Finding a book that is perfectly suited for me is something I desire every time I grab one off the shelf! Don’t you hope to find yourself lost in a story that is difficult to put down? I have a love-hate relationship with that feeling where you think the story is going on without you because you’re not there to read it! After reading this post, you will feel confident in guiding your child to choose a good fit book to enjoy reading independently. With regular practice in picking out a suitable book, they will be able to improve their stamina to read daily for twenty minutes or more.
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What is a ‘Good Fit’ Book?
A good fit book is one that your child can enjoy reading independently. It should challenge them, but not so much that they become frustrated or have a difficult time understanding the text.
It’s not easy to choose a good fit book! The more your child practices understanding their own interests and abilities as a reader, the easier it is for them to do.
How Do You Teach Your Independent Reader to Choose a ‘Good Fit’ Book?
Independent reading time is the foundation for fostering a love of reading in your child. According to a statement from the National Council of Teachers of English, “The goal of independent reading as an instructional practice is to build habitual readers with conscious reading identities.” Hearing my students talk about books with one another and refer to themselves as readers never failed to bring a smile to my face; that’s success!
However, helping a child get to this place isn’t something that happens naturally. It begins with helping them practice choosing a suitable book. Teaching this skill is something we have to help them with early and often. After that, they will become more confident in their independent reading.
And that is our whole purpose with this strategy: create independent readers. Here is what you can do to help the children in your life choose a suitable book!
1. Let Your Child Choose a Book
“Student choice in text is essential because it motivates, engages, and reaches a wide variety of readers,” promises a statement from the National Council of Teachers of English.
Kids should be free to find a book they want to read. When given the opportunity to read a book that you choose yourself, you feel empowered. Now this doesn’t mean you can’t help guide them or make suggestions! When consulting with a student I grab five or six books and tell them a little bit about each one. Then, I lay them all out and ask them if any sound enjoyable to them. If not, I grab a few more options and try again. They eventually find something they feel they might like.
When kids have autonomy over what they are reading, they are more likely to stick with the book. They take ownership for their decision and put forth more effort than they would if it was required reading.
Nerdy Book Club has several other great reasons for letting your child choose their own book. One of my favorites that she suggests is that kids are more willing to take risks. Picking their own book is a small stepping stone to seeing them take risks in other areas in their life. It’s important to give them this opportunity that is coupled with your support.
If you are worried about the content of the book they chose, Mama Bookworm suggests to review a website like Common Sense Media. They are a great resource to “ensure the reading material your child chose is within your comfort level and limits on age-appropriateness.”
Good Fit Book Ideas You Can Suggest to Your Child
If you are looking for ideas of books you might recommend, check out one of our books lists.
- Books for Baby – Age 4 (Granted, babies might be a little young to pick their own book. I bet your four year old would be willing though!)
- Primary Grades: Kindergarten – 2nd Grade
- Middle Grades: 3rd Grade – 5th Grade
2. Make Sure the Topic is Interesting to Them
Secondly, to help your child choose a good fit book, consider if the book is about a topic that they like and whether or not it will hold their interest. Kids need something highly engaging or else they will be more likely to abandon the book.
Having a variety of books for kids to choose from will ensure they find something enjoyable. According to Louis Harris, “Creating a steady stream of new, age-appropriate books has been shown to nearly triple interest in reading within months.”
Challenge Them With a Read Aloud
If you pick a book to read with your child, choose a genre they might not be familiar with. Because of their young age, children have not had the opportunity to be exposed to a wide range of genres. So, when reading together, you should consider choosing something they are not familiar with because you have the benefit of being there to explain the topic and to give background information to help them comprehend it. You never know, they might find a new topic that they really love!
I have experienced this while reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind in my class. Few of the students would pick up a biography, but they really enjoyed this book because I took the time to read it with them.
Offer Familiarity When Reading Independently
However, with the goal of reading independently, they will more than likely want a genre they already know they enjoy. This might not be true for every kid, but it is true of most. Be sure they are interested in the topic of the book.
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre has a great article describing genres that interest kids of all ages, and it also includes some great book suggestions for each age group. It’s important not to overwhelm them with choices, but to give them enough freedom to pick something on their own.
