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    The First One Hundred Books

    February 13, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    In the very first month of 2006, E. began learning to read. He was three-and-a-half-years-old. Right before we really got going, I read Charlotte Mason’s opinion that children should be given books right from the start, that there would be nothing more satisfying than to put each lesson into action immediately. Around the same time, I read a post that Cindy wrote saying that she rewarded her children after they had read their first one hundred books. All of this is to say that reading lessons meant reading books from the very beginning. I kept a list, and, by the end of 2008, E. had read one hundred books and earned the right to a Trip With Dad, to be taken in the spring when the weather is a bit better.

    Today, I’m going to share the list of the one hundred books.

    For starters, there are Bob Books, which begin from the very first lesson. A child only has to know four sounds in order to read the first book.

    Bob Books: Set 1
    Bob Books: Set 2
    Bob Books: Set 3
    Bob Books: Set 4
    Bob Books: Set 5

    Five sets means that alone is the first forty books. By the time a child is through Bob Books, they are right at easy-reader level. However, our last Bob Book was actually number fifty-four, and that is because I threw in a few works that fit within the Bob Books level, sometimes because E. asked, and sometimes because I wanted to. Among these are some traditional children’s tales which I printed off and placed in a binder, courtesy of The Baldwin Project. These included The Boy and the Goat, Chicken Little, and The Little Red Hen.

    This also means we read:

    Go, Dog, Go!

    I. hate. this. book. It is not only the farthest possible thing from literature, it also has no plot.

    No. Plot.

    However, comma.

    Kids love this book. Early on, it is important to woo them. Therefore, we read this book.

    Over and over until my brain bled.

    But I digress.

    After leaving Bob Books behind, we moved on to the Billy and Blaze series:

    Billy and Blaze
    Blaze and the Forest Fire
    Blaze and the Mountain Lion
    Love You Forever
    Blaze and the Lost Quarry
    Blaze and the Gray Spotted Pony
    Fantastic Frogs
    Blaze and Thunderbolt
    Blaze Finds the Trail
    Blaze Shows the Way

    Okay, so I know there were a couple extras thrown in there. The book about frogs was a gift from my sister. It was actually very informative for an easy reader. The Love You Forever book was something he picked up and asked to read. I allowed him to. He logically pointed out that a boy that naughty and that unrepentant would be unlikely to grow up to be a nice person the way the book said. Of course, he said this in his own baby way, but that was the gist of the conversation. All children do naughty things like the boy in the story; the problem is the lack of correction. I don’t know why that book is so popular. The longer I am a parent, the less I like it.


    So by now we had completed 64 books. All of them were read aloud. Very few were read in one sitting. Most, I required he read twice. Once to learn, the second to flow with and better comprehend. When necessary, I had gone through the book in advance and given lessons on the white board specific to what we were reading that day.

    I always required that he read a book at or above his current ability in order to receive “credit” on the chart. This way, we didn’t get stuck in easy readers for a year, but he was still able to read simple books as often as he liked. My goal has always been for him to acquire a taste for truly good literature. Easy readers reinforce reading, but they do not teach good taste, nor do they encourage advanced reading skills, etc. My opinion so far is that one should try to get past that level of reading as quickly as possible. I say this knowing full well that I am sure to have at least one student who gets “stuck” in said level.

    From here, we went back a step because E. began to struggle a bit and frankly, I had forgotten all about Frog and Toad and a child just shouldn’t learn to read without reading Frog and ToadFrog and Toad is the ultimate standard for easy readers and everything I just said about this level of reading doesn’t apply to much of anything written by Arnold Lobel.

    Frog and Toad Are Friends
    Days with Frog and Toad

    From here, I did a combination of Nate the Great and more Arnold Lobel:

    Nate the Great
    Nate the Great
    Saves the King of Sweden
    Small Pig
    Mouse Tales
    Uncle Elephant
    Nate the Great
    and the Musical Note
    Nate the Great
    and the Stolen Base

    After that, we simply slowly moved through books we had in our library, trying to advance his ability a bit with each book. It helps that he’s sort of hyperlexic.

    About halfway through this, I began to allow him to read the books on his own. This means that he didn’t have to read the entire book aloud in order to get “credit” on his chart. He had proven he was capable, and he had also proven that I was slowing him down because as the books got longer, it became harder and harder to get it read (out loud) in a reasonable amount of time. Once we allowed this, Si expressed concern that he might be reading too fast, so we began to require him to keep a list of words he didn’t know with corresponding page numbers so that we could go back and build vocabulary together.

    These books below, by the way, he has now read over and over. He is a rereader, just like his Auntie MPL.

    Doctor De Soto
    The Adventures of
    Grandfather Frog
    You Can Do It, Same

    Next was some text book on amphibians and reptiles that he slowly and painfully read aloud to me for what seemed like a year, every single night while I made dinner. Then, he quizzed me on the details of the little critters. More than once, I had to admit my lack of comprehension.

