books with age-appropriate vocabulary and story development.
Organized by grade level, with each section containing books for easy, average, and challenging reading, it offers a masterful mix of old favorites and newer works. The range of genres represented includes adventure, humor, historical fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, and more. Each entry includes a short annotation, specification of genre, and subject headings. Teachers and parents will find this tool a delight for reading as well as testing their child’s ability to read.
STEP 1: Select Some Books – Take your student/child to the library and ask the librarian for help. Make a day of it. Have some fun together. While you’re there, get a library card.
Select three or four books according to your child’s grade level and your perception of his or her reading ability.
The Children’s Librarian at your library will be glad to help you find some of these titles or suggest appropriate substitutions. However, be very careful about substitutes. Does the substitute have the same level of vocabulary and story development?
Reviewing these lists will give you a good idea about what you’re looking for. Of course, don’t choose material with which the child is already familiar.
Table from Books for Children to Read Alone: a guide for parents and librarians
by George Wilson and Joyce Moss
|If your child is in …||and your child has this verbal ability level …||then try any of these books or stories|
|First half of First Grade||Limited||Asch, Frank: Bear’s BargainAsch, Frank: Goodnight, HorseyAsch, Frank: Just Like DaddyBang, Molly: Ten, Nine, EightBrown, Marc Tolan: The True FrancineBrown, Marcia: How Hippo!Dr. Seuss: The Foot BookDr. Seuss: Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now?Dr. Seuss: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue FishGray, Catherine & James: Tammy and the Gigantic FishHillert, Margaret: Birthday CarHillert, Margaret: The Snow BabyJohnston, Tony: Odd JobsKalan, Robert: Jump Frog, Jump!Kim, Joy: Come on UpNakatani, Chiyoko: My Teddy BearNodset, Joan: Go Away, DogStadler, John: Hooray for Snail!Tafuri, Nancy: Have You Seen My Duckling?Watanabe, Shigeo: How Do I Put It On?Watanabe, Shigeo: I Can Build a House!Watanabe, Shigeo: I Can Ride It!Wood, Audrey: The Napping House|
|Average||Asch, Frank: Sand CakeBerenstain, Stan & Jan: Inside, Outside, Upside DownBlos, Jean: Martin’s HatsChristian, Mary Blount: Penrod’s PantsDomanska, Janina: Little Red HenEts, Marie: Just MeHillert, Margaret: The Boy and the GoatsHillert, Margaret: Tom ThumbHoff, Syd: Henrietta Goes to the FairHoff, Syd: Henrietta’s Fourth of JulyHutchins, Pat: Rosie’s WalkJonas, Ann: The TrekLionni, Leo: It’s MineLopshire, Robert: I Want to Be Somebody NewMaris, Ron: Are You There, Bear?Peppe, Rodney: Odd One OutPrager, Annabelle: The Surprise PartyTesta, Fulvio: If You Take a Paintbrush: A Book of ColorsWheeler, Cindy: Marmalade’s NapWheeler, Cindy: Marmalade’s PicnicWheeler, Cindy: Marmalade’s Yellow LeafWolcott, Patty: Super Sam and the Salad Garden|
|Advanced||Alexander, Martha: We Never Get to Do AnythingBlocksma, Mary: Did You Hear That?dePaola, Tomie: Andy: That’s My NameDr. Seuss: I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!Domanska, Janina: I Saw a Ship A’SailingDunrea, Oliver: Eddy B, PigboyGackenbach, Dick: What’s Claude Doing?Lobel, Anita: The Straw MaidLobel, Arnold: Mouse TalesSendak, Maurice: PierreWiseman, Bernard: Morris Has a ColdWiseman, Bernard: Penny’s Poodle Puppy, Pickle|
