One of your first grader's biggest challenges is learning to read. It's a skill that takes patience and sometimes it doesn't come as quickly as your child wants. While waiting for those words to start jumping off the page, read to them!

There are many books out there that help children deal with their eagerness to read. Cheryl Coon, author of Books to Grow With, which suggests stories that tackle life's challenges, says the following titles are the cream of the crop:

  • When Will I Read by Miriam Cohen. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. (Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1996) This book is for the child who is not learning to read as fast as his peers. Jim is eager to read, but his teacher keeps telling him. “You'll learn when you're ready.” He discovers that a sign on the class hamster box is torn and actually reads, “Do let the hamsters out.” When he tells the teacher, she tells him that he is finally reading on his own. “It's a nice way to remind children that they're reading when reading anything,” Coon says, whether a book is open or not.
  • Grover Learns to Read by Dan Elliot. Illustrated by Normand Chartier. (Children's Television Workshop,1999) This may come as a surprise, but your first grader may be worried that you'll stop reading to him now that he can read himself. That's the issue covered in this book. The main character, Grover, is so afraid of losing his bedtime stories that he hides his reading ability. When he finally comes clean, his mother tells him that she will always read to him and the best part is, he can read to her, too! Coon calls it: “A sound premise that may reassure your early reader that there's no downside to learning to read.”
  • Marvin One Too Many by Katherine Paterson. Illustrated by Jane Clark Brown. (HarperTrophy, 2003) Marvin is new to his school and to first grade. He has trouble reading, but thinks his family is too busy to read to him. Marvin is teased until he finally confesses his reading problems to his parents. Low and behold, his father tells him he was also the last in his class to read. Coon says this simple, yet realistic portrayal, is a great way to show your child that it's okay to ask for help.

Reading is an adventure. But learning to read can be frustrating. These books can jumpstart a conversation with a child knee-deep in the journey. Plus, identifying with characters is a cathartic process which helps children understand and express their feelings.

No story can remove the struggle from learning to read, but hearing about others who came out the other end of the tunnel can help your child approach his first attempts armed with patience and a positive attitude.

Recommended Reading

Books to Grow With, by Cheryl Coon