It’s always the right time to dig into good books, but summertime often inspires us to visit the library or bookstore with the children in our lives. With so many types and options, it can feel overwhelming picking out just the right story or nonfiction text, so here are some tips to help you get started sharing literature with your young students.
Engaging our children in books can be done in many ways. You can read aloud to your child on the couch or listen to an audiobook together in the car. Listening to stories helps expand oral language, background knowledge, and reasoning skills. Talk about the characters, the problems they are facing, and make predictions for what will happen next and why they think that. Discuss new words, concepts, or places in the book that may be unfamiliar to your child. This learning, while not active reading, can still have a huge impact on later reading comprehenion skills.
When researching books for independent reading, 95% is a good rule of thumb. Have your child read the first paragraph or two, and if they are about 95% accurate, reading roughly 19 out of every 20 words correctly without significant effort and pausing, then the book is a good match for reading alone. Once accuracy drops below 95%, frustration is likely to set in, along with breakdowns in comprehension. If that is the case, these more advanced books can be enjoyed together during shared book reading instead!
Books and stories for children, especially those in grades Pre-K to 3rd, can vary in their complexity and purpose. Picture books, full of wonderful illustrations, can range from single words per page, to rich stories with complex vocabulary and multisyllable words. These more advanced picture book texts are ideal for storytime at home, and they often contain concepts and vocabulary that are beneficial to older elementary school students as well. So don’t assume that picture books are only for our youngest learners!
Books for early readers, such as the Step into Reading and I Can Read books, control the length and complexity of words and sentences to support young readers. From there, chapter books and graphic novels come in a wide variety of lengths and levels of difficulty. The Lexile system is a way of measuring the complexity of books, from below 0L for beginning level texts to 1600L for advanced texts. If you find a book that fits your child well for independent reading, consider looking it up at Lexile Find a Book. If it is listed on the Lexile site, you can use that Lexile number to help you search for other texts around the same reading level. The site will also recommend books of similar interest, and you can even narrow down the search by topic categories. More information can be found in the Lexile Find a Book flyer.
Finally, you may have heard of decodable readers or books. These texts are made for readers who are developing their ability to connect letters and letter patterns with sounds, so that they can decode new words. The English language contains only 26 letters, but these letters are combined to build a HUGE number of letter patterns that represent about 44 different sounds. That is a lot to learn! Thus the usefulness of decodable readers. Each decodable frequently focuses in on just a few patterns, giving the child practice reading a new concept over and over to build accuracy, fluency, and confidence. For example, this “Junk?” poem from Flyleaf Publishing is reviewing the <nk> pattern, giving the child lots of opportunities to read words like sink, plank, trunk, and bunk. Decodables are an excellent tool students can use to practice new concepts.
If you have an emerging reader who is developing their letter-sound knowledge, ask your local librarian or bookseller what decodable books they carry, such as Bob Books. In addition, here are links to some free online decodable readers.
*Core Knowledge – Select “Language Arts” under “Subject” and then the desired grade level. Many resources will come up. The items labeled “Language Arts-Skills” are the readers. You have to enter your name and email address to have free access to all of the materials.
The Reading League has a much larger list of decodable reader resources. https://www.thereadingleague.org/decodable-text-sources/
Happy Reading! Please send any questions to email@example.com.
Emily Mora, M.Ed., CCC-SLP