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Summer reading: Helping young readers find a "just right" book

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Over the summer months, you may find yourself making a few extra trips to the library. Though your children will enjoy finding their own books, they are bound to choose some titles that are beyond their reading levels. Attempting to read beyond their levels may be fun for awhile, but can also become discouraging. You may be tempted to help choose the books they read in order to avoid this problem. However, allowing them to select their own books is extremely important.

Over the summer months, you may find yourself making a few extra trips to the library. Though your children will enjoy finding their own books, they are bound to choose some titles that are beyond their reading levels. Attempting to read beyond their levels may be fun for awhile, but can also become discouraging. You may be tempted to help choose the books they read in order to avoid this problem. However, allowing them to select their own books is extremely important.

Self-selection in reading allows children to learn confidence in their choices. It also helps motivate them to read, especially if they are struggling readers. When children are allowed to choose their own books, they are able to find topics that meet their specific needs at the time. And they are more excited to go home and read the books they pulled off the shelf.

One study showed that children tend to choose books with readability levels and topics that are different from their tested reading abilities and stated interests. So your children’s tastes in books may be different than you expect.

Still, you want your children to enjoy the books they're reading. To help them choose books that are appropriate to their reading level, teach them the Five Finger Rule.

  1. Choose a book.
  2. Pick a page in the middle to read.
  3. Read the page. You can read it out loud or whisper quietly.
  4. Put one finger up every time you see a word you don’t know.
  5. When you get to the end of the page, count how many fingers you are holding up.
  6. Follow the Five Finger Rule:

    0–1 finger: This book is too easy for you. 2–3 fingers: Probably just right for you! 4 fingers: You can try it. It might be hard for you to understand. 5 fingers: A little too hard for you right now. Say goodbye and choose another book. Remember, you can try it again later this year.

Your readers may have learned this rule at school, but a fun reminder from you can be the difference between returning a stack of ignored books or a pile of devoured—and loved—books. What kind will your children be returning this week?

Have your children used the Five Finger Rule for choosing books? Was it helpful? Leave us a comment to share your experience.

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