The Page Turner

September 2003
The Stages of Reading Development

What Are Transitional Books?

How to Choose Transitional Books

Where to Find Lists of Recommended Transitional Books

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What Are Transitional Books,
And How Do I Choose Them?

    by Lori Ragsdale

Your afterschool program library should include a wide variety of Transitional books to help children move from reading picture books to reading full novels on their own.

What Are Transitional Books?

Transitional books are for children who have mastered picture books in the Emergent and Early reader stages but are not yet ready to move on to full novels in the Independent stage. Transitional books are longer and more complex than picture books or first readers such as "I Can Read" books, but not as long and complex as fiction for independent readers such as the Harry Potter books.

Transitional books have more text than emergent picture books. They may contain a few illustrations throughout the text, but the reader must get meaning from the story without the help of pictures on each page. Readers of Transitional books rely heavily on sight words to understand the story. Literacy Connections High-Frequency Sight Words lists sight words that children learn as their skills improve.

Transitional books use simple and consistent sentence structures. Readers at this stage can use and understand basic punctuation such as capital letters, periods, commas, and quotation marks. For more information about Transitional books, visit the Pasco County (FL) Dept of Curriculum and Instruction.

The Transitional reading stage is an exciting one for children. They are building confidence in their reading abilities and are becoming more excited about reading. Children at the Transitional stage may still require some support from adults, but they enjoy reading these books on their own.

How Do I Choose Transitional Books?

Here are some guidelines for choosing Transitional books:

  • As always, choose topics that are interesting to a wide range of readers—animals, sports, and school, for example. At the Transitional stage, it's important to keep readers' enthusiasm high. Books on interesting topics motivate children to read more and to improve their reading skills as they learn to rely more on text and less on pictures. Keep asking the children what they would like to read.
  • Transitional books should include more pages than most picture books—around 80 pages. The books may be divided into short chapters.
  • The print in Transitional books should be almost as large as in picture books rather than being as small as the print in a longer novel.
  • Sentences in the book should be short and simple, no more than 12-15 words each. Dialogues of one or two sentences are often included.
  • Transitional readers enjoy books in series, such as The Boxcar Children, The Baby-Sitters Club, and Junie B. Jones. Check out this month's Bookshelf for annotations on some of the best series for Transitional readers.

Where Can I Find Lists of Recommended Transitional Books?

Here are some sites that recommend specific Transitional books:

With so many books to choose from, the Transitional reading experience can be enjoyable for your children and for you.

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