Thursday, August 11, 2011

Groundbreaking Beginning Readers

In the olden days, back when I was a kid, beginning readers were dull and pretty limited.  Dick & Jane and books with rhyming words like "snug bug in a rug" helped American children learn to read for decades.  I learned  to read with a system called the "Programmed Readers" which introduced me to characters named Sam and Ann and Walter. Each title had a story with missing words which asked the reader to fill in the blanks or answer questions with a crayon on a special plastic sheet that was used to cover the page. They featured stories like Ann sitting on a pin or Sam eating mints. Boring! Apparently they were so bad that nobody kept any copies. I couldn't even find images of the books on Google.

Today beginning readers have an entire section of the library set aside just for them. Some of my favorites are Theodor Seuss Geisel Award (which honors books for beginning readers)  winners "Elephant and Piggie" series by Mo Willems. The stories reflect a child's world with topics like being a friend, going to a birthday party or sharing your ice cream or getting a new toy. The series has appealing cartoon graphics and color coded speech bubbles which make reading them fun and easy. It is impossible to read these stories with out giggling or laughing. Sometimes the character is saying nothing more in the speech bubble than an exclamation point but the meaning is always easy to decipher by just looking at the characters' face.

One of my favorite patrons, Ryan age 6, has begun writing his own episodes, because he has read all the titles in the series and wanted more.  His mom isn't as big a fan and is tired of reading these titles but he is gobbling up each new addition to the series as fast as Willems can write them.  Bravo! to Ryan for taking reading to the next step and Bravo! to Mo Willems for making learning to read so appealing.

Michele, Children's Librarian

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No, the Sam and Ann books are still around. And I LOVED them. In fact, I hunted high and low to find them for my daughter, and discovered that they are popular among kids with LDs. They have a sense of humor and offer tremendous positive reinforcement, which I have seen with my own daughter.

I was introduced to Greek mythology in third grade and feel that the introduction was valuable to me throughout my college years.

I urge you to pick them up again and look them over. I have found quite a few message boards where people are hunting for them.