Blogger Amy Steinbauer

Easy Reader Deep Dive

Easy readers, more specifically, easy reader series are one of the most requested items at my branch. Children have their favorites that they often ask for– Paw Patrol! Lego! Superheroes! Princesses! And parents ask constantly for recommendations for books on their child’s age level or reading ability.

They are super accessible to children since they are thin, with larger text, and lots of them feature characters that children love. It is important to look critically at them because they are so often the real introduction to a child’s literacy development. And it’s 2019, let’s look critically at everything children consume– we are all (hopefully) much more aware and “woke” now.

I make recommendations constantly for interest and reading level, and adults are more often asking for diversity in their reference inquiries.

And yet? I have hardly really read any of them.

So, this year as part of my personal improvement goals, I decided to do the unheard of, to willingly read through every Easy Reader series that we had (117 total), and come up with some staff/user guides for them.

I decided to look at three books from each Easy Reader series to give myself a real sense of the series, especially trying to read the first book if it was possible. I created a spreadsheet to keep track, adding in the titles and levels marked. Then I added the synopsis, characters, diversity– both in race, gender, and idenitiy; readalikes, as well as any notes I had.

I am just starting to mine through the data, and my humongous spreadsheet, and would like to take some time to share some insights with you all.

Keep in mind that I am using Easy Reading series as defined in my system— they may be listed as series or as not series depending on your cataloging preferences. I also didn’t list authors since they change a bit.

Best representations of racial diversity in Easy Reader series: (characters have main storylines)

Backyard Street Buddies

Carlos and Carmen

Diego (based on TV character)

Doc McStuffins (based on TV character)

Dora (based on TV character)

Katie Fry

Katie Woo

King and Kayla

Ling and Ting

Meet Martha


Messy Bessy

Mo Jackson


Sofia Martinez


Overall, not only are the above characters and stories diverse, but they also feature lots of other diversities— big families being included, biracial families, female careers– moms that work, dads being more involved in caregiving, etc.

Medium representation: Mostly white characters with main stories, but racially diverse characters have supporting roles

American Girl


Brownie and Pearl

Charlie and Mouse

Lana’s World

Most of Movie/TV series (we put them together)

Pinkalicious (in adult’s represented)

Positive Power Story — depends on book

Princess—depending on character/story

Real Kids Read—depending on book

We Both Read & Phonics—depending on book

Overall, these titles are still pretty white, but there is some room/ uncertainty in race represented. Lots of the series have black families represented– but only in their selected tales. However, race seemed a bit other-ness since it was separated out so much in them. I do love the Real Kids Reads books– the pictures look like they are done in 90s, but a lot are really cute.

Low representation: Still very white main and supporting characters, some diversity is shown in very background images.

Amelia Bedelia (both the old and new)


Bones (boy detective)

Everything Goes

Fancy Nancy

Fergus and Zeke


Magic School Bus

Nate the Great


Pony Patrol

Robin Hill Reads

Strawberry Shortcake

Young Cam Jansen

Overall, these titles are pretty white. I feel like a lot of them treat diversity how most children’s literature seemed to see it in the 90s– like cool to have around, but not necessary. (Boo!) It is upsetting that the new Amelia Bedelia’s are just as racially diverse as the old ones! LEGOs are tricky– they are yellow. But some characters in different stories are darker colored– is that supposed to be a different race? I don’t know for sure. Pokemon was also a challenge– technically, they feature some Asian characters, however, they feel very whitewashed to me.

Other interesting finds

Noticeably few female characters/Male-centric:

Angry Birds

Berenstein Bears

Flat Stanley

Paw Patrol

Sports Illustrated Kids

Star Wars


Overall, not surprising that lots of the sports/adventure stories featured all-male worlds. I wondered if this is where all the hatred boys have for reading anything but “boy books” starts. Maybe have a few females in these books, writers, just to mix it up.

Books that play into stereotypes involving race, identity, gender, etc.

Math Matters— Women always cleaning, very domestic

Max and Ruby—Females are stern, controlling

Movies and TV—Sexualized female characters, specifically, Monster High

Mr and Mrs Green— Wife is always cooking, cleaning, while husband naps and gets into trouble

My Weird School—  Weirdly anti-girl, lots of love plots—girls are in object role

We Both Read & Phonics— stereotypes of bullies, nerds, body types

Overall, there was a lot of weird stuff happening in some of these books. I love the We Both Read books– they are my favorites to recommend to parents/adults, but there are lots of stereotypes have nerds, bullies, body size, etc. It made me rethink some recommendations. I also did not like how many of these stories had already sexualized females that were just there as objects for men… ugh. A 3-5-year-old does not need that message. These easy readers made me really think about how women are depicted in these stories, so many moms are constantly cleaning, cooking dinner, taking care of home and children… while dads are detached or left out completely. Maybe this is why women still take on 65% or more of household labor.

White, but characters are diverse in gender, culture:

Pinky and Rex

Charlie and Mouse

Overall, these two series stood out to me because they had characters who weren’t of the “norm” for easy readers. Pinky is a boy that loves pink. Rex is a girl that loves dinosaurs. Charlie and Mouse feature children of indeterminate gender identity. I don’t personally think either of these series are “special” but after everything I have read, I had to point them out. SO many of the easy readers use very basic stereotypes about boys and girls that it feels special to see anything else.



Thanks for reading this long post. As I delve more into Easy Reader series, I will hope to share more insights. I feel like I have been going on a journey this past year, and I have uncovered much, but hope to learn more.


This post addresses the ALSC Core Competency of Knowlege Curation and Management Materials.


  1. Leslie Guhl

    Thank you for doing this analysis!

  2. Jenny

    This is a great project to do! We have a transitional chapter book/3rd grade section that I would want to do this type of analysis with. I don’t expect myself to read everything in the Children’s room, but when you have read something, you can really recommend it with confidence. Thanks for the data. 😉

    1. Amy Steinbauer Post author

      Thanks! It was very interesting, I am still looking into it all. It would be great to do with those early chapter book series, too. Maybe I will have time for that one day…

  3. Jessica F

    Thank you for sharing your insights Amy! I haven’t really read early readers deeply since I stopped teaching kindergarten, I definitely need to dive back in again. I am curious – do you have nonfiction early readers in your collection?

    1. Amy Steinbauer Post author

      Hi Jessica! We do have nonfiction early readers, but we shelve them with general nonfiction and don’t include them as a series.

  4. Jac

    Thank you for the data – I’m going to use it to analyse our collections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *