How Do We Help Kids Pick the Right Books?

In my recent LITC 525 class, a few of my students asked the question, “How do we help kids pick the right books?”  Choosing books for someone else to read, especially if that someone is a student who struggles in reading, can be tricky  here are a few tips you might want to use:

1.  Let the students choose their own book based on their interest.  If Casey wants to look at a book about frogs, even if it is too difficult for him to read on his own, let him have time with the book on frogs.  Nonfiction books can be an excellent motivator for students.  Casey can gather information from the photographs and charts, and this particular book might encourage him to read a book on frogs at his level.  This is where an exemplary educator comes in – He/She will notice that Casey chooses books about frogs and will make sure to have other frog books accessible to him at his level.  (Books at his level and even some that are easier and more difficult.)  This is where topic baskets or theme bins come in handy!

   2.  Good Fit Books for Kids – I PICK (Boushey & Moser, based on Allington’s work)  Create an I PICK anchor chart for your students:
I choose a book.
Purpose – Why do I want to read it?
Interest – Does it interest me?
Comprehend – Am I understanding what I’m reading?
Know – I know most of the words?
3.  Five Finger Test
  • Choose a book that interests you.  Open to a page somewhere in the middle of the book.
  • Read the page. (Out loud is better.)
  • Hold up a finger each time you come to a word you don’t know or don’t understand.     

  • Now, the Five Finger Code:

1)    If you have only ONE FINGER up, you knew all but one word.  This book will be PRETTY EASY for you.  Thumbs up!
2)    If you held up TWO FINGERS, this book is JUST RIGHT FOR YOU!  You may need some help, but it will be a good learning book for you.
3)    If you held up THREE FINGERS, this book might be CHALLENGING, but try it.  You may enjoy it.  If you keep this book to read, be aware that it might be frustrating and you may not understand it as much as you’d like.
4)    If you held up FOUR FINGERS, this book will be VERY CHALLENGING, but you can read it with a partner if you’d like. If you really like this book and if it has pictures, illustrations, or charts, you may want to look at it on your own, but still find another book to read or a buddy to read this one with you.
5)    If you held up FIVE FINGERS or more, this book is probably TOO HARD to be fun to read.  That means STOP, and either save it for later or read it with someone who can read it to you.  If you really like this book and if it has pictures, illustrations, or charts, you may want to look at it on your own, but still find another book to read.
    4. The Goldilocks Rule – Find a book that is NOT TOO HARD, NOT TOO EASY, BUT JUST RIGHT. 
Which do you think your students would like the best?  Let’s keep them in the core of what we choose!
Until next time, share a strategy!
Dr. Denise Gudwin

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