ES Helping Children Choose Just Right Books


Most children enjoy reading and find the challenge of locating a book that interests them and will hold their attention a worthwhile endeavor. But for some, the challenge seems too great and can be discouraging at best. There are some things that we can to do help our children find that book that is just right for them.

First of all, discuss with your child what type of things interest them. Does he like to use his imagination or does he prefer to think in the “real” world. Does she like a particular genre; does she know what a genre is or that there are many different genres?  Does he enjoy learning how to do things such as building models, cooking, making arts and crafts or planting a garden? Does she want to find an escape from the daily work and play of being a child? Once you have helped your child identify his or her interests, then you might consider searching for books using the school’s library catalog (Destiny) to discover titles that correlate to those interests. The librarian and assistant are always happy to help with this process.

Once a book is found encourage your child to spend time looking through the book. Read the synopsis on the back or look at the summary in Destiny. Have your child answer these questions: Does this sound interesting; is there something here I want to pursue? If so, then have your child open the book to the middle and read a few sentences. Have your child answer these questions: Do I understand what is happening? Can I read most of the words? Does it make sense? Or is it confusing and has several words that I don’t really understand? If your child finds himself mixed up, or finding more than 3-4 words that he doesn’t easily understand, then encourage your could to wait on that book till later or agree to read the book along with him. It is never a good idea to simply look at the words with no real understanding. This can inhibit reading growth and actually cause discouragement. I sometimes explain to children that reading books that are just too hard for them is similar to be being put in front of a large buffet table and being told they must eat everything they see. While in the beginning it may look yummy and inviting, after a while it becomes painful and we want to shut down, to stop eating. Reading can be the same. We see the challenge and we try, but sometimes it is just too much and eventually our brain shuts down and nothing more goes in. So, in the long run, it is better to choose and enjoy a book that is just right than to take on a book that is too hard.

imagesWith younger children ask them to use the Five Finger Rule to help them find books.

Open the book to a middle page, read the words and for each word or idea that is unknown or confusing put up one finger. If 4-5 fingers go up, that book is likely too hard for right now. If no fingers go up, that book might be too easy for growth, but if 2-3 fingers go up that book may be just right. It will present some challenge but not likely overwhelm the child.


images (1)With older children consider using the I-PICK method of choosing books:

Purpose…why do I want to read this book? Is it for fun or for study?

Is this book interesting to me?

Comprehension: Do I understand what the book is saying?

Know:  Do I know most of the words?

For more information, check out these online resources: (computerized voices, but some excellent information) (good example of struggling with with flow)  (I-Pick method) Tool to help you better understand and support your child’s reading development (free until Sept 26th on the App store)


Helping children find “just-right “books can seem difficult at first, but by using these simple methods it becomes more manageable and with practice children can use them independently; making good choices about the books they are reading. Please stop by the library for any assistance you might need as you help your child choose books that they enjoy and that encourage their reading development.

Connie Anderson

ECES Teacher-Librarian



Five finger rule graphic:

iPick graphic: