How can you tell if a book is the right reading level for your child? There are a number of different ways to work out whether books are at an appropriate level.
When trying to judge the reading difficulty of a book, keep these suggestions in mind:
the ratio of pictures to words
the difficulty of words
the complexity of the story
Publishers sometimes print the grade or recommended age level on the back of the book or on a book jacket. Although keep in mind that if you select a book that is beyond a child’s reading level, it can be read to him or her now, and later on by the child.
One of the easiest ways to determine if a book is at an appropriate reading level for your child is the 'five finger rule.' Have your child begin reading a chapter, and put down one finger each time he or she struggles with a word. If they reach the end of the page before you get to five fingers, the book is written at a comfortable level for independent reading.
Look for brightly coloured pictures of simple objects for attracting the attention of very young children. Board books and cloth books are excellent because they are very durable. Books with no words can encourage them to create their own stories. Simple texts and good rhythms are great to read aloud to little kids.
Preschool children respond well to rhythm and effective repetition so things like Mother Goose, nursery stories and books that depict familiar objects and experiences are excellent choices. Features like pop-ups or lift the flap books are also great for this age group.
Some children will learn to read before they begin school, but most children learn in the early school years. Look for picture books with strong storylines and character development. When a child can read independently, "easy reader" books are a good option to begin with and as they are able to handle more complexity, the vocabulary should begin to include some challenging words. There are a lot of non-fiction books published for this age group so children can read about topics that interest them and satisfy their curiosity about complex subjects.
Look for topics appropriate to the particular personality traits and personal preferences of the child. Perhaps an informational book, or a chapter book in an area of specific interest.
Experienced readers may seek out classic books. Less enthusiastic readers, might like lighter series fiction with cliff ending chapters which will encourage reading. Choose a variety of action and adventure titles, including fantasies. Many teens enjoy reading books that explore a teenagers' stuggles and angst.
100 best books for children by Anita Silvey
500 great books for teens by Anita Silvey
The between the lions book for parents: everything you need to know to help your child learn to read by Linda K. Rath and Louise Kennedy
How to get your child to love reading by Esmé Raji Codell
The New York times parent's guide to the best books for children by Eden Ross Lipson
The Ultimate teen book guide, edited by Daniel Hahn & Leonie Flynn
Book Adventure - Either Fiction or Non-Fiction Books, Fiction Books, Non-Fiction Books. Select up to 5 types of books you would like to read.
Children’s Book Council - This non-profit trade organization is dedicated to encouraging literacy and the use and enjoyment of children's books. Annual reading lists include Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, and Children’s Choices. The CBC also sponsors Young People's Poetry Week and Children's Book Week each year.
Choosing Books for Preteens and Teens - from Reading is Fundatmental
Cooperative Children’s Book Center - Find unique online lists such as Thirty Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know and reviews of a new and recommended books for children.
Hoagies' Gifted: Reading Levels of Children's Books: How Can You Tell? - Provides details on a few of the most popular means for determining "reading level" including Accelerated Reader, Fry Readability, and others.
Picturing Books - This site is an introduction to picture books, including the anatomy of picture books and descriptions of various artistic media and styles.
Planet Esme - Includes a blog, book lists, guides and much more.
Read Kiddo Read - This site from author James Patterson offers book reviews for four distinct reading levels: great illustrated books (ages 0 to 8), transitional books (ages 6 and up), pageturners (ages 8 and up), and advanced reads (ages ten and up).
Scholastic BookWizard BookAlike - This site helps parents and teachers find children’s books for all ages, grades, and reading levels. Type the name of a book into the search field and find other Scholastic books at a similar level.
Series and Sequels - Search this database is by series title, by author, by subject and you can do a book title search.
Start Your Own Parent-Child Book Club from Parenthood.com
Teen Reading Guide for Parents and Caregivers (PDF from YALSA)
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