As Julie Andrews sang, "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start." In May 2017, Simon & Schuster will launch a new Ready-to-Read level for children who are just starting to read, aptly named Ready-to-Go! The books, each with a cover burst that says "New Readers Start Here," will be shelved in bookstores and libraries alongside the other Ready-to-Read levels, and the various series debuts will feature popular animated characters from Batman to Daniel Tiger. Valerie Garfield anticipates that Simon & Schuster will be publishing at least six titles in the Ready-to-Go! program per year.
"Ready-to-Go! came about from our sneaking suspicion that there was an audience of kids who needed a bit more of a ramp-up into the beginning reader world," says Garfield. The Ready-to-Go! line is designed specifically to prepare readers for the more traditional stories seen in the Pre-Level One books, providing a seamless transition for children who are ready to start reading.
Each 32-page book (available in hardcover, paperback and e-book formats) has only 100 words, and many of them are repeated. Every one of those words is either a frequently used "sight word" from the standard Dolch or Fry lists (such as "me" and "the" and other common words children learn by sight); a rhyming word from a featured word family (such as "land" and "sand," for easy-to-identify spelling patterns); or a well-loved character name, initially paired with a small image. "To further build reader confidence, the Ready-to-Go! books repeat many sentences of the same structure with only one word changed, such as 'We play in the sand. We play in a band,' " says Siobhan Ciminera. An introductory page encourages children to sound out words and get familiar with them; in the back, reading comprehension questions prompt kids to interact with the story again and think critically about it. "These prompts also help parents," says Ciminera.
"Engaging a beginning reader can be tough," Garfield says. "I know, I have one right now, and giving parents some prompts is an easy--and I think helpful--way to engage them in the process. Many parents think they just hand a child a book and off they go, but it doesn't work like that." She adds, "Parents can and should be reading along with their children in the very early stages. Kids may need nudging or even a 'way to go!' to encourage them to keep going."
Back to Julie Andrews: "When you read, you begin with A B C," but then? Dive straight into the Ready-to-Go! books. They'll be right there with the Ready-to-Reads.