A Lesson from Goldilocks
Remember the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
The first bed was too hard, the second was too soft and the third was just right? Well, choosing a "just right" book is the same idea as finding the right bed!
The easiest way is to help your child find the right book is to use the Five Finger Rule:
Here's how you do it:
1. Pick a book that your child would like to read.
2. Ask your child to start reading aloud to you.
3. Keep track of words missed (one finger up for each word that he/she is not able to read correctly).
Trying it Out
I decided to try this out with Joey, for help in writing this post but also to check in on his reading. We used book #2 of the popular Magic Tree House Series, The Knight at Dawn, by Mary Pope Osborne.
Joey turned to Chapter 8 - The Knight and began reading. Here are the words that he struggled with on the first page of the chapter:
According to the chart above, he missed three words. So this book is probably a little bit above his "Just Right" level, although I think he can still read it with support.
The key is that when your child reads alone (or with your support), that the book is not TOO hard. That will only result in frustration, for you and himher. Comprehension will be lost, tears may be shed and reading will not be enjoyable. (Although a challenge book is a perfect read aloud that YOU can read to your child).
A Note on Easy Books: It's okay to read easy books sometimes, especially to practice fluency and foster a love of reading. But if children only read easy books, they won't challenge themselves to use reading strategies and skills to decode new words and comprehend harder texts.
Comprehension is still King
We all know that the main reason to read is to make meaning and understand the text. So of course, noting misread words is not the only reading behavior to notice with your child. Asking a couple general comprehension questions is also a great guide as to whether or not the book is appropriate. For example,
- What just happened on this page?
- What do predict will happen next?
- What do you think this _[insert word]_ means?
If they can read the words but don't seem to "get" what's going in on the story, than have him/her move to an easier text when reading independently. Or, provide scaffolding by reading the book together.
What is a Leveled Text?
If your child's independent reading level is available from their teacher, you can also use that as a guide. Many schools use the Fountas and Pinnell Leveling System, which is a system that follows the letters of the alphabet, with A being the easiest.
Once you have the level, use the link below to check a book. Curious to see the actual difficulty of The Knight at Dawn, I popped the title into the site below.
Scholastic Book Wizard
This book is a Level M, which according to the Fountas and Pinnell link above, is an end of 2nd grade book. Which makes sense that is was above his level, since he is just about to enter 2nd grade.
The point here is not to police your child's reading level but to check in when he/she is reading indepedently. If she/he misses 5 or more words on a page, it's probably not a good book to read alone. Instead, choose a different book or read it together.
They're just words...
When Joey and I finished Chapter 8 in The Knight at Dawn, I offered him some praise. I was careful to use my "mommy" voice and not my "teacher" persona. (Earlier this summer, both kids told me to stop sounding like a teacher. "You're not a teacher in the summer," they informed me. "You're just our mom.")
So here's what I said to Joey this time around:
"Wow, you figured out some tricky words," I said. "You're a good reader!"
"Now remember, when you see big, scary words, like afloat or flailed, just stop and take your time. Just like we did together today."
He laughed, like I had just said the craziest thing in the world. "Why are you calling them scary words? They're not monsters or something.
"They're not scary, Mommy. They're just words."
I gave him a hug and smiled too.
My point exactly...