Best Kids Level 1 Reading Books

by SusanM

Kids Level 1 reading books that will enourage them to love reading.

Learning how to read is hard work. Picking the right kids Level 1 reading books to start them on their reading journey can help. It can also show your child reading is fun.

But do you know the best kids' Level 1 reading books and how to pick a good beginner book?

Picking a Good Level 1 Book

There are a number of things that you need to look for when picking a good Level 1 reading book for your child. These fall under the headings of (a) interest level and (b) reading level. 

High Interest Level

You might be surprised but how interesting your child will think a book is should be your first thought.

Learning to read is hard work. By giving your child books that interest them you encourage them to read. This is because when a book is interesting or fun it feels less like hard work.

An interesting book makes them want to read. Only you and your child will know what sort of beginner book will be an interesting one.

The picture shows a good example of a Level 1 reading book - Dancing Dinos Go To School, (this is available from Amazon). 

Popular Level 1 Reading Books

Dancing Dinos Go to School

Random House Books for Young Readers

View on Amazon

Old, New, Red, Blue!


View on Amazon

Danny and the Dinosaur


View on Amazon

The Reading Level

Not all Level 1 reading books are the same. Some are harder than others. This means they are better for a child who is nearly ready for Level 2 books. So don't worry if you buy a Level 1 book that your child will love if it does not meet the Level 1 reading requirements. Just keep it on hand for when their reading advances a little.


So what do you need to look for in a Level 1 reading book?

  • A Level 1 reading book should use big letters (17 or 20 point size) to make the words easy to read. So big letters makes a book a good match for a beginner reader.
  • It should have short sentences (no more than 7 words in every sentence). Longer sentences are harder to read and understand. This means they aren't good for a first time reader.
  • The words should be small. They should have no more than 5 letters. It's also best if they are "sight" or single syllable words like "chair", "dog", "hop" or "dance". (Multi-syllable words are things like "table", "alligator", "happy" or "flower".) Sight words are ones that are easy to remember or work out from the context of the story. 
  • Pages should be mostly picture so just a few words on them. This is because beginning readers are not ready for lots of words. Having a few sentences on each page is much better for your child. So there should be no more than 7 lines of text on any page. Any more and your child will probably feel overwhelmed and not want to read the book.
  • The number of words on a line is also important. Children find it hard at first to follow words across the page. So there should be no more than 5 words on each line. Keeping it to a few like this helps children learn how to follow text across the page from left to right.

Top Selling Level 1 Books

May I Please Have a Cookie?
Cartwheel Books
Big Egg
Random House Books for Young Readers
Super Friends: Flying High
Random House Books for Young Readers
I Like Bugs
Random House Books for Young Readers

Hidden Picture Readers

You might be familiar with the I Spy series of books. These are wonderful hidden object picture books that are works of art.

The Level 1 reading book versions have been edited to suit a beginner reader. The puzzles seem to be smaller sections from the larger books but they still work well as beginner books.

The puzzle finding activity in these books makes reading more fun. This encourages your child to read because they can't finish the puzzles if they don't read the clues first.

Making Reading Fun

I Spy a Dinosaur's Eye

Beginner Books with Facts

Kids love books with interesting facts about things they love. This means they're a good choice for encourage your child to read. There are some great fact filled books in the Level 1 reading book range. The trick is to buy one that catches their current interest.

I like the DK Level 1 fact books the best. They have great photos in them to capture your child's attention. They're well written to keep kids reading. But the Scholastic fact books are popular too.

Some fact books for beginning readers are a mix of information and story. So fact and fiction. These are a good choice because they usually keep children reading by getting them involved in a story. The fictional part of the story won't confuse your child because of the skill the books are written with. The books are usually based upon facts (like about the times the dinosaurs lived in) but add action and drama through a fictional story.

Fact only books are best when they love the topic the book is about. If it's a passion kids usually want to know everything they can about the topic. This makes fact books a great way to encourage your child to read.

