Just Right Books… How Do You Know?

July 13, 2017 – AWE Learning Staff

Trying to enjoy a book but struggling to correctly read the text or accurately comprehend the story can be frustrating, especially for early learners. Providing children with books that they can both decode and comprehend is important not only to build a child’s literacy skills, but to also increase their reading confidence level.

Books that are on a child’s instructional reading level are often referred to as “just right” books. These books stretch the child in their reading ability in order to grow and strengthen their skills as a reader. In order to evaluate if a book is “just right” for the reader, the “Five Finger Test” has become a popular assessment strategy:

  1. Have the early learner select a book and flip to a page in the middle.
  2. Ask the individual to read the text aloud.
  3. Start with a closed fist, and hold up a finger each time the reader misreads or skips a word.
  4. After reading the page, count how many fingers are up. If 1 – 5 fingers are up, the book is “just right” for the reader, it is at the learner’s instructional level. (Note: If 0 fingers are up, the book is an easy read, and if 6+ fingers are up, the book is too difficult for the reader.)

In addition to counting how many words the reader misses, fluency and comprehension also play key roles in assessing whether or not the book is on the appropriate reading level for the early learner. Does the reader sound smooth while reading? Fluency can also indicate how well the student comprehends the material and it can improve a child’s attitude toward reading.

It is important for early learners to read books that are appropriate to their individual reading capabilities. Studies show that if the book is too difficult, it will lead to frustration; furthermore, books that lack any challenge will lead to boredom. Providing early learners with books that are engaging to them will help to enhance their literacy skills. Libraries are a great place for early learners to be exposed to a wide variety of “just right” books. Their large book collections will certainly give early learners the opportunity to select a plethora of books that are of interest to them.

If your early learner wants to read a book that appears to be above their reading level, read it together. Readalouds have many positive benefits including increased language development, academic success, and a long term love for reading. Reading it on their own will likely result in a lack of comprehension of the text, and will cause the reader frustration.

Just Right Books

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