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How to Help Your Child Find the Perfect Book

Rejoice!!  Your child knows letter sounds and can read simple books!  Now, how can you encourage her reading and help her conquer longer books? Or, maybe you have a fourth-grader who can read but finding books that he enjoys is a challenge.    We have your simple guide on how you can help your child (and teach them how to) pick the perfect book.

As a parent and teacher, I want my daughter to always be challenged at the appropriate level so that she will advance in her reading.  However, sometimes in my desire for my daughter to start reading longer chapter books, I get lost as to how I can actually help her.  When Llama picks up a book, I encourage her to read as much as she can, telling her the words she can’t pronounce and praising her along the way.   I think because she is “reading” a challenging book, that she will somehow magically learn to love it, become obsessed with reading longer books and be finishing Harry Potter by dinnertime.

What usually happens is that we make it through one page before she declares it “Boring” and wants to go play pretend with her princess dolls.  My important take-away from this:

  • The chapter books that I am choosing are too hard for her right now.
  • She loves Barbies and princesses.
  • We need some new books.

So, I took Llama to the book section in Target and we looked for something that she can read independently. I used the following steps to find her the perfect book for her reading level and interest.

Make sure the book fits your child’s interests.

Oooh, a book about volcanoes.  One about Ancient Greece.  She can learn so much if she reads these!  Then, I stop myself.  As a newbie reader, she is still figuring out language works.  She doesn’t need to learn about Ancient Greece… yet.

I picked up a chapter book, Fancy Nancy: Super Sleuth.  We read another book in this series together and she loved it!  I opened up to the first page and asked her to read it to me.

Use the five finger rule.

Llama started reading.  If she came to a word she didn’t know, I read it to her and I kept track of how many she had difficulty with.  At the end of the page (approximately 100 words), she stumbled on 6 or 7 words.  A good rule is that the child should know about 96% or more of the words on the page to make it a good independent read.  Anything less than this and the text will just be frustrating for the kiddo and not foster a love of reading.

So when selecting books, teach your child to keep track on her hand the number of words she doesn’t know. If it is more than five, put the book back or have an adult help them with it.  They will be ready for that book soon on their own, just not yet.

Fancy Nancy: Super Sleuth did not pass the test.  We moved onto to Judy Moody: First Grader.  That one was a little too difficult as well.  I was seeing that all of the easy chapter books were a little beyond her reading ability right now.  Then we see a picture book about Barbie.

For beginning readers, pick a book with familiar characters and story lines.

The Barbie book was actually two books in one.  Each page had a full color picture but I also noticed that the text was more complex than the text Llama usually reads on her own.  By this I mean, longer sentences with commas and multiple verbs in a sentence.  Yet, because she was familiar with Barbie and friends from watching “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse” on Netflix multiple times, she could read this book!  Mission Accomplished!

She started reading her Barbie book, by herself, the moment she got into the car.  At night, we tucked her into bed with her Barbie book and book light.  She read for about 15 minutes before she fell asleep.

What tips do you have for encouraging your child to read harder books?


JoAnn Crohn

CEO/Founder at No Guilt Mom
JoAnn Crohn, M. Ed is a parenting educator and life coach who helps moms feel confident in raising empowered, self-sufficient kid while pursuing their own goals & passions.

She’s an accomplished writer, author, podcast host of the No Guilt Mom podcast, and speaker who appears in national media. Work with her personally in Balance VIP

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  1. Great thoughts on reading here!
    With my son, it has taken a lot more effort for him to get to the point where he (mostly) enjoys reading now! My daughter was a breeze so I was in for a surprise with him! lol
    Anyway, some of the things that have helped…I sometimes let him read books that were below his level which built his confidence (“Wow, I can read this really fast!”), he is required to read a small amount each day (and that amount has changed over time), we’ve done reading incentive programs (Six Flags, Pizza Hut, homemade rewards, etc), and I’ve let him read things that I don’t love (like silly comic books!).
    He’s ten years old and is getting better and better at reading slowly but surely. 🙂

    1. Such good points Valerie! The small amount each day helped a lot over here as well. We also did, “I read a page. You read a page”.

      1. Ooh, yes! Forgot about that one – we enjoyed that too! Started with alternating sentences, then paragraphs, then pages. 🙂

  2. Great advice. We are a few years off from this in my household, but I will definitely bookmark this for future reference! Thank you!

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