During the first weeks of school, teachers spend lots of time discussing the importance of independent reading and implementing programs and procedures that will encourage kids to read on their own. It’s important that youngsters know how to find appropriate books for themselves. It’s also important for parents to understand what is meant by a just-right book since they are often involved in book choice with their kids.
A just-right book is a book that a student can read with little assistance. This is where knowing your child’s independent reading level is helpful. Usually, a just-right book is on or a little above the independent reading level. However, as kids move up the grades, there are other factors to consider. Use these six tips to jumpstart this year’s reading and help your kids discover books that are accessible, enjoyable, and motivating.
1. Preview the book
Encourage your child to read the title, look at the illustrations (if any), and read the synopsis and back cover. If it grabs his interest, it might be a winner.
2. Consider the length of the book
You want to set your child up for success. Especially at the beginning of the school year, I like to see kids reading shorter books that they can easily finish. That builds confidence and motivates them to read more.
3. Consider the font
Do you ever forego a book because the font is too small and it just looks daunting? I do! I’m not suggesting that students only read easy books with large print and lots illustrations and white space, but I am suggesting that font can be a consideration. If the book looks difficult, a youngster may feel overwhelmed, especially if they haven’t been reading all summer.
4. Consider the Genre
If your child is already an avid reader, he probably has a favorite genre. Let him go for it at the beginning of the year, but as time goes on encourage him to broaden his scope. For a more reluctant reader, find appropriate books in several genres and see what piques his interest. Don’t forget to include several of the appealing non-fiction books available for young readers.
5. Consider interest in the topic
Kids are no different than we are. They want to read about topics of interest. Over the years, I’ve seen reluctant readers turned on to reading once they found a topic, a series of books or an author that they loved. Encouraging choice is an important part of independent reading. Although periodically, kids may have to read assigned books, assigned texts should never be the bulk of their independent reading experience.
6. Do the Five-Finger test
Although this is not a scientific method, it is a quick and easy way to determine if a book just-right for independent reading. Open to a full page in the book and teach your child to read it and put up one finger every time they stumble on a word. If, at the end of the page, your child has missed five or more words, this is probably not a good choice for independent reading. If your child has less than five, give it a go.
Choosing a new book is an adventure. Help your child enjoy the process and hopefully it will result in a satisfying read that leaves your youngster eager for more.