Parents often wonder how to choose great books for their children to read. We all have favorite books from our childhood and even now as adults. But how did you find that favorite book? At the library? Did you see a friend reading it? Did a favorite teacher recommend this book? We want to choose good books, but they need to be on the correct reading level for our children. If you are like me, you probably have one child that reads well above grade level and another that reads everything she can get her hands on and another that prefers to be read to! Reading is the foundation of our learning. We need to go the extra mile to help our children find level appropriate books to read. But where do we start?
The Five Finger Test
Choosing books at the library is simple with the five finger test. Have your child choose 8-10 books that they want to take home. Watch how your child chooses the book. Do they look at the cover alone or open the book? How do you choose a book? Perhaps we need to teach our children to look inside the book. This book could be quite different that what the cover implies.
Teaching our children to find “on-level” books is really very important. We don’t want our child getting frustrated because they don’t understand the book. We want to give them books they can read now. The more they read, the better at reading they will become. So have your child pick up one of the books. Turn to any page in the book and have them read that page to you. Count how many times your child stumbles on a word. If it is more than five (5 fingers) then that book may be too difficult. This book may be a good candidate as a read aloud book if your child is interested in the story! If you little guy has read through the book beautifully without any trouble, you can still get the book for your child to enjoy.
(The Lexile level assigned to a book allows you to find a book that matches your readers ability. You can find all the details for Lexile Framework on their website.) You can find readers of all levels in a classroom, so I hesitate to say there is a Lexile level that determines grade level. I do however, like the way that Lexile Framework website allows a user to enter the book information in their search feature and get results of an age range. Want to know the reading level of your child’s current book? Simply visit the Lexile Framework website and enter the book information in the top right corner search box.
I entered the title of White Fang by Jack London. This book is Lexile leveled at 650L for ages 11-18. That is some pretty useful information! As a parent, I am now equipped at knowing what level my child’s book is. This does not determine your child’s reading level, just the level of the book he or she is reading at the time. There are many tests that can determine your child’s reading level. But this tool can give you a pretty good idea of what level books your student is reading.
It is okay to allow your child to read a book outside of their level with help. A friend pointed out to me recently that her son could read a book that was officially a much higher level book than he was currently reading at. This book was deemed a higher level book due to names and locations. She had to assist him in this area alone, and he was well on his way to enjoying a great story. So consider this when choosing books.
Remember, that in any given group of children you are going to find those that excel at reading and others that are struggling. Just keep reading. Consistency is key.
Matching Readers with Books and Guided Reading
I really like to have a book reference with me at times and I like Irene Fountas’ book Leveled Books, K-8: Matching Texts to Readers for Effective Teaching. I used an earlier copy of this book when my children were much younger. I liked this book for a couple of reasons. It let me look up books by grade/Lexile level as well as by title. This book traveled with me for my planning session at a local coffee shop, to park day with fellow moms that needed the resource and to our co-op. This is a treasured resource.
Finding leveled readers were part of our reading program that included with Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children and Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction (5th Edition) (Words Their Way Series). This is a great reading program that teaches reading, vocabulary and spelling. It took me quite a few years of teaching reading to find this trusted resource. Believe me when I tell you we tried nearly every program on the market. And this….this was the one!
This post contains affiliate links. We welcome you to read our disclosure policy.