"Just Right" Books
Finding the right books can be the spark your child needs to ignite a passion for reading! Here is a list of frequently asked questions about finding "just right" books.
Will my child enjoy the subject matter?
Help your child choose books that match her interests and pique her curiosity. Younger children may respond more favorably to fiction or nonfiction books they can easily relate to their own life experiences, hobbies or interests. As children get older, they may become more interested in a wider variety of books in the fantasy, science fiction, or historical fiction genres.
Is the content of this book age-appropriate?
Be careful not to choose books that are too “babyish” or too advanced for your child. If the books are geared toward much younger children, they may become bored or disinterested. Likewise, if the content is too mature, they may comprehend less of the story. Many book publishers provide age recommendations based on content and the reading level that will help you determine which books are appropriate (look on the back of the book near the barcode for numbers like "0812" which means the book is recommended for 8-12 year-olds). You can also find reviews by parents as well as students on web sites like commonsensemedia.org, kidsreads.com, booksintheclassroom.com, or goodreads.com.
Is the reading level appropriate for my child?
Consider whether or not your child will be able to read the book without struggling. No matter how much your child wants to read it, a book that is above her reading level will frustrate her. The five-finger rule is a quick way for a student to determine if she is ready for the book: Pick out a book and begin reading any page. If you come to a word you do not know how to pronounce, hold up one finger. If you are holding up five fingers before you have finished reading the page, then the book is probably above your reading level. Put the book back on the shelf and return to it in a few months to try again.
How can I find levels for books?
The two most common leveling systems are Accelerated Reader (AR) and Fountas and Pinnell (F/P).
The Accelerated Reader Program provides a numerical readability level based on the ATOS Readability Formula. This formula considers book length, sentence length, sentence structure, and vocabulary. The formula does not take into account content, theme, or interest level. As such, AR levels can be a good judge of whether a child can read and understand the words of a book, but may be a poor method of matching age-appropriate yet challenging thematic content to readers.
The Fountas and Pinnell Text Level Gradient assigns a letter level to books based on ten text characteristics, that include both readability factors as well as interest, content, and genre. Fountas and Pinnell have analyzed the text characteristics of fiction and nonfiction books at every level of the A to Z+ gradient to understand the demands of each level on the developing reader. Each level includes progressively more complex text-level and thematic demands.
At Peters, students are assessed throughout the year to determine their instructional (with support) and independent (no support) reading levels. Most children's books have been leveled by one of these two systems. You can use the following web sites to look up reading levels for books:
- Scholastic Book Wizard - Fountas and Pinnell levels (called "Guided Reading" on this site)
- AR Book Find - Accelerated Reader levels based on the ATOS Readability Formula
- Leveled Book List - F/P Levels for books organized by Title or by Author
- Reading Lists - A different list of books sorted by F/P level.
- "Just Right" Bookmark
- Goldilocks Method of Finding Just Right Books
- ATOS Readability For Texts
- Fountas and Pinnell Text Level Ladder
- Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarks for Instructional Level Texts
- Benchmark Fluency Rates by Fountas and Pinnell Level
- Benchmark Fluency Rates by Grade Level
- Fountas and Pinnell Level Descriptions (short)
- Fountas and Pinnell Level Descriptions (long)
- Fountas and Pinnell Bookmark (Levels O-R)
- Fountas and Pinnell Bookmark (Levels S-V)
- Fountas and Pinnell Bookmark (Levels W-Z)