Early reader comic books give kids who are just beginning to read an opportunity to step away from workbook texts and enjoy the stories!

Early reader comic books give kids who are just beginning to read an opportunity to step away from workbook texts and enjoy the stories!

While teaching my son to read this year, I was faced with a problem. I mean, besides the attention span of a six-year-old when he has to do something he isn’t exactly enjoying. Or the unpredictability of English reading that I was now attempting to explain.

The problem was that, by the ripe age of six, my beginning reader had already fallen in love with such gems of literature as The Wizard of Oz, Henry Huggins, and even The Hobbit. Some of the books we read aloud, and many of them he listened to as audiobooks. And compared to The Hobbit, the pages of his early readers were definitely falling flat.

I think it is a common problem for children, especially for those who have been enjoying books throughout their early childhood. When learning to read, they often feel uninspired by the text, and their attention wanders off.

For my son, we had to pick and choose the early reader books that he would feel interested in. That’s when we discovered that comic books work really great for practising reading!

When an author tries to string together some coherent text from a few simple words that a beginning reader can sound out, it is indeed difficult to come up with something better than, “There is a cat. The cat is big”. But if you put the same kind of words into a comic book bubble and accompany them by expressive drawings, suddenly you have got a little story!

Silly Lilly in Four Seasons by Agnes Rosenstiehl - a perfect early reader comic book!
Silly Lilly in Four Seasons by Agnes Rosenstiehl 

And that was the main focus of this collection of beginner readers – to collect comic books that while being short and simple, would hold some real interest for a child of six.

What Are Comic Books for Kids?

Not very long ago at all, if someone had mentioned comics to me, my first thought would have been, “Like… Batman or Superman?” Something more for a teenager than my little boy who still gives his stuffed animals names like “Fluffy”.

But when the before mentioned boy showed interest in comic books and I was persuaded to research them a little closer, I came to realize that I had been wrong. There is indeed a whole world of comic books for kids out there!

Comic books and graphic novels for kids shouldn’t have any violent content, but focus instead on the topics that kids can relate to – exploring their world, making friends, and learning about themselves. So, we felt like we hit the mother lode when we discovered an amazing series of comic books for beginning readers – TOON Books (and no, this isn’t an ad, and we haven’t received any of them for free, but rather found them at a library sale).

There are currently over fifty titles in the TOON series. Like many early readers, they are divided into levels. Level 1 books feature two panels per page, short simple sentences, and about 100-300 words. Level 2 feature a few panels per page, longer sentences, and close to 600 words. Level 3 takes the count even higher, and there is also a series for independent young readers.

But my favourite part about the TOON series? Those fifty titles feature thirty seven authors from all over the world! And with comic books, it means that you are not only introduced to different style of writing and different topics, but unique art styles. There are comic books made on brown paper bags with crayons; watercolour comic books; and digitally draw comics. It’s a great and diverse series, and I can recommend any of its books for early readers!

I have highlighted a few of our favourites from the TOON series below along with other outstanding comic books for beginner readers. The list primarily consists of level 1 and level 2 books, since it’s usually most difficult to find engaging books for that level.

1

Stinky by Eleanor Davis

Who would think that a comic book about stereotype and acceptance could take the perspective of a monster? His name is Stinky, he loves pickled onions and mud puddles, and he is deadly afraid of kids. The story is clever and fun to read, and this book has become a fast favourite with our kids who delighted in Stinky’s lovable and completely innocent grossness.

Best features: Funny, clever, and just right for this age group!

Reading difficulty: Intermediate

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2

Little Robot by Ben Hatke

When a little girl finds a robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Together they explore the world and become friends.

There is a lot of action and adventures going on in this beautifully drawn comic book, and that will keep early readers glued to the pages for the duration of the story. The whole comic book is over a hundred pages long, but many pages don't have words.

Best features: Beautiful illustrations and robots!

Reading difficulty: Easy

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3

An Elephant & Piggie Biggie! by Mo Willems

Gerald is careful. Piggie is not. Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can. Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to. In other words, Gerald and Piggie are best friends. They're always up for something fun, and my son, who is still struggling with reading, likes stories about them.

As far as I know, he is not alone - Elephant and Piggie is probably the most well-known book on this list. There is a good reason for that: the stories are simple, fun, and relatable, and there is often a valuable lesson about friendship and kindness included.

At the moment, the series consists of 31 books! That's a lot to choose from. If you are looking to add a few Elephant and Piggie books to your library, I recommend this particular treasury - An Elephant and Piggie Biggie! It includes five books - Today I Will Fly!; Watch Me Throw the Ball!; Can I Play Too?; the award-winning Let's Go For a Drive!; and I Really Like Slop!

Best features: Very relatable, and if your children like these books, there are so many of them!

