After extension research on Simon and Schuster’s business website and the Ready to Read website, I still have no idea when the brand was created. The very first Henry and Mudge book published in 1987 has the Ready to Read Level 2 on its cover, which is the earliest S&S series that I know of.
[Also, according to my library’s catalog, Macmillan used the term “Ready to Read” prior to 1987, beginning in 1973. This is, of course, incomplete research because it is just based on the 77 libraries’ holdings in our consortium.]
The “Ready to Read” website was created in 2005, according to whois.net.
The most recent re-boot of the “Ready to Read” brand occurred in 2011, with the star levels being introduced.
The are four levels in the “Ready to Read” series.
- Pre-Level One: Rising Star Reader — Shared reading, familiar characters, simple words
- Level One: Star Reader — Easy sight words and words to sound out, simple plot and dialogue, familiar topics and themes
- Level Two: Superstar Reader — Longer sentences, simple chapters, high-interest vocabulary words
- Level Three: Megastar Reader — Longer & more complex story plots and character development, variety of challenging vocabulary words, more difficult sentence structure
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.
Pre-Level One Rising Star Reader:
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood series had a 260L and 0.5AR average. 
Brownie and Pearl series had a AD140L and 1.0AR average.
Level One Star Reader:
Olivia series had a AD368L and a 1.7AR average.
Katy Duck series had a 415L and a 1.4AR average.
Level Two Superstar Reader:
World of Eric Carle series had a 522L and 3.3AR average. 
Henry and Mudge series had a 431L and 2.4AR average.
Level Three Megastar Reader:
History of Fun Stuff series had a NC920L and 5.6AR average. 
The only place that Fountas and Pinnell (Guided Reading) appears is in the recommendation app that I’ll write more about later.
Characters and Authors
Familiar Characters Based on Picture Books: Olivia, Trucktown, Eloise, Brownie and Pearl, Katy Duck, Bugs/Bugland (Carter)
Original Series: Twins (Weiss), Inch and Roly, Max & Mo, Robin Hill School, Friday the Scaredy Cat, The Really Rotten Princess
Classics: Eric Carle, Henry and Mudge, Puppy Mudge, Annie and Snowball, Pinky and Rex
Media Tie-Ins: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Mike the Knight, Rabbids Invasion (Game), How to Train Your Dragon, Kung-Fu Panda, The Smurfs, Yo Gabba Gabba
My favorite discovery on the “Ready to Read” site is their Assets section which includes certificates, activity guides, and other incentives to help beginning readers. I think this section could be a great help to a ton of librarians looking for activity pages as passive programs.
Another great resource for librarians to be aware of is the App available on the site. By answering a few quick questions (gender, age, grade, Lexile, Guided Reading, and interests) — all of which are able to be skipped — will generate a selection of recommendations for “Ready to Read” books. This is a great place to start if you have absolutely no idea what to recommend, especially if a parent gives you a Lexile or Guided Reading level.
“Ready to Read” also has a Facebook page, but no Twitter or Pinterest as far as I can tell.
I also signed up for both the Parents email listserv and the Educators email listserv. I’m interested in seeing what the difference is between the two. And these actually accepted my work .info email address!
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.
So, I chose the series by looking at which books had the most statistical data available. I eliminated books that were media tie-ins (The Smurfs, Rabbids Invasion, Dreamworks’s Home) and also limited each grouping to a single author. Which means that since I evaluated “Henry and Mudge”, I did not evaluate “Annie and Snowball”.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood only had one book available on Lexile — “Thank You Day”, so it’s not a true average.
All of the Eric Carle book data was actually taken from the picture book information. Only two readers had information available (“Pancakes, Pancakes” in Lexile & “The Greedy Python” in Accelerated Reader.)
The NC in the Lexile means Non-Conforming score. Basically that the score is atypical for the type of material the book is. It was also the only Lexile score available for the series.