Choosing a Book

We spend a large amount of time on reading each and every day.  At home, your child should be reading every night.

Reading is making meaning of print.  The easier it is for your child to say the words on the page, the easier it will be to understand the text.  But, I have seen children say every word in a book, and remember almost none of it. Some children think reading fast should be their goal.  Remember: Reading is making meaning of print, and time should be taken to look at illustrations, think of connections to themselves or other books, and to consider details in the text.

Many families find it confusing when they try to pick a book for their child to read at home. You are probably aware that at school we choose books that are “just right.” Here’s why:

  • If your child has a book and is unable to read (decode) too many of the words, it will be frustrating. It will be unlikely that your child will understand what he or she has read because too much time and thought are spent figuring out the words.
  • If your child reads books that are just right, it will help him or her to progress to each level more quickly. It will be done with better fluency, less frustration, and more confidence.

To decide how to choose a book that is “just right,” look below for some help.

THE FIVE FINGER TEST – When is a book too hard?To check whether a book is too hard, try this test:

  • Open the book at any page and have your child start reading.
  • Each time your child comes to a word he or she doesn’t know put up one finger.
  • If you reach five tricky words on the same page, and have placed up five fingers, perhaps the book is a bit hard for your child at the moment.
  • Put it back for now and try again later.  Or, read it to your child and have him or her read it afterwards.
Your child can be reading too fast.  Think of it this way:  If you were driving down the highway at 65 mph, how much much would you know about what you passed? You could probably remember some of the big things, but how about the details?  Sometimes children can say the words on the page very quickly. This is part of fluency and is very helpful. It is not reading. Reading is making meaning of print.
Here is another way for you to know if the book is just right:

  • Your child should be able to retell the book to you. If the book is a chapter book, your child should be able to retell a chapter at a time.
  • A retell shows understanding when it includes characters’ names.  It should also include what happened at the beginning, middle and end.  It should include details, not just big events.
  • The beginning, middle and end should be in the correct order.
Poor Retell- The Three Little Pigs“There was a pig that built a house with bricks. The wolf could not get him.”

  • Some characters were included. (What happened to the first and second pigs?)
  • There was nothing from the beginning and middle of the story. (MANY children do this. The last part of the story read is the easiest to remember. Tell your child to start at the beginning.)
  • There was no mention of the straw or sticks used by the first two pigs. (These are details that are very important in understanding the story.)
  • This retell does not show the reader made meaning out of the text.
Good Retell- The Three Little Pigs“There were three little pigs that built houses. One pig made his house of straw and the wolf came and blew it down. He ate the pig! The second litte pig used sticks but the wolf still blew it down. He ate him too. (Wouldn’t the wolf be full?) There was a pig that built a house with bricks. The wolf could not get him.”

  • This retell does show the reader made meaning out of the text.




Click for a list of “just right” books.

In Kent City Schools, we use the Rigby Benchmark Assessments in grades K-3. The chart will help you understand how your child’s Rigby level, which is a number, relates to a letter level you may find used.

Are “Just Right” Books the Only Ones We Should Read?

No! There are many ways you can use books at home that are too hard for your child to read independently:
Read to your child! This is one of the favorite parts of our day. Children love being read to.When you read to your child you are modeling fluent reading with expression. You are able to read books that your child cannot read alone. You can discuss the story and practice retell with a beginning, middle, and end. You can talk about details in the story.
Your child can join in! There may be some parts your child can read. Take turns reading.
Your child can read it after you. You may notice that your child loves to read books you have already read aloud.In our class, I have a shelf where I place books that I have read aloud. The children are now familiar with the words and often read them finding the words less difficult.
Non-fiction books have features that will allow your child to read parts of the book and still learn many new things. Often, the labels and picture captions are much easier to read and understand than the main text.You could read the main text and have your child try the captions with your support.
What if my child enjoys reading books that I know he or she does not understand? Many children in first grade, especially after the second grading period, are very good at decoding (saying) the words. However, they may be unable to retell the story.I find that many children are motivated by reading chapter books, like Junie B. Jones, that I sometimes read to the children.If your child wishes to read these books, have him read it several times to pick up more details and do a good retell.