    It was totally embarrassing.

    The Boxcar Children
    The Deserted Library Mystery
    The Story of Doctor Dolittle
    Little House in the Big Woods
    Stuart Little
    Old Mother West Wind
    By the Shores of Silver Lake
    The Long Winter
    On the Banks of Plum Creek
    Little House on the Prairie
    Mystery Ranch
    The Story of Benjamin Franklin
    Little Town on the Prairie
    The Story of Daniel Boone
    The Story of Geronimo

    Enid Meadowcroft’s The Story of Davey Crockett

    The Story of Buffalo Bill

    Margaret Leighton’s The Story of General Custer

    The Story of George Washington
    Mr. Bell Invents the Telephone

    The Wonder Clock

    Charlotte’s Web

    Richard of Jamestown

    And that’s all. For the list, at least. And, yes, he read Farmer Boy, and no, I don’t know why it isn’t on the list. That was his favorite one and he read it over and over. All I can think is that I neglected to write it down. Life is more an art than a science, is it not?

    Now, I am constantly adding to his book stack. Pretty much every book we read aloud as a family is then placed in a pile from which he can choose a book to read. For now, I prefer that he hear the book aloud before reading it on his own. My hunch is that this enhances his comprehension because he has heard the book in an adult voice, which is to say a voice that expresses comprehension. Hopefully, this is training the voice inside his head to mature.

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  • Reply Rahime February 17, 2009 at 6:57 am

    I loved the Boxcar Children books when I was a kid…last time I saw them in the bookstore there were TONS of them…I think I read the first 6 or so. Oh, and at around two
    Go Dog Go was my favorite book along with Big Dog, Little Dog.

  • Reply Brandy February 16, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    I’m glad you all enjoyed the list. I love it when other people post their lists, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’ll be interesting to see how different this list is from his sister’s. She will be starting her own this fall, if all goes according to plan…

    Auntie MPL: You read Boxcar Children? I never heard of them before recently, but I think I would have liked them, too. We only own a few. They are pretty formulaic after awhile, but good fun.

    Mystie: A Bible is a good idea! We did something similar, giving one to E. for his first Christmas after he had become able to read it (or, at least, most of it). We chose a children’s Bible, something I really regret now for all sorts of reasons. When it died due to misuse by our resident two-year-old, it was replaced with a better version, better binding, the whole deal.

    KM: Congratulations on your fledgling reader! Funny about the library card. Kids are strange that way, though. I remember that E. went through a resistant stage and so I asked him about it and it turned out that he feared learning to read meant I’d quit reading aloud to him! Once I assured him we’d still read together, we didn’t have any more problems. πŸ™‚

    Wendi: You might still be able to do something similar for your bigger kiddos. I remember that when I was older–eight maybe–my father challenged me to read “real” literature (I was in a Babysitter’s Club stage that frightened him, I think). I took his advice and relished the wonders of great books. Making a list and being rewarded for it would have made it even more fun, I think! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Wendi February 14, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Thanks so much for this post. I missed out on doing this for my oldest, but I would like to do it with my younger two. My daughter is just about ready to start learning to read.

    I really appreciate the booklist. My oldest is an avid reader – and I too want to make sure that he is developing a taste for quality literature – which can be hard to find. I wondered if he would be ready to read Little House books – and then you mentioned that your son reads them AFTER you read them aloud – great idea.

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 14, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Thanks so much for the list! First Son has already read through some of the first Bob set. I don’t think we’ve pulled them out since before Christmas, so I’ll have to see how he would do with them now.

    Did I mention I was all excited to let him get his very own library card when he read his first books? I offered it to him as a great thing – “Let’s go get one just for you because now you can read!” and he said, shrugging, “No, I don’t think so. I like you to check out the books.”

    Oh well. It’s more important he read them than that he be excited to check them out of the library with his own card.

  • Reply Mystie February 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Thanks, Brandy! I saw the 100-books idea from you first, and started my oldest (5 1/2) on it last fall. He’s at 28 books (the first 18 were Bob Books and then he was ready to move on) right now, and just started finishing readers all in one sitting and wanting to read throughout the day.

    Hans is almost done with the Rod and Staff first grade readers, and so now I’m going to have to find books for him! I appreciate your list and comments. πŸ™‚

    We bought him his own Bible (an ESV) that he will get as a present after reading 100 books.

    I started keeping track of his (and my) reading on — have you seen that site? I’m spending way too much time on it. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Auntie MPL February 13, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Please tell E that his auntie loves the Boxcar Children books. I understand there are a jillion of them now, but I think our school library only had 3 or 4 and I really enjoyed them.

    I had forgotten about those books and will need to add them to my own list for my kiddos.

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