Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Matching Books to Readers

The first step to becoming a willing reader is finding books that excite you. I think most of us won’t stick with a book that doesn’t interest us, or is too hard. If a book has vocabulary I don’t understand or talks about things I have little interest in, I have to be VERY motivated to stick with it.
For example, I’m not a geek, but I’m fairly comfortable with computers. When setting up this blog, I took several books out of the library, including Blogging for Dummies. Try as I might, I couldn’t make sense of the books. I went online for help. Still no sense. Finally, I met with the husband of a friend and he walked me through some of the hardest parts.
I tell you this for a reason. These books didn’t help me because, even though they were written in fairly plain language, I simply didn’t have the background experience and I didn’t know the vocabulary. Our reluctant and struggling readers are often in the same boat.
The point of today’s blog is that our kids need to be matched up with books they WANT to read. Ones that interest them and don’t ask them to work too hard.
I think this subject, matching books to readers, is a big one. In fact, huge. Today I’ll give you a technique and a couple of resources . Please let me know if you find them helpful by writing in the comment box.
The 5-Finger Method
The five-finger method is a quick and easy way to decide if a new book is at a comfortable reading level for a reader.
  • Select a page from the middle of the book. Before you read, close the fingers in one hand.
  • As you read silently, stick up one finger for every word you don’t know and can’t guess. If you open 3 to 5 fingers, consider a different book.
  • If you stick up 1 or 2 fingers, this book is probably in your comfort range.
  • This isn’t a fool-proof method. Sometimes you can read all the words in a book but not really understand the story/text itself (like me and the blogging books).
  • Sometimes a book fails the 5-finger rule but you really want to read it so you keep going (like some kids with the Harry Potter books).
So how do you match your child to books he wants to read? There are several things to try.
  • Ask questions
    • What was the last book that you liked/interested you? (Show no judgment here – a book from a younger time is very okay.) Use the sites below to find similar books or ask a librarian for suggestions.
    • What would you like to be an expert in? This can be a great jumping off point for research.
  • Ask your child’s teacher and/or librarian what books your child has shown interest in and has been successful reading.
  • Go to the library and let your child choose whatever books she wants. Books seem too young? Swallow your judgment! The point is to read, regardless.

Here are two sites that I find helpful for finding books.
  • If I want to check the reading level of a book, I just type in the title or the author on the Quick Search page. (Caution: determining grade levels of books is a tricky process and there are many ways of doing it. The different ways tend to disagree a lot. Just use the grade levels as guidelines to point you to appropriate books.)
  • If I want to find a certain type of book (such as mystery), I go to Advanced Search. I choose the interest level, book level (grade level range) and then the topics and subtopics.
  • If there are more books listed than I can easily deal with, I narrow down the search.

  • I start in the I don't know my Lexile measure box.
  • Choose the grade level in the drop down box.
  • Choose the difficulty level that matches your child.
  • Click on Continue.
  • You can choose a broad category (like biography) or click on the + next to the category to narrow it down (like scientists) and hit enter.
  • The book suggestions give Lexile numbers. There’s a place on the site that explains these numbers. Basically, the higher the number, the higher the reading level. But as I cautioned above, use their levels just as guidelines to get you started.
Have you discovered other ways to find just the right books? Were the above suggestions/sites helpful? Please leave a comment!

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