Reading difficulty: Easy

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4

Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today? by Agnes Rosenstiehl 

A comic book that includes a vignette for every day of the week showing a peppy girl’s fun and games. Every day she is trying out new roles for herself. While older kids can use it as an early reader, younger kids would just enjoy the familiar situations, and both would fall in love with Lilly whose motto in this book is, “I can be anything!”

If your children like this book, check out its companion - Silly Lilly and The Four Seasons.

Best features: Cute and spunky girl as a main character and the feel of vintage books.

Reading difficulty: Easy

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5

Benny and Penny in Lights Out! by Geoffrey Hayes

Benny and Penny are a brother and sister mice. In this instalment, they are going to bed - the process is full of impediments, rituals and funny antics that many families with young children will recognize.

We love Benny and Penny because we have a very similar dynamics in our family with an older brother who likes to tease and to make fun games and a younger sister who is both sweet and spunky. Objectively though, they’re wonderfully realistic, and the comics about them make very nice slice-of-life stories for preschoolers that are also easy to read.

There are five more stories about Benny and Penny! Our personal favourites are The Toy Breaker and Lost and Found.

Best features: Even though they're about mice, they're one of the best slice-of-life stories for the age group I've read!

Reading difficulty: Intermediate

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6

Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas! by Philippe Coudray 

Knitting a sheep a sweater? Catching a squirrel? Crossing a river? Benjamin Bear does everything in his own funny way! In this series of anecdotes, Philippe Coudray creates a world, both whimsical and philosophical.

Both my son and I enjoyed this book. I chuckled, and he laughed out loud, while reading it. Sometimes it took us a few moments to get the joke, but afterwards it left us feeling good as if we had successfully solved a puzzle. I highly recommend this book, as the combination of story depth and simple language was quite remarkable.

Best features: Funny, quirky and smart - well-suited for children with a good sense of irony!

Reading difficulty: Easy

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7

We Dig Worms! by Kevin McCloskey

Photo Credit: www.amazon.com

What do worms do all day? How do they see? And why are they so cold and squishy? This comic book takes early readers from "ew!" to "wow!" as they learn about the different ways worms work hard to help the earth.

Best features: Fascinating scientific facts in an early reader format

Reading difficulty: Intermediate

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8

Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Kanata

A heartwarming story of a kitten and how she became a part of one normal Japanese family.

Most animal books can be roughly divided into two categories - books where animals act and feel like humans and books where animals are presented with naturalistic objectivity, usually as observed by a human. In that regard, the book about Chi is unique. Chi most definitely has a voice. Her human family usually hears it as "meow" (be ready to perfect your meowing while reading this book!), but the reader is fortunate enough to get a translation. That causes quite a few ironic situations! Yet, the story about Chi is undeniably a story about a real cat. While reading it, children will learn in detail about the peculiarities of cat potty training, trips to a vet, and moving houses.

There are a few good reasons to try Chi's Sweet Home with children! It will definitely be a success with animal lovers. It is also an interesting multicultural read, introducing children to everyday life in a Japanese family. But it's also a good book for early readers! While it will take some time to tackle the whole series (if you follow Chi's adventures to the end, you're looking at 1920 pages!), individual chapters are short, and the words are simple.

Best features: Perfect for animal lovers and a gentle introduction to Japanese culture.

Reading difficulty: Advanced

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9

Owly: The Way Home and The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton

Owly is a kind, yet lonely, little owl who is always on the lookout for new friends and adventures. If you have a beginning reader who loves long stories, but gets easily overwhelmed by many words, this is a perfect comic book to start with. Some pages have a couple of words, and others have none at all, but the story doesn't suffer from it one little bit. Owly is amazing in how much feeling it conveys with just a few words!

Compared to other early readers, it is pleasantly lengthy (160 pages), which allows for some plot and character development that children who are used to being read more advanced books by adults will appreciate.

If your children like the stories about Owly, there are several more books in the series.

Best features: Kind stories and the possibility to practice storytelling skills since there is almost no text.

Reading difficulty: Very Easy

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10

Maya Makes a Mess by Rutu Modan

The ultimate test of the person’s table manners is when they dine with a queen, which is what happens with Maya in this playful story. While I observed the consequences of this arrangement with horror, our kids giggled over the pages of this book and soon learned it by heart.

Best features: The lack of a moral can be repelling to some parents, but kids love it!

Reading difficulty: Intermediate

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While primarily meant for beginning readers, these comic books can be enjoyed by the whole family! My three-year-old daughter loved Silly Lilly, Benny and Penny, and Stinky, and I found reading Chi’s Sweet Home very pleasant.

More for Book Lovers

Not early readers, but just great graphic novels for kids!

Play a free printable game of guessing the picture book by the first line!

Encourage children to make a book about themselves with a free printable template!

Thanks for reading!

Early reader comic books give kids who are just beginning to read an opportunity to step away from workbook texts and enjoy the stories!

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