Most parents have been there…
When you are in the library, or the bookstore, or your child comes home waving his book order in front of you…
You want to get him a book, you’d even spring for a bunch of books, but how do you know which ones are right for your child? How do you know if the book is a “good fit” for your reader?
At the beginning of the school year, we teach students the “I-PICK” strategy (Boushey & Moser 2009). You probably heard your child singing the I-PICK song (it’s pretty catchy)!
The first I in the acronym stands for “I choose” because student choice is quite important when it comes to reading. If kids don’t choose their own books, how will they be motivated to read?
When making this choice, kids need to be empowered to choose a book that is a “good fit”– not too easy or too hard. The other letters in the acronym prompt kids to think about what makes a “good fit” book:
Purpose – Why am I reading it? Interest – Do I like it? Comprehension – Do I understand it?
Know – Do I know most of the words?
All of these questions remind kids that reading requires thinking, not just saying the words. There are many factors that make a book just right for a reader! Reminding your child to ask these questions will help him choose a great book.
Levels, Levels, Levels
In school, we use the guided reading leveling system created by reading researchers Fountas and Pinnell. Using this common leveling system helps teachers have a common language to talk about books and reading. But when you walk into a bookstore, books are not labeled with this leveling system. Often publishers will list their own levels, which vary from different publishers or book series. All of the different levels can get pretty confusing!
Rather than using the label on the outside of the book, have your child take a sneak peek, by looking at the picture on the cover, reading the title, flipping the book over to read the blurb on the back, and then reading the table of contents. If there is no table of contents, flip through and preview the pictures.
Next, have your child open the book and read the first few pages. Ask them, “Does it feel like a good fit? Did you know most of the words?” Follow up by prompting your child to think about comprehension by asking, “What do you think the book is about?”
At your local library or at the bookstore, the children’s section may be divided into picture books, early chapter books, and chapter books. While your child may be drawn to the longer, harder chapter books, these books will likely be too hard for your Second Grade reader. Even for the strongest reader, these books often have content that is inappropriate for Second Graders. Many of these books can be terrific books to read to your child; however, you will want to preview the book yourself before sharing it.
Oldies, but Goodies
When children begin to read chapter books on their own, picture books are often cast aside as being “too easy.” Actually, picture books vary widely in reading level and many of them are very appropriate for Second Grade readers. A lot of picture books are actually too hard!
Don’t put aside the picture books just yet. Some of the books you used to read to your child before bedtime are actually great Second Grade reads, and trust me, your child still loves them! We read picture books often at school. Look for books by Kevin Henkes, Mo Willems, Cynthia Rylant, and Corey Rosen Schwartz, just to name a few.
Enlist Teacher Help
If you are still struggling to help your child find good fit books, ask your child’s teacher for help. Teachers keep track of your child’s independent reading level as it changes throughout the year. She can give you suggestions for good fit books based on what your child is reading in school. If these books seem too easy to you, keep in mind that your child’s independent reading level is not only about decoding skills. Fluency and comprehension are factored into this level, as well. If your child can read accurately, but can’t talk about what happened in the story, it may not be a good fit book yet.
The Power of Yet
Once your child can read harder books, the temptation to read bigger and bigger books is great. Many Second Graders walk around with large novels that they are probably not ready to read because of the reading level, the content, or the vocabulary. At the same time, we want kids to choose books that they want to read, so choice and interest are key to motivating readers. A helpful reminder for kids who want to read books that are too hard is that they are not ready yet. Emphasize the word yet because they will get there! Research shows that the more you read “good fit” books (and the more books you read), the better reader you will become. Encourage your child to stick to a “good fit” book and read, read, read. After all, practice makes progress.