The “I Can Read” brand began in 1957 with the publication of Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear. For over fifty years, the “I Can Read” brand has published favorite friends and series from Amelia Bedelia to Pete the Cat.
Kathleen T. Horning writes in From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books:
While Seuss set the standard for excellence in writing, the “I Can Read” series set the standard for form. Recognizing that children learning to read are anxious to feel like “big kids,” Harper designed the books in their beginning reader series to look like skinny chapter books rather than picture book.
“I Can Read” brand has six levels. The newest level — My VERY First — was created in 2014.
- My VERY First — Basic features of print and reading, short and simple sentences, and full-color stories for children at the very first stages of learning to read.
- Shared My First Reading — Basic language, word repetition, and whimsical illustrations, ideal for sharing with your emergent reader.
- Level 1 Beginning Reading — Short sentences, familiar words, and simple concepts for children eager to read on their own.
- Level 2 Reading With Help — Engaging stories, longer sentences, and language play for developing readers who still need some help.
- Level 3 Reading Alone — Complex plots, challenging vocabulary, and high-interest topics for the independent reader.
- Level 4 Advanced Reading — Short paragraphs, chapters, and exciting themes for the perfect bridge to chapter books.
I’m a crazy statistics person, so I went through the Lexile and Accelerated Reader websites to give you an idea of how these programs [that I don’t necessarily agree with] compare to the “I Can Read” levels.
Shared My First Reading:
Biscuit series had a 162L and 0.95AR average.
Pete the Cat series had a 192L and 1.4AR average.
Level 1 Beginning Reading:
Fancy Nancy series had a 315L and a 2.03AR average.
Splat the Cat series had a 398L and a 2.1AR average. 
Level 2 Reading With Help:
Amelia Bedelia series had a 364L and a 2.44AR average.
Flat Stanley series had a 376L and a 2.4AR average.
Level 3 Reading Alone:
Minnie and Moo series had a 378L and a 2.22AR average. 
Level 4 Advanced Reading:
Dinosaur Hunter had a 470L and 3.0AR score.
Lastly, I did not compare any guided reading levels (Fountas and Pinnell) since I do not have a subscription. But! “I Can Read” actually has a search by Guided Reading Levels available on their website, which is hugely helpful!
Characters and Authors
Familiar Characters Based on Picture Books: Amelia Bedelia (Young), Berenstain Bears, Biscuit, Diary of a Worm, Duck at the Door, Everything Goes (Brian Biggs), Fancy Nancy, Flat Stanley, Little Critter, Pete the Cat, Pinkalicious, and Splat the Cat.
Original Series: Axel the Truck, Charlie the Ranch Dog, Digger the Dinosaur, Dixie, The High-Rise Private Eyes, Huff and Puff, Mac and Cheese, Mia, Minnie and Moo, Mittens, Penny, Pony Scouts, Tug and Pup
Classics: Arthur (Hoban), Danny and the Dinosaur, Frances (Hoban), Frog and Toad, Little Bear, Prelutsky poetry collections
Comic Books: Batman Classic, Justice League Classic, Man of Steel, Superman Classic, Wonder Woman Classic
Media Tie-Ins: Alvin and the Chipmunks, Epic, Ice Age, Marley, Paddington, Plants Vs. Zombies, Rio 2, Walking With Dinosaurs
One of my favorite things that I discovered on the “I Can Read” site is in the Parents/Educators area — there’s a blog! There’s a fair amount of content here, including classroom resources and other tips for parents of beginning readers. The blog was just started in June of 2014 and it seems to be updated at least once a month.
“I Can Read” also has a great social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. They also have a Pinterest account, but it hasn’t been updated in a year. (Not that I can blame them — Pinterest is a trap!)
I also signed up for the “I Can Read” newsletter, but I had to sign up with my gmail account since it wouldn’t accept my work address as a valid email. (It is a little weird — it’s a .info extension.)
I don’t think that assigning students to read within a certain level based on tests is beneficial. I believe all reading is good reading. That being said, these programs are based on text and sentence difficulty which is useful in trying to standardize reader levels across the various brands.
The series chosen to evaluate were based on the series that “I Can Read” promotes on their levels page. For Level 3 & Level 4, there are no promoted series. Level 3 features two series: Minnie and Moo and the Jack Prelutsky poetry collections. Since no Lexile scores were available for the Prelutsky books (I KNOW, RIGHT?!), I chose to evaluate Minnie and Moo. Level 4 has only six books, so I just evaluated the first book as my sample size.
Many of the Splat readers were Adult-Directed Lexile scores. I did not use those titles in the averages of the Lexile score.
Some Minnie and Moo books were not labeled as Level Three readers, so I did not add those to the averages.