High quality turquoise level early readers – books which help children make connections and build empathy


When a child reaches turquoise level on school banded schemes, often they have mastered decoding but still need to work on fluency or comprehension or both. However, there doesn’t seem to be the same awareness of the need for some children at this point to be able to make meaningful connections with the story or book they are reading if they are going to be motivated to keep practising their reading. If you take a look at many turquoise levelled readers you will notice they are really boring. The good news is that we discovered somewhat by accident when my son was learning to read, that there are some books at this level that really stand out from the rest. Later, this led me to seek out other books, including the fantastic early readers from Maverick publishing and more recently the Bloomsbury Young Readers collection.

Having made good progress with his reading since the spring-term of reception my son seemed to get ‘stuck’ on Turquoise level towards the end of year 1. One of the reasons for this was he had lost his motivation he needed a new reason to read. Two books he really liked were: Aston (Oxford University Press) and Skara Brae (Collins Big Cats). Below are mini-reviews of these and some other readers which have since been published. Each offers children of different interests various ways to connect with the story or non-fiction topic and would be great choices for any early reader collection.

Astron – Turquoise fiction reader

Oxford University Press (Story Sparks)
Author and illustrator: John Dougherty and Louise Pigott

At the start of the story an alien gets separated from his parents. A brilliant story opener you really want to know what happens next. The Alien comes across a space ship, and through it’s special thought web it can listen to the little girl’s thoughts. My son was intrigued by this idea. The story encourages the reader to think about what the characters are feeling really helping young readers to engage with the story. My son loved reading this when he was a developing reader, and so did his sister who is almost 3 years older. There aren’t many readers that can do that!  It also left plenty to talk about and revisit.

The Lost Village of Skara Brae – Turquoise non-fiction reader

Collins Big Cat

This non-fiction book about the Stone Age village of Skara Brae on the Orkney islands in Scotland really grabbed my son’s attention. With a map and annotated photographs of this ancient site, there was plenty to spark his curiosity.  The text explained how the site was discovered after a storm, explored the site and how people might have lived. He’s been interested in the Stone Age ever since.

Woah What’s the Weather – Turquoise non-fiction reader

Maverick Publishing

My son from an early age was fascinated by weather this is just the kind of book he would have loved as an emerging reader. The non-fiction topic is introduced by two Aliens, adding both commentary and humour. The text is also broken up in a number of ways, great for kids who get bored easily by large chunks of text. The story would especially appeal to budding scientists, with pictures and explanations which include: rain gauges, thermometers and weather vanes, which could inspire kids to make their own weather observation. A great book for readers of all ages.  There is a short quiz at the back, as in all the Maverick early readers from this level upwards.


Slugs in Space – Turquoise fiction reader

Maverick Publishing

Lou Treleaven and David Creighton-Pester

This book should be chosen for the picture below alone! A snail with an acorn for a space helmet a what a great idea. My son loves space and collects acorns when ever he finds them so this would have definitely got him interested.  I love how this story takes a topic that many children love, space and turn it on it’s head.. First the main character is a snail and secondly, he doesn’t actually go to space but dreams of doing so, and in a great twist to tale has an unexpected encounter with aliens of a different kind. The story could also be used to explore distance in Maths and perspective. For example when granddad snail talks about how long it would take to get to the top of a lamppost, and compares that to how long it would take to get to the moon.


The Ugly Little Swan – Turquoise fiction reader and AR

Bloomsbury Young Reader
Author and illustrator: James Riordon and Brendon Kearney

When my son was in year 1 and year 2 he got interested in a small number of traditional tales, one of which was the ‘Ugly Duckling’. This is a fantastic re-telling with a twist of this this traditional tale, with a duck instead of a Swan. Bright colourful and engaging pictures really help the reader to understand what the duck is feeling. With a great scene on the last page of a two children feeding the ducks, connecting it to children’s own experiences.

Cavegirl – Turquoise fiction reader and AR

Abie Longstaff and Shane Crampton

The front cover caught my attention, a fictional story with a black girl in the Stone Age. Inside I found a delightful story and really engaging pictures. This book follows a girl who lives in the Stone Age who is looking for something special for her mum’s birthday. She sees something she wants and hatches a plan to make and trade things to get it. Well developed stories as good as this are unusual at the reading level. The reader is helped to predict and make sense of the story through the clever use of diagrams drawn on  a stone slab. Like in other Bloomsbury young readers there are tips for grown-ups (inside cover front) and suggestions for fun activities (inside cover back).


Each of these books are unique in their own way and provide many opportunities for children to engage with them. There is a strong empathy core to most of them, helping children connect with how the characters are feeling. If you want to inspire children to become motivated readers unique and engaging early readers like these will definitely help them on their journey. Publishers please take note we need more books like these especially at this reading level.

Note for educators

If you are a school that asks children to change their readers every couple of days. You may want to review this policy once they reach this reading level. These books are so great that children would really benefit from reading them more than once, and the chances are they will want to too.

Thank you to Maverick publishing for a free copy of ‘Woah What’s the Weather?’. The other books were ones I bought myself.


Further information – click on the links to find out more

Maverick Early Readers

Bloomsbury Young Readers

Some of these books are available on my Abe books site: Readers that Care


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