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September Parent’s Corner > Choosing “Just Right” Books
Parent's Corner - Back to September's edition >

Choosing “Just Right” Books

Finding the right books can be the spark your child needs to ignite his passion for reading! Here is a list of questions to ask yourself when you’re looking for books that are “just right” for him.

Will my child enjoy the subject matter?

Help her choose books that match her interests and pique her curiosity. Younger children may respond more favorably to fiction or nonfiction books they can easily relate to their own life experiences, hobbies or interests. As children get older, they may become more interested in a wider variety of books in the fantasy, science fiction, or historical genres.

Is the content of this book age-appropriate?

Be careful not to choose books that are too “babyish” or too advanced for your child. If the books are geared toward much younger children, they may become bored or disinterested. Likewise, if the content is too mature, they may comprehend less of the story. Many book publishers provide age recommendations based on content and the reading level that will help you determine which books are appropriate.

Is the reading level appropriate for my child?

For read-alouds: As long as your child has the attention span and desire to listen to you read, don’t be overly concerned with the reading level of the book. (Note: Some older children may choose to read the same books during independent reading, so be sure to select a few read-aloud books your child enjoys which also match his reading level.)

For independent reading: Consider whether or not your child will be able to read the book without struggling. No matter how much your child wants to read it, a book that is above her reading level will frustrate her. The five-finger rule is a quick way for her to determine if she is ready for the book: Pick out a book and begin reading any page. If you come to a word you do not know how to pronounce, hold up one finger. If you are holding up five fingers before you have finished reading the page, then the book is probably above your reading level. Put the book back on the shelf and return to it in a few months to try again.

Does this book match my child’s stage of development?

As children grow, they respond differently to books. This is based not only on their age, interests and reading level, but also on their developmental needs. Here are a few tips to help you select books that are developmentally appropriate for your child.

Babies and Toddlers: Choose sturdy board books that will withstand a good amount of wear and tear. They should feature vibrant pictures or illustrations that are visually appealing. Look for pictures of other babies, animals, or familiar topics your little one can relate to. Some ideal selections include: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Jamberry by Bruce Degen, or The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners: In addition to traditional nursery rhymes with catchy, rhythmic verses, introduce your child to colorfully illustrated nonfiction books and classic picture books that tell a simple narrative. Keep their interest high with read-alouds that focus on the world around them and other children their age. Some ideal books for this level include: Corduroy by Don Freeman, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, or The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

1st & 2nd Graders: Continue reading a variety of picture books aloud to your child, but now it’s time to let him read to you, too! Start with colorfully illustrated books with a few simple words aimed at helping beginning readers learn to read. As your child’s reading skills and attention span grow, add simple chapter books that feature lots of eye-catching illustrations. Some ideal selections for this level include: Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel, Freckle Juice by Judy Blume, or Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat.

3rd, 4th & 5th Graders: At this stage, your child should be ready for longer chapter books with more complex storylines. Encourage her to read a variety of genres—from nonfiction and fantasy to historical and science fiction. Children at this age also tend to enjoy reading books by the same author or a series of books with the same characters. As their reading confidence grows, so will their appetite for more great books! (If you have a reluctant reader, select chapter books that feature lots of pictures and easy-to-read text in order to maintain her interest.) Some ideal books for this level include: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, or Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

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