So, how do I find the right book for my child? I don’t want a book that is too difficult and will halt progress. I don’t want something too easy that will not challenge and encourage growth.
This is a question every mom considers when making plans to help her child learn to read. I have some ideas I would like to share with you. They are strategies I have used in the classroom, and I still consider them in my home, when schooling my own children.
I think we all agree that no matter how far behind or how far ahead of the “average” child our child is, we must start at the skill level they have mastered. Moving ahead when a child is not ready will confuse him. Lagging behind when a child is ready to move forward will leave them feeling unengaged. In either case, they may question if learning is worth the effort. We want to avoid both situations and build a love for reading.
Fortunately, finding a books for your child is not a difficult task. We are going to visit two ways to get your child matched with the right books. The first is by perusing the library. Take your child to a section of the library that you think would meet his level and interests. In our library, we have a place for picture books, children’s chapter books and nonfiction, teen chapter books, and adult novels and non-fiction.
I like to require my children to choose something from both the fiction and non-fiction to check out. I ask them what topic they would like to read about and help them find that section. I give them ample time to pull books from the shelf about their chosen topic. Sometimes another topic attracts them and that is okay. I encourage them to read a page or two from any section of the book. If is is too hard for them to read and they do not understand what they are reading, they can put it back. This is not a strict rule, because my oldest has learned to use Google and the dictionary to look up words, concepts and background information to help her understand the book. These are books that are great for instructional reading, reading that includes new concepts and vocabulary in a new context.
However, there is also a time for books that are right on your child’s level. These books are meant to be enjoyed. Your child should not struggle with vocabulary or concepts in these books. With these books you will most likely discuss things like plot, characters, and setting or use these books to teach concepts like cause and effect and other reading skills. It is much easier to teach these reading skills with books they are familiar and comfortable with. Checking for understanding daily will ensure your child has books suited for his comprehension level.
Another way to ensure your child is reading books on his independent level is to get a sampling of different leveled books and have discussions after reading to assess comprehension and find the level he best understands when reading solo. Your library probably shows the reading level of books in their card catalog, and you may be able to search it by reading level. If not, you can use the Scholastic Book Wizard to help you find books by whatever reading level measure is easiest for you. I find that grade level equivalent is easiest for most. For a book that has a Grade Level Equivalent of 2.6, it would be an independent reader for a typical child in his second year and 6 month of reading, but children vary greatly. This chart might be helpful in translating the correlation of the other reading level measures for you. Choose a starting point for your assessment and then choose books on either side of that level. If you decide to start with leve 3.0, then check out books between 2.5-3.5. If you are not familiar with reading levels, your guess might be off quite a bit in either direction, but before long, you will be able to pick up a book and tell its level by reading a page or two. When I was teaching, I liked to choose one fiction and one non-fiction to assess reading level comprehension. It provided me with more information about strengths of the child’s reading. To read more about choosing books and the discussion used to assess comprehension read my other article on Reading Levels. I start the discussion about halfway down the page.
If the library is not convenient or you simply can’t wait to get started you can visit Reading A-Z‘s site and pull down 1-2 samples from different levels, using the free trial. You can download a couple to start with and if you find the chosen books are not the right level after your discussion, you can download more, either above or below the level you started. Once you have discovered his new reading level, you can decide whether re-evaluate once a quarter or in whatever intervals you are comfortable with. You may be happy simply seeing him read more difficult text as you make trips to the library or assign him books for his learning. If you choose to evaluate, you might want to get him involved in setting goals of where he would like to be in 3-4 months. He may think that he wants to see progress sooner. You can assess more often if he is comfortable.
It doesn’t matter what method you choose. Both of these methods work. I have used both with great success. Many times a child will tell you a book is to easy or too hard simply by putting it aside. Be sensitive to the choices your child makes and continue with informal assessments of comprehension. You will soon be able to pick out books that fit both his interest and skill level. I guarantee he will think you have some magical skills in finding the right book for him.
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