Help Kids Pick Their Own Books

For almost two weeks now, I’ve kept Gail Gauthier’s post This Works for Me, Too as a starrred item in my blog reader. I didn’t want to bury it in a Reading Round-up over at TubTalk, nor did I want it to get lost in the flurry of activity during Book Blogger Appreciation Week.

Gail’s piece in her Original Content blog offers some of the best advice I’ve heard about helping kids pick out books for themselves. It’s simple, they can remember it … and so can you. Gail links to the Five Finger Test, a process kids can use to help them decide if a book they’ve picked out is too easy or too hard for them. There are actually two methods.

Goldilocks Rule For this process, readers answer a series of questions to determine if a book is too easy (e.g., have you read this book before, do you know every word); just right (is the book new, do you have some words you don’t know); or too hard (are you confused about the content)?

Five Finger Test Open the book to a middle page and start reading. When you read a word you don’t know (or can’t say), hold up a finger. If, by the end of the page, you have five fingers up in the air, the book is too difficult, “so wave it goodbye.” If you have no fingers up, go back to the Goldilocks Rule to determine if the book is too easy or just right.

Kids will remember the Five Finger Test and they carry the data collector with them everywhere. But the more valuable process comes from the questions in the Goldilocks Rule. These are good questions, as they focus not only on vocabulary and readability (i.e., processing words), but also comprehension and whether or not the child has someone who can help them with their reading.

  • A just right book requires “someone [who] can help you with the book when you hit a tough spot.”
  • A too hard book is one where “everyone [is] busy and unable to help you if you hit a tough spot.”

The questions are written at a reading level the kids can understand. I ran the Goldilocks Rule web page through Juicy Studio and it came back with a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 3.79. That seems targeted at about the right level, as third grade is when you hit “independent reader” on most scales … and it is also the reading level for millions of adults.

The current discussions in the UK about book banding are what ultimately led to Gail’s discovery and her post. It’s nice to know that something good and useful has surfaced from some of those discussions. Thanks, Gail.