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          1960                       1958

Easy Readers
Early Readers  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s  2000s   2010s

           1985                        1992












Remember the excitement you felt when you first started reading by yourself? How proud you were when you read to a willing listener? Maybe you practiced reading the same book over and over. Or perhaps you soon wanted more words and more stories. Whether new readers start slowly or take off in a flash, there are many books for them to choose from.

For many years, children learned to read from primers, a type of first text book that included alphabet books and later, basal readers. Basal readers were a change from the earlier primers. They began in the mid-19th century with the McGuffey Readers. They were based on phonics, the sounding out of letters and words, and were organized in levels to teach specific skills, from beginning to more complicated.

After World War I, reading experts began pushing for changes. The Scott, Foresman Company developed new readers that included the suggestions of the experts. In 1930, they began publishing the Dick and Jane series. The stories featured the same characters in everyday activities. They used a whole word or sight word method, which became known as "look-say." Simple words were repeated often, and the pictures helped the reader connect the word with its meaning. 

The Dick and Jane Books were widely used into the 1970s and were probably the most famous basal readers ever. However, problems developed in the 1950s, largely due to the book Why Johnny Can't Read by Rudolf Flesch. Flesch believed that the vocabulary was limited and the stories were overly simplistic. While children learned to read with the Dick and Jane series, critics thought the books were boring. Much debate developed in the country over whether they were turning children off to reading. Many wanted books that were more fun. 

In 1955, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) was asked by William Spaulding of Houghton Mifflin to "write me a story that first graders couldn't put down." But Geisel was under contract with Random House, so the two companies came to an agreement. Houghton Mifflin would publish the education edition for the classrooms, and Random House the trade edition for bookstores. In early 1957, The Cat in the Hat hit the market. It was an instant success, especially for Random House, and led to the creation of the Beginner Books imprint. That same year, Harper & Row published Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, the first title in their I Can Read series. The "modern" easy reader was born.

Other easy readers soon followed, with different publishers having their own style. Within these lines of easy readers, there are usually several levels, from the very easiest books with only a few words on a page, to the higher levels, sometimes with chapters, for the more accomplished reader. Whatever these books are called, Easy Readers . . . Beginning Readers . . . Emergent Readers . . .  they are familiar to us all and remind us of those exciting moments when we were first learning to read. 

Over the years I have collected an assortment. Many titles are from the well known trade publishers. Others include lesser known titles from some of the curriculum publishers in the education market, as well as a few earlier primers/basal readers. I hope you enjoy the memories as you browse through the fun variety of stories and illustration styles.  

                                                    - Kathy

(Easy Readers Con't)
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