It’s story time! If you’re the parent of smaller kids, you likely create your pile of books not putting too much thought into the ones you grab. So long as it has colorful images, a good story and rhyme, and your kids like it, there isn’t any more work that goes into how to choose a just-right book.
But the parent of an older kid? Not so much. Adolescents tend to be pickier, and let’s be honest, a bit harder to please. The days of where they were once happy with reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar are gone.
But don’t lose hope! It is possible for your older child to find a book they love with only a little bit of work.
Do Some Skimming
Encourage your child (and yourself) to look at more than just the cover.
Choose a just-right book by:
- Reading the summary on the back. Does it sound too complicated for them? Too elementary? Does it cover a subject your child enjoys?
- Peaking inside. Is the book too long or too short for them? Will the long or short chapters be intimidating or too easy?
- Seeing who the author is. Do you know any other books written by them? Has your child perhaps read a book by the same author they enjoyed?
- Checking reviews of the book. These can be super helpful while choosing a book!
- And yes, of course, do check out the cover. What’s on it? Would it interest them? A helpful tip that is imperative for your child to understand: some covers do look boring—but, like tiny humans, a book is always more than its cover. There are some amazing books out there with boring covers just as often as there are amazing covers that are hiding a bad book.
The “Rule of Five”
While you have your nose in the book, have your child read the first page to themselves. While they read, if they come across a word they don’t know, have them lift up one finger.
If they’ve gotten to five fingers before the page ends, that’s a good indicator the book may be too hard for them.
You’re welcome to carry on to page two—it’s possible that the first page wasn’t an accurate depiction of the rest of the book.
But it should be fairly obvious if those fingers keep popping up that the book is a bit difficult for them.
If you haven’t been told their reading level by their teacher, this will help you with choosing a just-right book until you have that conversation.
Mind Their Reading Level
Not sure what their reading level is? Ask their teacher! They may not only have their reading level, but they also may have some suggestions for you as far as their reading capability goes and genres they’ve been caught reading in class.
Teachers are a fantastic reference—use them!
Once you have an idea of where your child is in their reading journey, be sure to choose books within their reading range or even slightly above.
Studies show that if a child continually reads below their level, fluency and comprehension go to the wayside.
Literacy expert Tim Shannahan states that “…we have even greater evidence that teaching kids with [below grade level books] doesn’t benefit kids” (2017).
Not to mention, your child will very likely get bored of a book that’s too elementary for them.
One thing to note here: the way reading levels are determined will vary from school to school, and not every book will have a “hard and fast” level—it’s quite possible that one text can vary in level throughout its pages.
We recommend asking your child’s teacher about this specific avenue before you explore it on your own.
Always Consider Genre
With older kids, there are usually some surefire genres that they love. Ask your child what genre he or she normally likes, and stick to that genre or one like it.
For example, if your child loves sci-fi books but has read every one under the sun, consider a genre like fantasy or mythology which have similar features of sci-fi and fall under the same broad family.
If your child tends to love nonfiction informational books, encourage a variety of those and some biographies. Perhaps realistic fiction novels are always a favorite. Consider suggesting historical fiction or mystery to mix it up a bit.
Above all, allow your child to choose the genre and type of book they want to read.
How to choose a just-right book may seem like a simple and easy task, but when have older children and adolescents ever been simple and easy? They are wildly complex and interesting and ever-changing creatures
Seriously—this age is super awesome.
But being so complex and fluid also means that their reading tastes will change, too. Help them help themselves with these tips so they can learn how to choose a just-right book, too!
Once you’ve found that perfect book, try doing a book review together. Grab our book review printable here.