Choosing Books for Reading at Home

Research shows that kids who read at home are better off.  Simple, right?  It is simple!  Kids should read at home every day.  Kids should read to themselves (little ones can look at picture books), parents should read to kids, kids should read to parents, kids should read to each other.  I suggest that kindergarteners read or be read to for 20 minutes, first and second graders for 30 minutes, and third through fifth graders for at least 45 minutes.  The goal, of course, is for children to love reading so much that they want to do it all the time!

For kids who struggle, however, this is often just not the case.  Reading at home is anything but simple; it is often a battle.  Choosing the right books is key to making the reading time productive and fun.  If your child doesn’t regularly read at home, doesn’t enjoy reading at home, or complains about reading at home, read on fearless parent!

First off, head to the library for some “just right” books.  Two main things make a book appropriate for an individual reader:  topic and level.

Books that kids are reading should be on a topic that interests them.  Talk with your child about what kind of books they enjoy.  Think not only about topic but also about genre.  Is there something your son or daughter wants to learn to do?  Juggling?  Soccer?   Cooking?  You can talk to your child about how you choose books to read and why.  You can compare a vacation paperback to a camera manual or talk about how you’ve never really liked science fiction but you love westerns.  Helping kids choose a book on a topic they are interested in is a great first step toward having just right books in your home.

The level of a book is also critical.  If you are reading to your child, the level is less important but should still be considered as their interest will be based upon their ability to comprehend.  If your child is reading alone or to you or another child, a simple rule of thumb is that there should be no more than 5 difficult words per page.  Of course a book should be passed by if there are only a few words on a page and all of them are difficult.  Parents are often eager to help their kids sound words out.  This is a wonderful strategy, but if your child is having to employ it more than a handful of times per page then too much of their brain is working at decoding their words and very little of it will be left for following the story.  When kids can’t follow a story they usually don’t enjoy it, so make sure the books your child is choosing are just right – not too easy, not too hard.

A note about chapter books:  they are the best, the coolest, the ONLY thing worth reading in some kids’ minds.  And this will be true whether they are appropriate or not.  Luckily lots of children’s authors and publishers have caught on to this fact and there are a number of “chapter books” for beginning readers.  Look for the Scholastic “I Can Read Chapter Books” series and High Noon Books’ “Sound Out Chapter Books” series.  Also the Henry and Mudge books by Cynthia Rylant and the Young Cam Jansen series by David Adler are great places to start.  From there kids will enjoy Junie B. Jones and Captain Underpants (really the best thing for reluctant boy readers despite [but really because of] the bathroom humor!).

Okay, now it’s off to the library to get reading!  Enjoy!