Everyday life is a good topic for children. This is because it is something they know. Buying a book about a tooth falling out is perfect if your child is waiting for their own tooth to fall out. Being able to relate to the characters and stories makes reading more interesting. 

The key for buying books about life is timing. You need to give your child the book either just before an event (like a new brother or sister), at the time it is happening (like having a tooth fall out) or just after. It's these times that the book will have the biggest impact. Although if something has special meaning to a child (like birthdays) the book can be given to them at any time. 

Some ideas for books about everyday life include sports activities, going to school, having a pet - really anything that's an important part of your child's life can be a good choice for a Level 1 reading book.

Don't Forget the Classics

Classic Level 1 books are always good to add to your child's library. These books have lasted the test of time and have been loved by children for generations.

Bears in the Night
Random House Books for Young Readers

A Classic Level 1 Book

Bears in the Night is one of the books I remember from my own childhood. I loved it. Looking at it today through the eyes of a teacher I can see how well it's written for a Level 1 reader. The mood is spooky from the first page (but not too spooky). It's also an adventure with a surprise at the end.

The words are easy but are able to keep a sense of mystery about where the bears are going. It's no wonder this book has been loved by beginning readers for decades.

High Interest Level 1 Books

Finding Books for Boys

Boys can sometimes be reluctant readers. I think this is often because it can be hard to find good books for them. But there are some good choices in Level 1 reading books if you know where to look.

To pick a high interest book for you son you need to look for stories with facts or action. Topics that interest them are also a must. So if you son likes Star Wars grab a few Level 1 early readers about this topic. 

High interest books can capture your son's interest even if he is a reluctant reader. So they also help him find out that learning to read is worth the effort. 

Finding Books for Girls

There are lots more Level 1 reading book for girls. But not all are high interest books. A high interest book is one that makes your child feel excited to reading. They turn reading into fun rather than feeling like work. So if you want to get your daughter reading think high interest. And remember to be high interest it needs to be about something that she is interested in. This might be baby animals, princesses or Dora the Explorer. 

Many of the Level 1 reading books for girls are also not labelled correctly. (Something that happens a lot with books for boys too.) The book Biscuit's Day at the Farm is a good example of this. Although it's marked as being a pre-Level 1 reader it's better suited if your child is at Level 1. This is because it's too hard for a very first book. There are also Level 1 reading books that are closer to Level 2 because of how they're written. But always buy a book if you think your daughter will love the story. Just read through them first thinking about the Level 1 reading requirements to decide when she will be ready for it.

Things Every Beginner Book Should Have...

A beginner book of any level should grab your child's attention quickly. It should have a fast moving plot or lots of interesting facts. There should be something happening on every page.

Beginning readers also need some predictability because it makes it easier for them to work out unknown words. But there should also be some surprises to make reading interesting. 

The book should have space between the words and lines. This is because if the words and lines are close together like in books for older children and adults it makes it very hard for your child to read them. Your child needs extra space to stop things from looking cluttered and to help them work out letters and words.

Commas should be avoided unless they are at the end of a line. This is because commas are advanced punctuation. They make reading more difficult. But if they are at the end of a line a child can usually still read the sentence without finding it too hard.

Beginner readers also need clues to help them work out words, at least until they are comfortable reading Level 3 books. Repeated words and clues in the pictures about the story are important in Level 1 and Level 2 reading books. Without these clues reading is hard for your child. Clues also help your child learn about context and comprehension which are two important things for being a good reader.

Finally make sure the pictures don't overwhelm the text. Words should always be on a plain background. White is best but other colors can work too as long as the words can still be read easily by your child. (Pages with dark backgrounds are the hardest to read.)

This picture shows the classic Level 1 reading book Bears in the Night. Another good example of a Level 1 book. It's available from Amazon.

More Articles About Learning to Read

The best children's books for learning how to read
9 fun dinosaur books to encourage first graders who love dinos to read
Updated: 09/01/2012, SusanM
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