30+ of the Best Independent Readers for Young Bookworms
When you have a fledgling reader in your home or classroom, it’s important to find the right books for them to strengthen their newfound skills and nurture their love of reading. You want to build upon their reading confidence as well as help them select books that interest them.
It can be easy to default to old series you may have grown up with as a child - and we certainly acknowledge the nostalgia you may feel to have a young person enjoy a story you loved too! It is important though to consider whether children are being exposed to books that represent a variety of lived experiences - both familiar and unfamiliar to them - when selecting books for young readers. We know that children develop healthier worldviews and senses of self when they read books that are both “windows and mirrors,” meaning ones that give insight into other people’s lives and those that reflect their own experiences.
In this collection of books, we’ve prioritized independent reading books that are best suited for new readers and that affirm and reflect the diversity of young readers. While we have not attached a reading level or grade-level requirement, we do encourage you to view this list in ascending order from most simple to most complex.
For the complete list of recommended reading, visit our Bookshop page. We’ve included a snapshot of some of our most recommended and kid favorite series below!
Ty’s Travels Series (My First I Can Read)
Author: Kelly Starling Lyons | Illustrator: Nina Mata | Publisher: HarperCollins
The Ty’s Travels series is perfect for emerging readers. It’s part of the “My First I Can Read” collection meaning it contains basic language, word repetition and engaging illustrations. Kids will enjoy getting to know the lovable characters in these books, and setting off on adventure after adventure with Ty, his friends and family! Don’t Miss: All Aboard, Beach Day, Lab Magic, Zip, Zoom and Winter Wonderland!
Mo Jackson Series (Penguin Young Readers Level 2/Step Into Reading 2)
Author: David A. Adler | Illustrator: Sam Ricks | Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
This fun series about Mo Jackson is perfect for the sports enthusiasts in your lives! Mo is a young Black kid who loves sports more than anything, even though he isn’t usually the most talented or skilled on his teams. He plays with a lot of heart and encouragement from his teammates. This level two series features basic vocabulary and short sentences.
Author: Saadia Faruqii | Illustrator: Hatem Aly | Publisher: Capstone
Every book in this series focuses on Yasmin and her Pakistani American family. Yasmin is fun, creative and curious - the perfect combination when it comes to storybook adventures! Topics span from fashion to sports to future jobs to friendship and more, there’s a little something for everyone. This series is great for emergent readers because it features a variety of realistic and relatable scenarios for kids and accessible language and vocabulary. New readers will love reading a chapter book, and not be too intimidated by it because they’re short.
National Geographic Readers (Levels Pre-Reader/1/2/3)
Publisher: National Geographic Kids
Nonfiction books like these National Geographic Readers are perfect for learning new information and practicing unfamiliar language and vocabulary. Nat Geo readers come in a variety of levels - so you can find the perfect one for kids just starting to read independently to those who are ready for more complex sentence structure and length. They also come in super interesting topics like ocean life, space exploration, travel, and so much more!
Loves Science Series (I Can Read)
Author: Kimberly Derting & Shelli R. Johannes | Illustrator: Joelle Murray | Publisher: Greenwillow Books
These Level 3 I Can Read books are STEM-themed stories that feature a diverse cast of clever main characters. They showcase girls who love STEM and introduce readers to a variety of topics relating to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Don’t miss the picture books for even more fun with these spunky and curious girls!
If your child loves science and is ready for more challenging books, don’t miss the Zoey and Sassafras series! These early chapter books average about 100 pages, and are full of fun, experimentation and learning!
For more girl power protagonists we love, don’t miss these incredible series: Mia Mayhem, Jojo Makoons, Sofia Martinez, Jasmine Toguchi, Jada Jones, Ivy and Bean, Lola Levine, Princess Truly, Sarai and Mindy Kim!
Pedro and Katie Woo Series
Author: Fran Manushkin | Illustrator: Tammie Lyon | Publisher: Picture Window Books
We first met Katie and Pedro in the Katie Woo series (that has more than 50 early chapter books!) and now, readers are delighted that Pedro has his own spin-off series. These two friends get into all sorts of mischief and fun, and always learn important lessons along the way about friendship, teamwork, ethics and values. These books typically have about three chapters each, so they are perfect for emergent readers who are still practicing stamina yet ready to read chapter books on their own!
Ana and Andrew Series
Author: Chrstine Platt | Illustrator: Sharon Sordo | Publisher: North Star Editions
Ana and Andrew live in Washington, D.C., with their parents. They often visit their family in Savannah, Georgia and Trinidad, though, so they’re constantly learning new things about African American history and culture. These early chapter books showcase a variety of topics relating to sports, travel, culture, and family life and while they all have a learning component, they’re also super fun and relatable for young readers to enjoy.
Ballet Bunnies Series
Author: Swapna Reddy | Illustrator: Binny Talib | Publisher: North Star Editions
Do you have a tiny dancer in your life? They will love this series! These imaginative books take place at Miss Luisa’s School of Dance - a magical place with magical little bunnies that talk and do ballet! When Millie starts at Miss Luisa’s she first discovers the bunnies - but nobody else knows about them. They help Millie learn her new steps and overcome the butterflies she feels when she goes on stage. These are such sweet stories and include full-color illustrations in each chapter!
Astrid and Apollo Series
Author: V.T. Bidania | Illustrator: Dara Dashia Lee | Publisher: Picture Window Books
Astrid and Apollo Lee are eight-year-old Hmong-American twins who have a wonderful relationship. They enjoy doing all sorts of things (and not always the same things!) such as fishing, camping, attending fairs, playing sports and so much more. The content of these stories is relatable and accessible to young kids. These early chapter books also include full-color illustrations!
Miles Lewis Series
Author: Kelly Starling Lyons | Illustrator: Wayne Spencer | Publisher: Penguin Workshop
This series is a spin-off from the Jada Jones series and is another great STEM-themed series we love. Miles loves science and sports, so each of these books includes some fun combination of the two. The first book in the series, King of the Ice, explores concepts of physics and ice skating. These books typically have about 100 pages each, and while they have illustrations, are more complex than some of the other chapter books we’ve recommended.
Here are a few more of our favorite series we can’t help but share with you:
The Secret Explorers
Ways to Make Sunshine, Ways to Grow Love, Ways to Share Joy
Click on the graphic below to visit our Bookshop page!