The Art of Choosing a Book

How does it work in your family when you go to the library or a book store?  Is your child able to pick out books that are appropriate for his or her reading level?  Do you pick out books for your child?  Choosing books is a difficult skill to learn!  There are so many books out there.  How do you help your child find one they can read and enjoy?


I use an acronym made famous by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser of The Daily 5, a terrific system for providing ways for students to independently engage in reading tasks in the classroom.  The acronym is “I PICK“.


I look at a book


Purpose (why do I want to read right now?)

Interest (do I like this book?)

Comprehend (can I understand what I’m reading?)

Know the words (do I know most of the words?)


Kids will want to think about the purpose of their reading first.  Are they trying to learn about a topic or learn a new skill?  Do they want to read for fun or to relax? Once your child identifies a purpose for reading, they will then want to start actually opening books.  It is best to read the first few pages of a book and then check in.  A reader will want to determine if the book seems of interest and mostly understandable so far.  As adults, we don’t read every book we pick up.  Kids don’t have to either!  The reader will also want to double-check that they know the words.  Gail and Joan guide kids to choose a book in which they know all the words.  I usually teach kids to look for books in which they know most of the words.  For chapter books, kids shouldn’t have difficulty with more than 5 words per page.  For picture books with a fair amount of text, they will be checking to make sure they know all but 1 or 2 words per page.  If there is only one sentence or phrase per page, a student should know nearly all the words in order to be able to read the book independently.


One way to help your child start to learn to choose a book is by selecting 10-12 books at or around their general reading level – books they can read more or less.  Choose a variety of genres and topics.  Lay them out on a table at the library or at home and have your child tell you why they are wanting to read.  Is it because they want to learn about something or someone?  Or learn how to do something?  Is it because they want to be entertained?  Or laugh?  Once they decide, have them look for books in the stack that might fit the bill.  Then, ask your child to read the first few pages and check in.  “Are you liking it so far?  Is it interesting or boring or somewhere in between?  Do you understand it?  Tell me about what you just read?  Does it seem like you know most of the words?  Is it too hard or too easy?”


If it isn’t a good pick help your child to figure out why.  Celebrate making a go and using “I PICK” to figure that out!  That is a success!


What happens if your kid insists on picking a book that is too hard?  One of my students recently went through this process and chose a book that he couldn’t read well enough to enjoy it.  But he was super interested in the topic (it was a biography of Rosa Parks).  Am I going to deny him the joy of experiencing this book?  No way!  Did we talk about it being a book that is better to read with an adult?  Of course!  The important part of this experience for you and your child is practicing how to pick out a book.


As I’m sure you know, lots of kids hit a point when all they want to read is chapter books.  Or comic books.  Or some other kind of book that they always read when you wish they were reading something else.  My advice is to avoid fighting that battle!  At least they are wanting to read something, right?  Allow your child that guilty pleasure book and encourage them to pick a few other books using this method.  Once your child learns it and can embrace it, my guess is they will be wanting to pick out more books than ever!


Have fun with this and give it some time to sink in.  The independence your child gains will fuel their reading life well into the future.