Brilliant Books For First Readers

dr dog

Bridge the gap between picture books and chapter books with these great first readers, from Dr Dog to Little Tim, chosen by Justine Wall.

Kids in reception or year 1? Then you’re probably all too familiar with Biff, Chip & co. and as keen as the rest of us to read something with more plot and personality at bedtime. As little ones go from listening to reading to themselves, these first readers offer a simple structure and plenty of pictures to get them through the story but with more challenging language or complex rhyme.

First readers

  1. Dr Dog, Babette Cole
    Babette Cole’s wonderful Dr Dog, the trusty canine physician of the Gumboyle family, flies to Brazil for a medical conference, only to have to make a speedy return as the inept Gumboyles are plagued by a variety of infections, from nits to worms. Make sure you follow this tale up with the fabulous A Dose of Dr Dog.
  2. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, Lynley Dodd
    Another first reader focusing on canine companions, Lynley Dodd’s series follow Hairy Maclary, a terrier of indeterminate breed, on a series of adventures through the local countryside and town. The illustrations are delightful; but it’s the cumulative rhyme of the narratives that make these picture books firm favourites.
  3. Little Tim and The Brave Sea Captain, Edward Ardizzone
    The first in the Little Tim series. Ardizzone’s exquisite illustrations and lyrical narrative style will have all children transfixed: Tim yearns to go to sea to become a sailor, however his parents say he is far too young. The intrepid Tim stows away on a steamer, and a series of wonderful adventures ensues. If you can, buy the whole series, which come with the audio books read by Stephen Fry. Bliss.
  4. Louis’ Dream Plane, Terry Milne
    A delightful tale about the lure of aeroplanes and flying. Little Louis admires his classmate Toby’s plane, and ‘borrows’ it for a little while: however, he finds himself on a soul-searching journey and reunites Toby with his plane, and in the process makes a friend for life. Milne’s gentle style of narrative and drawing are particularly good for bedtime reading.
  5. Stick Man, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
    A much overlooked tale from the creators of The Gruffalo. Stick Man, who is mistaken for a variety objects, finds himself further and further away from his precious family. Finally, after a series of extremely unfortunate events, he lands up back in his beloved Family Tree.
  6. Paddington’s Busy Day, Michael Bond
    Although not the first in the series, this is a great introduction to the delights and misadventures of our beloved Peruvian Bear. One rainy day, Paddington, in his inimitable style, manages to fall through a roof, paint the fruitbowl blue, and immerse himself in wallpaper paste. The illustrations by R W Alley are particularly brilliant.
 Justine Wall is a teacher, designer and writer. She has a 6 year old son. Follow Justine on Instagram @hectorandhaddock, Twitter on @HectorHaddock or visit Hector and Haddock