As a teacher, one of your goals is to help students find books that are Just Right for them. This means finding books at their instructional level so they can read, comprehend, and enjoy the book. A just right book at a student’s instructional level is a book that stretches the child just a bit — not so much as to make them frustrated but enough to continue their growth as a reader.
It has been shown that reading Just Right books enhance independent reading lives. If a student is able to read and understand a book, they enjoy it more. If they enjoy reading, they will read more. Students who read at an appropriate level have increased stamina, fluency, and comprehension and ultimately read more.
You want your students to love reading, to choose reading when they have choice in activities, but independent reading can be challenging for many. The most challenging part of independent reading for many students is choosing books that are a good fit. Not only do they need to find books that are at the right reading level, but they also need to find books that match their interests.
So how do we help our students find a Just Right book? Here are five tips to share with students who may be struggling to find and stick with a book:
Finding a Just Right Book
1. You understand most of the words on the page.
You’re definitely getting the gist of things! Most of the words on the page look familiar to you. You’re able to understand the majority of them. The others, you’re not quite sure about. But, that’s okay! with a little more practice, you’ll be able to understand them too.
2. You are able to retell what you read.
You are able to read and retain information from text. Not only that, but you are able to explain the text to others in a way that is interesting and engaging.
3. Your reading voice is smooth.
Your reading voice is smooth and easy to listen to. This means that you are not rushing through the material and that you are pausing at all of the right places. When you speak, it sounds like you are having a conversation with the reader, which makes the experience much more enjoyable.
4. You are enjoying the book even if some parts are a little challenging.
You are enjoying the book even if some parts are a little challenging. It’s interesting to see how the author puts together words in a way that might be new to you, but you’re managing and learning as you go.
5. Book holds your attention – easy to focus on.
The book is easy to focus on because it is interesting. It keeps your attention throughout the entire story.
Here is a link to some posters and bookmarks that may be helpful to share with your students.
Assessing if Students Have Chosen Just Right Books
It can be challenging to know if students have chosen books that are Just Right for them even after sharing the tips above and knowing their reading level. Ultimately, students will read books that interest them. However, there are times when a student chooses a book that is too hard for them either because they think that is what they are supposed to read or because they believe if they start a book they have to finish it.
Here are a few signs that can help you assess if your students have chosen a book that is too difficult for them:
If a book is too hard, your student will:
- feel frustrated and want to give up after only reading a few pages
- have to stop often to figure out the meaning of words
- won’t be able to accurately answer questions about the characters or plot
- will seem bored or confused when you discuss the book with them
- will read very slowly or skip entire sections
If a student is struggling with a book, give them permission to abandon the book. Just like adults, students will not enjoy every book they choose. Think about your own reading life. Do you finish every book you start? Help your students understand that it is ok to stop reading one book and start another – it is part of a normal, active reading life.
So when is it ok for a student to abandon a book? If a student is struggling with a book and feeling frustrated, it may be time to set it aside and try something else. It may be they just need to take a break or it may mean they are not yet ready for that book and should give another book a try. It’s important to encourage kids to move on when they encounter a book that is too difficult.
If a student is not interested or can’t understand a book, they will likely stop reading, so if finishing a book feels like an impossible task, it is probably best to abandon it and move on. The most important thing is for students to find books that inspire them to keep reading.
Helping students find Just Right books is important because it allows them to read without frustration while still being challenged. If a student is struggling with reading, don’t worry! Just keep working on finding books that are at their level and they will gradually improve with practice. Reading should be fun, not frustrating!