Children’s book collectors and many booksellers know of the collectibility of Caldecott and Newbery award winning books. Children’s early readers, or ‘Learn To Read’ books are also likely to develop as a collectible sector over the coming years.
For decades, early readers were prescribed by school administration, often in the form of the ‘Dick and Jane’ (which already has a large collector base). The advent of the Cat in the Hat and other Beginner Books, along with Little Bear and other I Can Read books, led to the demise of the prescribed reader. In 1961, Horn Book Magazine (Feb. 1961, pg 47-48) wrote:
The idea behind the easy-to-read books which have flooded our libraries and bookstores since 1957 when Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat and Else Minarik’s Little Bear (illustrated by Maurice Sendak) broke the dam seems to have been that children who have just learned to read want books which they can read but which look and sound like “real” books, not primers.
A good idea, the soundness of which is demonstrated by the children’s enthusiastic response. But let us not take advantage of such real enthusiasm. Let us give them a “real” book, not a spurious facsimile.
Looking over these quantities of series, one gets the impression that too frequently a few words are counted out from some word list, thrown together in large print, drowned in glaring colors, sewn into glossy covers, and sent to market. The number of words used is displayed conspicuously on the front, as if the publishers were competing for the lowest, as in a price war.
Already there are far too many titles for a single reader to read during the short period before they are ready for more substantial fare. There is thus no need for any library to carry all of them; better to buy many copies of the few titles worth reading.
Little Bear proved that it is possible for an easy-to-read to have beauty, charm, and integrity. Cat in the Hat show that real humor is also possible. Children deserve the best in books in this department just as much as in the others, and since the best is available if one looks hard enough, why put up with less?
Forty five years later, in 2006, the American Library Association created an award for beginning readers, aptly called,
The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, established in 2004, is given annually (beginning in 2006) to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year. The award is to recognize the author(s) and illustrator(s) of a beginning reader book who demonstrate great creativity and imagination in his/her/their literary and artistic achievements to engage children in reading.
The award is named for the world-renowned children’s author, Theodor Geisel. "A person’s a person no matter how small," Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, would say. "Children want the same things we want: to laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted." Brilliant, playful, and always respectful of children, Dr. Seuss charmed his way into the consciousness of four generations of youngsters and parents. In the process, he helped them to read.
We believe over time, the Geisel Award will increase the collectibility of early readers, especially first editions of learn-to-read foundation books from the early 1960’s, and also books that are staples within elementary school libraries. Since the selection group for the Geisel Award is the American Library Association, its nearly a guarantee the honored books will become staples within libraries–a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Currently first edition early readers, on a whole, are relatively inexpensive to collect.
2007 Medal Winner (from the ALA):
Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways by Laura McGee Kvasnosky (Candlewick)
The popular fox sisters return in this book with three adventures precipitated by their need to avoid the dreaded cucumber sandwiches dad is preparing. Strong character development and a superb book design that showcases framed gouache paintings combine to encourage young readers to reach the trio of hilarious outcomes.
“Our Geisel winner connects with readers by featuring a dilemma many young children understand,” said Geisel Committee Chair Ginny Moore Kruse. “Zelda and Ivy’s backyard escapades spark the imagination and make the reader want more.”
Click here for 2007 Honor Award Winners.
The 2006 Geisel Medal was Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Suçie Stevenson (Simon & Schuster). From Kirkus Reviews
In the tenth book of their adventures, Henry realizes that Mudge has never been taught such commands as “sit” and “heel.” With the help of a patient teacher, home practice, and innumerable “liver treats,” the huge dog does learn to “stay,” at least long enough to pass his training course–though Mudge’s forte is clearly being lovable rather than obedient. […] a fine story for beginners, with appealing characters, lif
elike situations, and charmingly comical illustrations.