|Second half of First Grade||Limited||Alexander, Martha: Maybe a MonsterAliki: We Are Best FriendsBonsall, Crosby: Mine’s the BestBulla, Clyde: Keep Running, Allen!Christelow, Eileen: Henry and the DragonCrews, Donald: HarborDabcovich, Lydia: Sleepy BearHutching, Pat: The Wind BlewJonas, Ann: Two Bear CubsKantrowitz, Mildred: Willy BearLopshire, Robert: Put Me in the ZooMcPhail, David: Emma’s PetMcPhail, David: Great CatMarshall, James: The GuestParker, Nancy Winslow: Poofy Loves CompanyPlatt, Kin: Big Max in the Mystery of the Missing MooseRaskin, Ellen: And It RainedRey, H.A.: Curious GeorgeRey, Margaret and H.A.: Curious George Flies a KiteRylant, Cynthia: Henry and Mudge: The First Book of Their AdventuresSpier, Peter: Bored, Nothing to DoStevenson, James: Fast FriendsThaler, Mike: OwlyWells, Rosemary: A Lion for LewisWells, Rosemary: Max’s First WordWiseman, Bernard: Hooray for Patsy’s Oink!Wiseman, Bernard: Morris Goes to SchoolWiseman, Bernard: Morris Tells Boris Mother Moose Stories and Rhymes|
|Average||Alexander, Sue: World Famous MurielBate, Lucy: Little Rabbit’s Loose ToothBrandenberg, Franz: Leo and EmilyBrandenberg, Franz: Leo and Emily and the DragonBrowne, Anthony: Bear HuntBulla, Clyde: Daniel’s DuckCarle, Eric: The Very Busy SpiderCarle, Eric: The Very Hungry CaterpillarCohen, Miriam: Jim’s Dog MuffinsDr. Suess: The Cat in the HatDr. Suess: The Cat in the Hat Comes BackHoban, Lillian: Arthur’s Christmas CookiesHoban, Lillian: Arthur’s Funny MoneyHoban, Lillian: Arthur’s Halloween CostumeHoff, Syd: BarkleyIsadora, Rachel: MaxJohnston, Tony: Farmer Mack Measures His PigKeats, Ezra Jack: A Letter to AmyKeats, Ezra Jack: Regards to the Man in the MoonKraus, Robert: Whose Mouse Are You?LeSieg, Theo.: The Tooth BookLewis, Thomas: Mr. Sniff and the Model MysteryLexau, Joan: The Rooftop MysteryLobel, Arnold: Owl at HomeLobel, Arnold: Small PigMarshall, Edward: Fox and His FriendsMarshall, Edward: Fox on WheelsMarshall, Edward: Three by the SeaModell, Frank: One Zillion ValentinesOxenbury, Helen: The Dancing ClassPomerantz, Charlotte: The Piggy in the PuddleSchatell, Brian: Sam’s No Dummy: Farmer GoffSharmat, Marjorie Weinman: Burton and Dudley
Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman: Nate the Great and the Sticky Case
Stevenson, James: Howard
Stevenson, James: Monty
Thayer, Jane: Popcorn Dragon
Vincent, Gabrielle: Bravo, Ernest and Celestine!
Vincent, Gabrielle: Ernest and Celestine
Vincent, Gabrielle: Merry Christmas, Ernest and Celestine
Vincent, Gabrielle: Smile, Ernest and Celestine
Wolcott, Patty: Pickle, Pickle, Pickle Juice
|Advanced||Bang, Molly: Tye Mae and the Magic BrushBrandenberg, Franz: Everyone Ready?Cohen, Miriam: Tough JimDelton, Judy: I’m Telling You NowEhrlich, Amy: Leo, Zack, and EmmieLobel, Arnold: Days with Frog and ToadLobel, Arnold: Ming Lo Moves the MountainLobel, Arnold: Uncle ElephantLund, Doris: You Ought to See Herbert’s HouseMarshall, James: George and Martha, Back in TownMarshall, James: George and Martha One Fine DayParish, Peggy: Dinosaur TimeRicciuti, Edward: Donald and the Fish That WalkedRice, Eve: Papa’s Lemonade and Other StoriesStevenson, James: That Dreadful DayStevenson, James: That Terrible Halloween NightVan Leeuwen, Jean: Amanda Pig and Her Big Brother OliverVan Woerkom, Doroth: Harry and ShelburtWaber, Bernard: Ira Sleeps OverYolen, Jane: Mice on Ice|
