Tips for Picking Age Appropriate Books - part 1

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Finding books that are appropriate for our kids is a challenge. When they are younger and first learning to read it can be hard to know what books are a good fit for their abilities. When they are older, the challenge can be avoiding books with content and themes they just aren't ready for. Most publishers give recommended reading ages for the books they publish, but, as we all know, every child is different. They read at their own pace and some are affected more dramatically by what they read than others. 

How do you know if a book is a good fit for your child’s reading ability and is an appropriate pick for them? Below are three tips that should help. (Next week look for tips to help you find content that is appropriate.)

1. Try the Five Finger Test.

Ask your child to read from a random page in the middle of the book. Each time they get to a word they don’t know, hold up a finger. If they get to 5 fingers, the book is a “someday” book for them.

2. Ask Questions.

If your child is reading a book that you think might be at a higher reading level than they are, ask them a few questions when they are done to check their understanding. This can be as simple as, tell me what happened in the book you read today.

3. Make sure the book is one that interests them.

If they aren’t interested, they won’t want to read, and if they do read, they will be far less likely to get anything out of it. Picking appropriate books also means picking books our kids are interested in and want to read. 

One more trick of the trade...

Most books in the early reader and middle grade fiction genres have been assigned a reading level. If you know your child’s reading level (Lexile or Guided Reading are popular systems), but don’t know if the books you are picking are at that level, there is an app for that. Many of the early reader books will include reading levels on the back of the books, but with more advanced books this can be harder to find. 

If you can't find the reading level on the actual book, there are apps available that can help you with this. These resources allow you to search a book by title, author, or scan the bar code. If the book is included in their database, you will be rewarded with the book’s reading level (most include Lexile and Guided Reading levels). If you search “reading level” in the app store you will find several options; most of these apps are not free. Scholastic's Book Wizard can be accessed as an app or you can simply visit the website to find reading levels on many books; this resource is free.