Whether you have an emergent reader or a developing reader, it’s important to know how to choose the books that are right for your child. If children read books that are too hard when they are practicing reading it can do more damage than good. If they read books that are just right they can make progress quickly.
The number one question I get from parents is: What books should my child read?
This stems from the idea that there are leveled books and they are not sure which level their child should read from. There are ways to figure out which level your child is reading on if you want to use a set of leveled readers like the books at Reading A-Z, but if you want to use all types of children’s books from the library, you will need to understand a few things about how to find the just-right books for your child. I’ll break this down into five simple steps.
- Find 5–6 books — around the same level — use your best guess for now or check out our book lists on our website to get an idea.
2. Count off 100 words.
3. Ask your child to read up to 100 words — it’s not that many!
4. 5 errors — STOP! This is already TOO HARD for Independent reading.
5. 10 errors — STOP! This is TOO HARD for instructional or guided reading. Don’t make your child go any further.
*if stuck right away — STOP! — choose an easier book
*use a simple checkmark to keep track
Count as ERRORS
- Skips a word
- Adds a word
- Mispronounces a word
- Asks for help
- Stops and you give him the word
Do NOT count as errors
- Makes a few attempts before getting it correct
- repeats a word
Based on the accuracy % you calculated above here are what books to use when with your child.
These are books your child can read on his own, without any help from others. These books should fall in the 95%-100% accuracy range. In other words, for every 100 words in the book, your child should not miss more than 5 words. This provides easy, independent practice for your child to read to build confidence and fluency. Provide plenty of these books around the house or in the classroom for independent reading practice. And don’t forget to provide plenty of time for your child to read them!
Simply put, this is when your child reads but you are there to guide him. Books that are perfect for this instructional time fall in the sweet spot of 90%-94% accuracy. So, using our 100-word benchmark, your child should not miss more than 10 of these words for you to use them during guided reading time. Save these books for read-aloud time or for when your child is ready for them.
Any books are fine for read-aloud time but if you’ve done the 5-step process from above and found some books that are too hard for independent reading or guided reading, you can add these to the read-aloud pile. In time, your child will be able to read them on her own and you can move them into the guided reading pile or her own book basket for choosing during independent reading time.
A few more things to keep in mind
- If your child misses a few words right away, you don’t have to make him read all 100 words. Just use that as the guideline and if your child gets to 10 words right away, set that book aside. It’s too hard.
- Any book can be a read-aloud but I like to use books that interest the child I am reading to and that are a bit above their ability level. That way I am introducing some challenging vocabulary to them and also getting them excited about books that they can read soon if they keep practicing.
- For babies or toddlers, don’t worry about guided reading or independent reading. Just read aloud every day and let your child pick up books to look at and turn the pages.
That’s it! Experiment with some books from the library and let me know if you have any questions.
Don’t forget to check out more articles on how to teach a child to read here in Raise a Lifelong Reader.
Why You Should Use Real Books to Teach Children to Read
The difference between phonics readers and REAL books
I’ve been teaching kids to read my entire adult life and I believe three things: 1. All children can learn to read and learn to love books.
2. All parents deserve the right to support their child’s education the way they find best for their child.
3. Reading shouldn’t be boring or cause tears.
If you need help, I’ve got plenty of resources to help you get going in our Facebook group. I hope to see you there!