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Geisel, a picture book author known for his edgy illustrations and zany verse, published his first book – And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street – in 1937. Twenty years later, in an effort to replace the homogeneous Dick and Jane, he wrote The Cat In The Hat as a supplemental reader. His editor gave him a list of 300 words, the first two of which were "cat" and "hat." The book Geisel penned was so popular that it was published both as a textbook and a trade book. Providing a stepping-stone between picture books and a child's commitment to read a whole book, the easy reader was born.
Unlike the picture storybook, the text for an easy reader is typed only halfway across the page. The sentences are very short, with the period being the punctuation of choice. There are no paragraphs, the text is double-spaced, and there is no break at all until a new chapter appears. Each chapter builds the story to a climax, and the last chapter ends the story.
The easy-reader format includes nonfiction as well as fiction. Vicki Cobb was the first to introduce science to children as a fun activity instead of a learning chore with Science Experiments You Can Eat (1972, rev. 1994).
The easy reader is an important part of a child's reading development. Done right, with well-developed characterizations and a gripping story line, these books can lead a child into chapter books and a lifetime love of reading.
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