I'm thinking of book stepladders as mini-collections of books that help kids step into the big wide world of literacy. For instance, say a reader loves JUNIE B. JONES. I'd like, as a teacher, for her to hang out with Junie B. for a while, but at some point I also want to be ready to help her take one step up as a reader (that phrase doesn't feel quite right to me, it kind of implies a hierarchy of easier and harder books, with harder ones being better, and that's not exactly what I mean, but it's Sunday morning, and church, and the grocery store and housework are screaming my name and I don't have time to play with it). If I were thinking in terms of stepladders, I might offer MOXY MAXWELL, or the CLEMENTINE SERIES, then maybe AMBER BROWN, or RAMONA. After that, I might try to move this reader out into the world of authors, e.g. Barbara O'Connor.
Thinking about some of the other readers in my life: a stepladder might start with CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, but would also include the WIMPY KID series, and Sherman Alexie's DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN. There are probably other steps in there between WIMPY KID and INDIAN, but I have to think about them some more. I envision setting up book stepladders by subject (e.g. books about horses, or genre, or author, or ???).
As someone who loves children's books, and loves to read, I can do some of this without even thinking. I know lots and lots of kids' books, and it's not that hard for me to reach into the book bag in my head, and pull out a book that matches a particular reader with authors and genre I love, e.g. realistic or historical fiction. There are certain other genre, however, fantasy, animal fantasy, or science fiction, that I don't love, and don't read as regularly, where I would have a harder time applying this concept.
I'm also thinking about my colleagues who don't know and love children's literature like I do. How might I organize this information (database?, online?) in ways that would support them? How could I draw on the expertise of my friends in kids' litosphere to create bunches of book stepladders for educators and librarians to use?
I'd love to hear other people's thinking on this topic…