Finding a "Just Right" Book
One of our first graders is eagerly awaiting the day when her name comes to the top of the waiting list for Purplicious. This book recently joined Pinkalicious and Goldilicious as very popular items in our picture book collection.
The students in our school are enthusiastic readers. They are learning to read, and they are also learning how to select books. There are many things to consider in choosing just the right book.
Reading Level: Our school uses the Fountas & Pinell reading test, so it is possible to use those levels to match students with books that they will be able to read independently. F&P has a website for looking up books by title and finding out the level, so I find that handy if I am wondering whether a book might be on a suitable level for a certain student.
Five Finger Rule: There are thousands of books in our school library, and many of them do not have reading levels easily available. There are many other situations (other libraries, book stores, etc.) where children choose books without knowing what level the book is. To make matters more confusing, many publishers assign their own leveling system (e.g. Step into Reading - Step 1, 2, 3 or 4). Without knowing a specific level, students can easily check the degree of difficulty of a book by using the Five Finger Rule: Read a page of the book, and hold up one finger for every tricky word. Just one finger? The book may be too easy. Two or three fingers? The book may be just right. Four or five fingers? The book may be a bit of a struggle.
Length of the Book: Check the number of chapters. Check the number of pages. I tell students to figure out how long it would take them to finish the book if they read 1 chapter per day, or 10 pages per day. Using some of their math skills, they can figure out how long it would take to finish the book.
Interests: When students find books that are interesting to them, they are much more excited about reading and engaged with what they read. I see many happy faces when students choose books that they are excited to read, and many happy and proud faces when the book is returned having been read from cover to cover. Students then tell their friends about the books, and the word spreads so that many books become popular and have waiting lists. When new books arrive, I know that books by certain authors, in popular series or popular formats (e.g. graphic novels) will be checked out of the library as soon as they hit the New Book table.