I’ve been bringing home more easy readers than picture books lately. Picture books, while wonderful in their own way, don’t really hold A’s attention the way easy reader books do. Since he’s been handling books from day one, he’s careful about turning the pages. I don’t have to worry about him manhandling these books. I usually bring home easy reader non-fiction for the photographs. Lately, my 21-month-old has been obsessed with trains. Trains and construction trucks mostly. While we were at the library last week, I stumbled upon a new easy reader set published by Stone Arch Books.
The first book we read was Big Train by Adria Klein. This book is now in constant rotation in our household. And not just for one read, but we read it up to 5 times in a row. Big Train is the story of a lonely little Engine who goes looking for his friends. The repetition in the book is what I really enjoy. The sentences are very short, making it appropriate for toddlers, despite being an easy reader. The illustrations are cartoonish and wonderfully colorful. The full color pages are well detailed, with lots of little aspects to point to. A learned how to say “squirrel” during one of our reading sessions with big train. One by one, Engine finds his friends, who are all hiding in different places. Once they are all together, he becomes a big train. This is a great book for new readers, but I prefer it more toddlers and preschoolers. What I like about the repetition is that its easy for young children to memorize the entire book and be able to “read” it aloud, even if they can’t quite make sense of the letters on the page yet.
At the end of each book, there is a snapshot of the other train books in this set. The one A kept happily pointing to at the end of Big Train, is Circus Train. Although it took him a day to really get into this book, it’s now replaced Big Train as his weekly favorite. While I appreciate Big Train for its repetition and simplicity, I like Circus Train for its subtle handling of concepts such as colors, animals, and number. The circus train is coming to town, and each car if filled with a different set animals. The lions are in the yellow car, the tigers are in the orange car, etc. I like that the cars and animals are color-coordinated to match exactly. We go through and make the different animal noise on each page. I point out the color of the color, and sometimes we count the number of animals in each car. There is so much to do on each page, that can make it a very interactive read. It has the same cartoony illustrations as Big Train (thanks to illustrator Craig Cameron)! This one doesn’t really tell a story the way that Big Train does, but it does cover a lot of information. It’s also very age appropriate for young toddlers.
Other books in the set are: