Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Easy Readers!

After three weeks analyzing picturebooks, we’re now focusing on easy readers.  An easy reader is a book for children who are just beginning to read, and, like picturebooks, are a lot more complicated than I thought.  It’s not simply that easy readers feature easy words, it’s that they have to take into account the actual process of reading.  It’s easy to forget that at one point we all had to be taught how to read: how to move our eyes from left to right across the page, how to read punctuation marks, and how to zig zag our eyes from one end of a paragraph to the beginning of another.  This is a lot to learn, and can be overwhelming.  So easy readers are simple, to allow new readers to absorb all of this information.  

There are several characteristics specific to an easy reader, including large fonts, generous spacing between words, and simple sentences.  The words usually have fewer than five letters, because short words are easier to read and sound out.  And, most of these words are sight words, which are words that children are already familiar with, like “see”, “go”, “no”, “can”, and “look.”  Sight words are like a bridge linking the words in a sentence.  Since children will already know how to read these words, they can focus more on the unknown words.  Also, the illustrations in easy readers are quite simple, because otherwise they would distract the reader.  In fact, easy reader illustrations are meant to help the reader by providing clues to decode the words on the page.  As if all that wasn’t enough, easy readers also have to be interesting!  They have to make readers want to read, which can be really hard with all the limitations in an easy reader.  But luckily there are many easy reader authors who manage to do that.  

I’m writing an analysis of an easy reader called Bake, Mice, Bake by Eric Seltzer, and I’m looking at all the ways its written and illustrated to help new readers.  The story is about three mice who own a bakery and shows them baking cakes and pies and selling their products to their customers.  One of the sentences is “mice pour and drip”, and the illustrations show the mice pouring batter into a bowl and dripping the batter on the floor.  Since “pour” isn’t a phonetic word, it might trip up new readers.  But they can look at the illustration and see the mice pouring batter, and that can help them make the connection.  This is one of the ways easy readers work to help readers.  

It’s fascinating to study easy readers, because I don’t remember how I learned to read, and I’m sure I didn’t really notice how the words, spacing, and illustrations worked together to facilitate my reading.  In fact, I don’t remember many easy readers at all, even though I know I read them.  I think easy readers are meant more to transition readers to higher level chapter books than to stand out on their own, which might be why I struggle to remember some of them when I vividly remember numerous picture books and chapter books.