The Theodor Geisel Award Books: An Exploration of Early Readers



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The importance of beginner books in the lives of nascent readers cannot be understated. In an effort to recognize these critical tools for early reading, the American Library Association created the Theodor Geisel Award in 2004. To date, no one has looked at this collection with a critical eye. The goal of this research is to define and analyze a group of texts meant to exemplify this genre. This work is particularly important because trade books are now a vital supplement to basals and workbooks in use in the nation’s PK–2 classrooms and function as a pivotal bridge between decoding and fluency necessary for comprehension of text. The research questions were addressed through multiple access points: a comparison of readability scales and word counts, syntactic parsing, linguistic coding, and, finally, narrative inquiry. The results of this study underline the intricacies of even the simplest texts children read. The isolation of lexical words highlighted the importance and the vastness of vocabulary necessary for beginning readers. Syntactic analysis suggested a level of complexity not generally considered in books for young children. Equally revealing was the diversity of discourse registers evident in these trade books. Finally, visual analysis showed that comprehension skills and reading prosody are significantly enhanced in both text and image. It is hoped that this research will result in a meaningful and holistic view of beginning-to-read books that will assist teachers in their pedagogy and support of early literacy.



Early Readers, Computational Linguistics, Theodor Geisel Award