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Easy Reader? Early Chapter Book?

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I am trying to understand the murky divide between Early/Levelled Readers and Beginning/Early Chapter Books, of if there is any difference.  Just picked up a book called Poodle and Hound, by Kathryn Lasky.  The publisher, Charlesbridge, lists it as an early reader, but it doesn't seem to have a strictly controlled vocabulary, which I thought (perhaps mistakenly) that early readers were supposed to have.  Some of the reviews listed it as a beginning chapter book.  Its about 1500 words and is divided into three distinct stories.  What is it? 

Also, while I am on the subject, do you early chapter book/beginning reader folks think that the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level estimate that one gets when one runs a manuscript through MS Words' spelling and grammar check is a fairly reliable gauge for reading level.  How do you tell that your book is hitting the right reading level?

Thanks in advance for all your wisdom! :thankyou
#1 - June 08, 2010, 05:51 PM
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Hi,

I've done a little research on this, too, but I'm not expert. (Experts, please respond and correct me if anything I say is wrong.)

It seems to me that part of the confusion of the labeling (Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book) is that different houses draw the lines in different places. Companies that develop leveled readers for curriculum purposes also have totally different needs, and totally different publishing processes. It's a lot of drudge work, figuring out what particular publishers want, and what they publish, and how to approach them.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level estimate on MS Word isn't the greatest estimate.  If you've got access to kids at the age you're trying to write for, you could always have them try to read what you're working on.

For what it's worth, I've tutored some struggling readers, and once they get to the point that they can decipher whole paragraphs (as opposed to a single sentences spread out on pages), they can usually handle the occasional unfamiliar three-syllable word.  It's always good to simplify the language if possible for the kids who are still figuring out how to decipher words, but if you really need a bigger word or a longer sentence, you can use it.
#2 - June 09, 2010, 01:11 PM
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I believe the book you describe Ecco is the "bridge" book that Charlesbridge is publishing. They are bridges between easy readers and early chap. books. I happen to like these very much, but as Melissa says, it varies from publisher to publisher, so when you pitch it, make sure you use the terminology they use to describe similar books.

I remember Dial had submission instructions on how to even format the manuscript ... the most detailed ever ... and I learned a lot by putting my manuscript in that format.

Vijaya
#3 - June 09, 2010, 01:21 PM
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Thanks for your help! :thankyou
#4 - June 13, 2010, 06:30 PM
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This is kind of a follow on from eecoburn's question, although mine's more general. How are the different genres defined? I get lost between picture books and YA. Critiquers have commented that my 'MG' novel sounds like a chapter book rather than MG, so I'm wondering what that means exactly. How many words is a chapter book? Is the language very simple? Is the plot simple? In which case my book won't work that way. If someone can help fill in the gaps below, I'd be eternally grateful!

Age 0-3 board book (few words, if any)
Age 2-8 picture book (more words but bigger pictures)
Age 4-10? story book (is there a difference?)
Age 5-8??? early reader (still with pictures on every page???? How many words?)
Age ???chapter book (still with pictures but not every page??? How many words?)
Age 6-13? MG (no pictures usually, can range from how many to 50,000 words?)
Age 13+? YA (lots and lots of words, no pictures)
#5 - August 12, 2010, 01:13 PM

Examples of early readers (beginning chapter books) would be Henry and Mudge, Young Cam Jansen, Minnie and Moo.
Examples of chapter books are The Magic Tree House, Cam Jansen, Freckle Juice.
Examples of middle grade novels are Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I know this isn't exactly what you were asking but I thought some examples might help.

Also to my knowledge there isn't a difference between picture books and story books.  There are some picture books that are text heavy and these are meant for independent readers.  But I believe they are still classified as picture books. 

I am a children's librarian, and I am giving you this information from my experience in the library setting.

 
#6 - August 16, 2010, 02:24 PM
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Thanks, Michelle! Those examples probably help more than some definitions would. Gives me a good idea. Thank you so much.
#7 - August 16, 2010, 02:41 PM

If someone can help fill in the gaps below, I'd be eternally grateful!

I would tweak it a bit, as follows. Some of the categories overlap, of course, and a lot of kids read up (or down).

Age 0-3 board book (few words, if any)
Age 2 - 5 picture book (more words but story is highly dependent on pictures. Usually under 1000 words.)
Age 4 - 8 picture story book (longer, more complex story but picture on every page.)
Age 5 - 8 early reader (still with pictures on every page. Word count variable; most publishers have their own policies re: word count
Age 7 - 10 chapter book (still with pictures but not every page. Usually 5000 - 10,000 words. Occasionally up to 12K for higher end. Often sold in series. Again, publishers have different policies on preferred chapter book length.)
Age 8 - 12 MG (few pictures, 30, 000 to 50,000 words, sometimes longer)
Age 10 - 14 Upper MG or "tween" (in between MG and YA, often have a strong commercial hook)
Age 12 - 16 YA (lots and lots of words, no pictures)
#8 - September 12, 2010, 11:10 AM
« Last Edit: December 08, 2010, 03:51 PM by RuthD »

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Ruth,
Love your blog name! :applause
At a conference yesterday, I got a surprise critique because I wasn't given confirmation and thought I'd submitted too late.  There were only two category critiques: picture book and y/a.
I knew when I submitted that my story could not be a pb submission, more an early reader, which is what was pointed out.  The critique said it would be an 'early' reader and that I should give more detail and depth of the mc's.  It's anthropomorphic, but does have two human characters which the critique suggested I should bring more into story which brings out more of the conflict.
In short: would early readers still be interested in anthroporphism.  I thought they would have gone beyond that which is why I never considered it.  Re: word count, if I took all of this into account, it would bring a story which is currently 3700 up to approximately 5000 words.
Thanks
#9 - September 12, 2010, 12:04 PM

Love your blog name!

Thanks Thundering. I can think of a lot of anthropomorphic early readers around the end-of-first-grade level. Like Frog and Toad are Friends. Or Oliver and Amanda Pig. Or Edward Marshall's Fox books. There are even anthropomorphic middle grade novels. And adult ones ... remember Watership Down? You do need to make sure the animals are not too "cutesy" or babyish for your intended audience. Humor is great for this age group. Anthropomorphic animals are a time-honored tradition in kid lit, and can still work if done well.
#10 - September 15, 2010, 06:53 PM

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Hi all,

So, I have written a MG novel (I guess). Its MG is a 5th grader.  But, it has slightly over 16K words.  According to what you guys are saying, would this fit more into a chapter book format?  If so, I have too many words, right?   :)
#11 - November 04, 2010, 06:08 AM

Where would you place James Marshall's George and Martha series, as a PB, easy reader or early chapter book?
#12 - April 26, 2011, 09:24 PM

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