Safe Passages: What Makes a Good Early-Expert-Reader Book?
“Mommy, what does mere mean?” a friend’s four-year-old asked, puzzled by a sentence — “Mere minutes later” — in the Superman comic he was looking at. He didn’t recognize mere as a number, and he couldn’t figure it out by himself. But his question revealed that this preschooler had learned to read. Most children learn to read later, in school, gaining fluency and confidence in the primary grades. A few, however, enter kindergarten having already figured out the magic of letters, sounds, and words, or else they pick up the skill so quickly that by the end of kindergarten they are ready for longer books with chapters. These are early expert readers. Like my friend with his Superman comic, some learn to read on their own, while others are taught by parents, babysitters, or older sisters and brothers. But however they gain the skill, early expert readers are fluent long before their peers, and they present a challenge for parents, teachers, and librarians. They are capable of the decoding needed for reading chapter books but not yet ready for the content of many books written for children years older. They need books that will appeal to their particular level of emotional and social development while employing their reading skills and satisfying their desire for longer stories.