|First half of Second Grade||Limited||Alexander, Martha: We’re in Big Trouble, Blackboard BearAsch, Frank: Happy Birthday, MoonAsch, Frank: Moon BearAsch, Frank: MooncakeBabbitt, Natalie: The SomethingBenchley, Nathaniel: The Strange Disappearance of Arthur CluckBrandenberg, Franz: Leo and Emily’s Big IdeasBrown, Margaret Wise: Runaway BunnyBurningham, John: Come Away from the Water, ShirleyBurningham, John: The Shopping BasketdePaola, Tomie: Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s DayDe Regniers, Beatrice: Red Riding HoodGaldone, Paul: The Three Little PigsGinsburg, Mirra: Good Morning, ChickHamilton, Morse and Emily Hamilton: My Name Is EmilyHoff, Syd: Danny and the DinosaurKellogg, Steven: The Mystery of the Missing Red MittenKellogg, Steven: The Mystery of the Stolen Blue PaintMcPhail, David: The TrainModell, Frank: Seen Any Cats?Nakatani, Chiyoko: The Zoo in My GardenNodset, Joan: Come Here, CatPreston, Edna Mitchell: Squawk to the Moon, Little GooseRey, H.A. and Margaret: Curious George Goes to the HospitalRockwell, Anne: Poor GooseSharmat, Marjorie Weinman: Nate the Great and the Missing KeySharmat, Marjorie Weinman: Nate the Great and the Snowy TrailSlobodkina, Esphyr: Caps for SaleWells, Rosemary: Max’s New SuitWilliams, Barbara: Albert’s Toothache|
|Average||Ahlberg, Janet and Allan: FunnybonesAliki: Keep Your Mouth Closed, DearAndersen, Hans Christian: The Princess and the PeaAsbjornsen, P.C. and Moe, J.E.: The Three Billy Goats GruffBang, Molly Garrett: Wiley and the Hairy ManBemelmans, Ludwig: MadeleineBenchley, Nathaniel: George the Drummer BoyBond, Felicia: Poinsettia and the FirefightersBonsall, Crosby Newell: Tell Me Some MoreBurningham, John: Mr. Gumpy’s Motor CarBurningham, John: Mr. Gumpy’s OutingCalhoun, Mary: Hot Air HenryChapman, Carol: The Tale of Meshka the KvetchCoerr, Eleanor: The Big Balloon RaceDabcovish, Lydia: Follow the RiverDelton, Judy: Two Good FriendsDuvoisin, Roger: PetuniaGackensbach, Dick: Harry and the Terrible WhatzitGage, Wilson: Squash PieGaldone, Paul: The Gingerbread BoyHoban, Russell: Dinner at Alberta’sHoban, Russell: Nothing to DoHutchins, Pat: You’ll Soon Grow into Them, TitchJonas, Ann: The QuiltKeats, Ezra Jack: DreamsKeats, Ezra Jack: The Snowy DayKeller, Holly: Geraldine’s BlanketKrasilovsky, Phyllis: The Man Who Entered a ContestKroll, Steven: One Tough TurkeyLeaf, Munro: The Story of FerdinandLobel, Arnold: A Treeful of PigsLocker, Thomas: The Mare on the HillMahy, Margaret: The Boy Who Was Followed Home
Marshall, Edward: Troll Country
Morris, Robert: Seahorse
Noble, Trinka Hakes: The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash
Noble, Trinka Hakes: Jimmy’s Boa Bounces Back
Parish, Peggy: Amelia Bedelia Helps Out
Quin-Harkin, Janet: Helpful Hattie
Rice, Eve: Benny Bakes a Cake
Sendak, Maurice: In the Night Kitchen
Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman: Griselda’s New Year
Shulevitz, Uri: Dawn
Van Woerkom, Dorothy: Donkey Ysabel
Waber, Bernard: An Anteater Named Arthur
Wells, Rosemary: Benjamin & Tulip
Wiseman, Bernard: Morris and Boris
Zion, Gene: Harry the Dirty Dog
Zolotow, Charlotte: Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
|Advanced||Allard, Harry: Miss Nelson Is BackAllard, Harry: Miss Nelson Is MissingBaker, Betty: The Pig WarBeim, Lorraine and Jerrold Beim: The Little IglooBlaine, Marge: The Terrible Thing That Happened at Our HouseBlume, Judy: The Pain and the Great OneBrandenberg, Franz: Nice New NeighborsCalhoun, Mary: Cross-Country CatdePaola, Tomie: Watch Out for the Chicken Feet in Your SoupHoban, Russell: A Bargain for FrancesJensen, Virginia Allen: Old Mother Hubbard and Her DogKessler, Leonard: Kick, Pass, and RunLobel, Arnold: Frog and Toad Are FriendsLow, Joseph: Mice TwiceLundgren, Barbro: The Wild Baby Goes to SeaParish, Peggy: Ootah’s Lucky DayPeet, Bill: Big Bad BruceSchwartz, Alvin: There is a Carrot in My Ear & Other Noodle TalesViorst, Judith: The Tenth Good Thing about Barney|
