These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.
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Many thanks to Yvonne Blake, known to some of us as Vonnie, for stepping in with another guest lesson for me while I continue with my unusually busy two months. Like Joanne Sher’s lesson of a few weeks ago, this one covers an area that I know almost nothing about. I hope you’ll post comments and questions here for Vonnie, and give her homework assignment a whirl.
Vonnie has developed a website, Polliwog Pages (http://www.polliwogpage.com) where she encourages kids to write. She has teaches writing workshops, besides online lessons. She also displays the kids’ stories on virtual bulletin boards. Getting young people excited about writing gets Vonnie excited.
Thank you, Jan, for letting me be a guest on your page. I hope this is helpful to others.
Writing Easy Reader Books
Some books today are labeled Easy Reading, but as a former elementary teacher, I’ve noticed that many of them are difficult for children. Books that use popular, commercial characters are often too hard to read. Yes, the letters are in larger font. The sentences are short. The whole story is about 500 words. But it’s a struggle for a child to read it by himself.
What makes a book an easy reader?
Phonics makes a big difference. Usually when children learn to read they begin with the short vowels. (a-cat, e-leg, i-pig, o-hot, u-bug) They only have mastered the basic consonants, perhaps a few digraphs or blends. (pr, st, gl, sh, th, ch, etc.) They may know a few sight words to carry them along. (a, the, you, be, for, etc.) Also, words of more than one syllable become confusing.
Dr. Seuss was once challenged to write a book with only 50 words, and Green Eggs and Ham was created. Dr. Seuss took it one step further. Forty-nine of those words were only one syllable. “Anywhere” was the only multi-syllable word in the book.
For a beginner readers, the sentences need to be short and simple. Their comprehension is lost with additional clauses. Although, they probably speak with a higher level of sentence structure, reading these complex thoughts, word by word, takes much more effort.
Young readers love a story filled with action and humor. They also want to relate to the character. The plot should be about a pet, school, friends, family, holidays, losing something, being different, etc. They like a happy ending, especially one with a surprise. Some kids really like non-fiction: nature facts, how things work, or exciting biographies. The book shouldn’t be too long (average of 50 pages and between 500-1500 words) with plenty of room for illustrations, yet the story should be able to carry the plot without them.
As in any writing –show with actions (don’t tell), create exciting obstacles to overcome, keep dialogue short and meaningful, and teach a clear message without lecturing. Children appreciate good writing as much as adults.
Children like to learn new, hard words, but these should be added sparingly, with the meaning easily deciphered within the context of the story. Use contractions and pronouns sparingly. Children love rhyming words and silly words. They love repetition, which helps them gain confidence with new sounds and words.
Of course, as children mature, they add to their reading skills and can read longer words and sentences. Their phonics level grows to include more advanced digraphs (tch, phr, sch, etc.) and diphthongs (oi, au, ea, oo, etc.) and modified sounds. (ar, ear, oy, etc.) Their sight word list grows, and they are learning to break words into syllables. They can comprehend unspoken emotions within dialogue. Yet, they still aren’t reading at their comprehension level.
The best way to learn how to write easy readers is to find books used by reading programs. Notice which words were used—and those which are not used, even though a child may understand their meaning. Notice the length of sentences. Find a young child, and see which books they love to read all by themselves.
Here is a list of some good easy readers –
The Little Red Hen
The Three Little Pigs
Dr. Seuss Books
P.D. Eastman Books
Little Bear Series by Else Holmelund Minarik
Dick and Jane Books by William S. Gray
Mittens Series by Lola M. Shafer
Biscuit Series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Frog and Toad Books by Arnold Lobel
Here are some links to some helpful word lists –
One Syllable Words (by vowels)–
http://www.ontrackreading.com/wordlists ... owel-sound
One Syllable Words (by consonants) –
http://www.ontrackreading.com/wordlists ... y-spelling
Dolch Sight Words –
Give a good example of an easy reader that you love, or a bad example of a book that is supposed to be an easy reader but really isn’t.
Or…. You may write a few introductory lines of an easy reader story of your own.
I enjoyed this lesson, and I was especially interested in your website. I think I'll pass it on to someone I know who home schools. You offer a valuable service.
Since I really need to direct my creativity in to my challenge entry for the week, I guess I'll stick with option one.
I'm not sure if it is actually an easy reader or a picture book, but one of my kids' favorites was Robert Lopshire's Put Me in the Zoo.
"There are two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it." Edith Wharton
'It is better to be liked for the true you, than to be loved for who people think you are.'
"In order to realize the worth of the anchor, one needs to feel the stress of the storm." Daily Encouragement Net (Stephen & Brooksyne Weber)
Thank you, Laurie. I have found that Polliwog Pages is especially helpful to homeschoolers. They don't usually have a place to display their writing. Not many see it besides their parents. Writing needs an audience. Also, I'm finding that homeschool teens enjoy the one-on-one tutored lessons. Thank you for passing on the information.
Yes, Holly, Put me in the Zoo is an excellent example of an easy reader - simple repeated words, humor, etc.
This is great Vonnie! That's also one of my favorite genres. My youngest was reading Junie B Jones books in kindergarten (She's 23 now!) She loved the series because it was a "chapter book" but one we could read together, often taking turns with her reading one side and I read the other. The Magic Tree house series were another favorite. I remember reading B is for Betsy when I was little! Since kids are learning to read by kindergarten more and more, those chapter books kind of fall in the easy reader genre. I used to buy the kids I Can Read books, which have different levels. One of the favorites was So Sick. It was the first book Lyd read all on her own and fit your guidelines perfectly. Then they had character books too like Rugrats and SpongeBob. Those books often included. Vocabulary words at the beginning or end. New words that couldn't be sounded out as easily. We'd go over those words first, then the kids would be excited to spot it in the book.
Since you love encouraging kids to read, I'll promote FW for Kids website. Amy and I are moderators there. Some of the kids have done devotions and we've had a few writing contests. It's been quiet lately though, so if you know kids who like to write...
Sometimes God calms the storm; Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child
Yes, those are good early reader chapter books.
Chapter books are not as easy to write as they sound either. The author has to keep simple vocabulary and sentence structure in mind, but also develop a little more complex of a plot ( or series of mini plots) above the simple easy reader. These usually have a mystery or mulitple conflicts, yet they must come to a conclusion within less than a hundred pages.
A list of tricky words is good to have at the beginning of an easy reader. Hopefully a parent or teacher will take the time to go over these with the child. It will help increase their vocabulary and comprehension.
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