3. Check to See if Your Child Comprehends the Story
One of the biggest factors in helping your child choose a good fit book is determining whether or not they understand what they are reading. Many people suggest finding books based on your child’s Accelerated Reader, Reading Counts or their Lexile levels. All of these programs generate scores based on a test, but I am not a fan of them! I think it is a mistake to rely on these numbers as a determining factor of whether or not your child has chosen a good fit book.
If you find books labeled for a specific age/grade or a specific level, please just ignore that information. Reading abilities vary from child to child. We shouldn’t label them or tell them they aren’t allowed to read something. It takes away from the first idea I shared: allow them to choose the book!
The most important thing is that they want to read the book. We should not discourage their choices.
If you are interested in more information about the negative effects of assessments like Accelerated Reader, I really enjoyed reading this scholarly article by Nicole Willekes called “Disrupting the Flow: The Detrimental Effects of Accelerated Reader on Student Motivation.” There is also an interesting article in The Pennington Publishing Blog that has a list of 18 reasons to steer clear from the program. As a teacher and a parent, I would agree with the majority of these.
The Easiest Way to Check Whether or Not Your Child Understands
So, did they choose a good fit book? Do they understand the story? The best way to determine this is to have a conversation about the book!
Check in with them every couple of chapters and ask them to tell you what their book is about. If they feel like they are on track, great! You’ve found a winner. If, however, they can’t really summarize what they are reading or share any thoughts about the book, you should read it along with them or help them to find something else that is more appropriate.
Having a conversation about the book is not the same as quizzing them on it. Your goal is to get them to think more deeply about what they are reading and to apply it to themselves, not recall every detail that they have read. These types of conversations also have the benefit of strengthening your relationship with your child, as well as encouraging a culture of reading in your home or classroom.
4. Ensure They Understand the Majority of the Vocabulary
The last way to help your child choose a good fit book is to check to see if they understand the words in the story. It is important for a budding, independent reader not to feel overwhelmed with too many unknown words from the text. This can cause frustration and possibly cause them to become uninterested with the reading.
On the other hand, it’s also helpful if they are reading a book that has some words that are unfamiliar to them. This means that they will have to practice using context clues to determine the meaning of the word. A skill I still use regularly (and I hope you do, too!).
What is the Five Finger Test in Reading?
Before deciding on a book, your child can do The Five Finger Test to see if this particular book is a good fit for them. Here are the steps:
- Read two to three pages of the book.
- For each word you do not know or cannot pronounce, hold up a finger.
Here’s the finger guide:
1-2 Fingers: This book is too easy for you.
3-4 Fingers: This book is just right.
5+ Fingers: This will probably be too difficult to read and understand.
This process is not a precise science, but it is a pretty helpful guide. Your child might still be able to comprehend a book where they initially found five words that they didn’t know. If they’re interested in reading it, let them! Just check in every now and then to see that they can summarize what they are reading for you.
And, of course, you’ll find some books where your children know all of the vocabulary words. It’s okay for them to read this for pleasure! Keep encouraging them to read something that might be a little more challenging because it will help them to become a better reader, but I wouldn’t make a huge ordeal of it.
If You Find That Your Child Wants to Read a Book That is Too Hard…
Here are some great suggestions, according to Reading Rockets, for what to say when your child wants to read something that is too difficult for them:
- Let’s read it together.
- This is a book you will enjoy more if you save it until you are older — or later in the year.
- [Be honest!] When people read books that are too hard for them, they often skip important parts. You will have more fun with this book if you wait until you can read it more easily.
Every year, I talk to my students about how I personally use these ideas to choose a good fit book for myself. I also teach my students to do the same thing. After you have practiced a number of times you’ll get better at finding books that are a suitable to read.
There will still be times when you pick up a book that you just don’t enjoy though. If that happens, don’t be afraid to stop reading it! That’s right, I said it: you don’t have to finish the book if you don’t want to!
Be confident when you help your child choose a good fit book to read independently. By using these ideas you are guiding them to become a more meaningful reader. With regular practice they will be able to improve their stamina to read daily for twenty minutes or more.
Having a variety of books to choose from is the best way for them to find a good fit book. Complete my survey to get a list of personalized book recommendations for your child.