|Second half of Second Grade||Limited||Aruego, Jose and Ariane: A Crocodile’s TaleBemelmans, Ludwig: Madeleine’s RescueCoerr, Eleanor: The Mixed-Up Mystery SmellDaly, Niki: Joseph’s Other Red SockGraham, Margaret Bloy: Be Nice to SpidersGraham, Margaret Bloy: Benjy and the Barking BirdGreenfield, Eloise: Me and NeesieHughes, Shirley: Alfie Gets in FirstHughes, Shirley: Alfie Gives a HandHughes, Shirley: Alfie’s FeetHughes, Shirley: An Evening at Alfie’sLionni, Leo: Inch by InchOram, Hiawyn: In the AtticRayner, Mary: Mr. and Mrs. Pig’s Evening OutSchatell, Brian: Farmer Goff and His Turkey, SamSchwartz, Amy: Bea and Mr. JonesSharmat, Marjorie Weinman: Gila Monsters Meet You at the AirportSteig, William: Sylvester and the Magic PebbleUdry, Janice: What Mary Jo SharedWilliams, Linda: The Little Old Lady who was Not Afraid of Anything|
|Average||Allen, Linda: Mr. Simkins’ GrandmaBrowne, Anthony: GorillaCole, Joanna: Bony-LegsDuvoisin, Roger: JasmineEmberley, Barbara: Drummer HoffGag, Wanda: Millions of CatsGag, Wanda: Nothing at AllGay, Michael: The Christmas WolfHoban, Russell: Bedtime for FrancesKellogg, Steven: The Mysterious TadpoleKellogg, Steven: A Rose for PinkertonLevitin, Sonia: Nobody Stole the PieLobel, Arnold: Frog and Toad TogetherMarshall, James: George and Martha, Rise and ShineMarshall, James: George and Martha, Tons of FunNixon, Joan Lowery: If You Say So, ClaudePeet, Bill: Huge HaroldPellowski, Michael: Benny’s Bad DayPorte, Barbara Ann: Harry’s DogSelsam, Millicent: Night AnimalsSeuling, Barbara: The Teeny Tiny Woman: An Old English Ghost TaleStevenson, James: Could Be WorseWaber, Bernard: The House on East 88th StreetWilliams, Vera: A Chair for My MotherWilliams, Vera: Music, Music for EveryoneWilliams, Vera: Something Special for MeWood, Audrey: King Bidgood’s in the BathtubYashima, Taro: Crow BoyZelinksy, Paul: The Maid and the Mouse and the Odd-Shaped House|
|Advanced||Aardema, Verna: The Vingananee and the Tree ToadBranley, Franklyn: CometsCoombs, Patricia: Mouse CafeDomanska, Janina: The Best of the BargainHurd, Edith Thacher: Mama Don’t AllowHutchins, Pat: The Tale of Thomas MeadKeats, Ezra Jack: GogglesLobel, Arnold: Grasshopper on the RoadSchwartz, David: How Much Is a Million?Stevenson, James: We Can’t SleepZion, Gene: The Sugar Mouse Cake|
|First half of Third Grade||Limited||Bang, Molly: The Paper CraneCole, Babette: The Trouble with MomDaugherty, James: Andy and the LionDuviosin, Roger: Petunia, I Love YouGage, Wilson: The Crow and Mrs. GaddyGoffstein, M.B.: Fish for SupperHeine, Helme: The Most Wonderful Egg in the WorldHoff, Syd: The Litter KnightNess, Evaline: Sam, Bangs & MoonshineQuackenbush, Robert: Detective Mole and the Circus MysterySchweninger, Ann: Birthday Wishes|
|Average||Brown, Marcia: Once a Mouse, A Fable Cut in WoodBrown, Marcia: Stone SoupCarrick, Carol: Dark and Full of SecretsdePaola, Tomie: Strega NonaGaldone, Paul: The Elves and the ShoemakerHancock, Sibyl: Old BlueHaseley, Dennis: The Old BanjoIsadora, Rachel: Ben’s TrumpetLionni, Leo: Alexander and the Wind-Up MouseOrmondroyd, Edward: BroderickOrmondroyd, Edward: TheodoreTurkle, Brinton: Do Not OpenWaber, Bernard: Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile|
|Advanced||Brenner, Barbara: Wagon WheelsClifton, Lucille: Everett Anderson’s GoodbyeLewis, Thomas: Hill of FireLionni, Leo: FrederickMathis, Sharon Bell: The Hundred Penny BoxSegal, Lore: The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless the CatTurkle, Brinton: Obadiah the BoldYolen, Jane: Sleeping Ugly|
