Finding the Right
Book is Easy
Volume 1 Number 2 October, 2006
Reading Calendar is a
monthly feature of the Department of Childhood Education,
University of North Florida, 4567 Saint Johns Bluff Road,
South, Jacksonville, FL 3224,
by Nile Stanley, Ph.D.
Chair, Childhood Education
A parent asks, "How do I find the right books for my
child?" Like selecting shoes for a child, getting the right
"fit" is crucial.
Shoes that are too big are like books that are too
difficult, the child stumbles and gets frustrated. Similarly,
tight, too small shoes resemble "baby" books that fail to
challenge and allow ample room for the reader to grow.
One method of fitting books to a child is the "Five Finger"
method. The procedure is relatively simple.
Let the child pick a book based on his/her interests. Ask a
librarian for a list of award-winning books. Then, the parent
selects and counts out one 100 word passage from the chosen
Next, have the child read the same selection aloud as the
parent observes and notes any mistakes. Each time the child
makes an error, the parent holds up a finger.
For example, if the child reads "shop" for "chop" that
would be an error. If the parent holds up more than five
fingers, then the book may be the wrong fit - too difficult.
However, a text that is too hard may be used to "stretch" a
child to try something hard and to learn new, interesting and
If no fingers are showing, the child made less than five
errors. It may be too easy. Sometimes though, reading an easy
book can build a child's confidence and fluency (speed and
Generally speaking, for a book to fit the child
comfortably, the child should have about 95 percent accuracy
in oral reading. That is, no more than one error should be
made for each 20 running words. However, your child just
saying the words correctly is not enough. Check comprehension
by asking the child to retell what has been read.
An easier approach is simply to ask your child to read
aloud a book and listen carefully. Does the child struggle to
read hesitantly? Are there too many difficult words? Can the
child remember what is read?
Finally, ask your child's teacher what level your child
reads on and know his/her interests. Many schools use the Lexile framework to determine reading levels. A Lexile level
is measure that matches the level of the book to the level of
the reader. The Lexile scale ranges from 200L for a beginning
reader to 1700L for an advanced text. For example your third
grader would benefit from books 300L to 500L. Go to
www.lexile.com for more
information. Ask the librarian for books on your child's
level. Fitting the child with the right book makes learning
fun and easy.
See this month's associated
Reading Calendar (pdf)
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