|Second half of Third Gradeor higher||Limited||Gramatky, Hardie: Little TootHolabird, Katharine: Angelina and the PrincessHolabird, Katharine: Angelina BallerinaHurd, Edith Thacher: I Dance in My Red PajamasRaskin, Ellen: SpectaclesRyan, Cheli Duran: Hildilid’s NightSendak, Maurice: Where the Wild Things Are|
|Average||Cohen, Barbara: The Carp in the BathtubGoble, Paul: The Girl Who Loved Wild HorsesLasker, Joe: Nick Joins InMacLachlan, Patricia: Sarah, Plain and TallShannon, George: The Piney Woods PeddlerStevenson, James: Wilfred the RatWard, Lynd: The Biggest Bear|
|Advanced||Andersen, Hans Christian: The NightingaleAnderson, Lonzo: Arion and the DolphinsHewitt, Kathryn: The Three SilliesSteig, William: Doctor De SotoVan Allsburg, Chris: Jumanji|
STEP 2: You will need a piece of paper divided into two columns labeled Correct and Errors. You will also need a one-minute timer.
Sit next to your child in a comfortable, well-lit area. Ask your child to please read you a story for one minute. Give your child the book, help locate the first page of text, then ask your child to start reading out loud. DO NOT STOP OR CORRECT. Just observe and listen, both for mistakes and achievements.
Take a few practice starts if you need too. Count and record the number of practice starts required.
Make a mark every time the student reads a word incorrectly, or hesitates, or stumbles. Make a mark for every error. Do not make noises or use body language to indicate mistakes or achievements. Do not correct or try to help.
If the child stops you may say, “Please continue,” or “Go on.” Do not give hints about pronunciation or meaning. Smile. Listen for nimbleness as well as stumbles – we are going to build on successes, not on failures.
Count a word as “correct” if your child has said the word that is printed in the book. It is OK if your child occasionally needs two or three tries to get the pronunciation right, but not OK if your child is guessing words that don’t appear in the book, even if those words have a similar meaning. For example, if the word in the book is “boot” and your child says “shoe” then you should count it as an error, even if “shoe” would have made sense in the sentence.
Your child should be able to read smoothly, without any significant number of long delays or other signs of frustration (an occasional delay is OK). After one minute of reading aloud, stop your child and ask what just happened in the story.
Your child should be able to tell you in his or her own words what the text was about.
Question: If the child/student were read the material, what would happen to comprehension? You may experiment with reading aloud for a minute yourself. Did your child’s comprehension improve? Above all, never criticize your child’s reading. Children have experienced enough criticism and chances are they are embarrassed enough. Read, smile, and move on. There will be plenty of time for correction later. The purpose now is to have a good time and to create a successful experience.
While your child is reading, keep track of every word read correctly and incorrectly. By counting the total number of words read in one minute you can calculate the percentage of words read correctly. Keep in mind that a successful reader must consistently identify at least 90% of the words correctly. You can determine your child’s skill level by moving up and down the list until 90-100% is achieved.
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