Summer holidays are a wonderful time for children to spend lots of time simply enjoying reading. And with the new school year starting in a few weeks, this is also a good time for them to practice and build their reading skills in preparation. But as you take your child to the library, bookstore, yard sales, exploring online, or digging through your own collection of books, you may be wondering how to choose the best books for your child’s personal needs and interests. This post quotes tips which I have provided to the parents of my tutoring students.
Choose books that are fun, interesting, and enjoyable:
While we want to encourage our children to read books that give them a bit of a “challenge” and encourage them to try new sounds, longer words, and deeper understanding, we also want them to continue to read books that are “easy” and enjoyable for them. Often these are “favorite” books, which make reading a “happy” experience. Encourage them to share these “favorites” with younger siblings, neighborhood children–or even the cat or dog or a beloved stuffy or doll. If they don’t have favorites, look for easy-read books that are on topics of interest to the child, have lots of repetition and rhyme, have common sight words (frequently used words) they easily recognize, are humorous, and have great illustrations.
Choose books that are great read-alouds:
As your child reads aloud, encourage her to read smoothly and with expression. If you can find books in which there is simple dialogue (conversation), that is especially helpful, as you can encourage the child to make her voice sound like the character who is speaking. You may also want to “take parts” as in “Readers’ Theatre” where each of you reads the words of a different character. Point out “exclamation” marks (and words with strong feeling), and “question” marks, and demonstrate how to “sound excited” or to “ask a question” when reading. All these simple methods will help your child develop fluency as she reads–and will at the same time really develop their ability to think about and understand the story on a deeper level!
Choose a wide variety of reading materials:
You can also add other reading materials to the child’s reading list–not just fiction books, but homework books, practical reading (newspaper articles, grocery lists, etc.), the information on a cereal box, pamphlets and brochures, greeting cards, recipes, emails or letters, comics, photo-essays, websites, and whatever else your child tries to read. Children’s magazines, such as Chickadee, are excellent for early readers. They are not only colourful and fairly easy to read, but they also have many practical, hands-on activities. Your child can add each article, set of instructions, etc. to the growing reading list. Just as in math, practical-application-reading makes learning the “theory” of reading more interesting to many children.
Keep a record of the books your child reads:
As your child reads each book, have him list the title and the author on a chart. He may also like to record the genre (adventure, science fiction, mystery, etc.) and the reading level or type of book (picture book, chapter book, fiction, non-fiction). You may even want to add a column for the number of pages (so he can see how his reading is developing), and list 2 or 3 new words he learned in each book. You can also have a column to record the number of minutes for each reading session. Most children will also like to assign each book a rating. One fun way to do this is purchase star stickers of different colours; the child can decide which colour will represent a rating level.
Graph your child’s reading progress:
When your child starts to read simple “chapter books,” you may want to create a simple graph, with the reading days listed on the x axis, and chapter numbers on the y axis. Each day the child can draw a dot to show the day and what chapter they got to that day (or a bar instead of a dot), to keep track of progress. (You can also use a graph for picture books that are too long for a child to read in one sitting, but in this case, use page numbers on the y axis).
Involve your child in choosing books:
Of course, the #1 piece of advice for choosing books for children is to let them be involved in making the choices. You can direct them to particular sections of the library or bookstore if you want them to read a certain level or type of book, or you can even narrow the choice down to perhaps half a dozen books that meet the purpose you have in mind. But do let them have the final choice(s) and they will be far more likely to be interested and engaged in their reading. And when you’ve chosen the books together, then allow the children to choose at least one book totally of their own choice (as long as the content is suiable for children, of couse). Comic books, magazines, how-to books, workbooks–even if you think the material is too easy or too difficult, personal choice always encourages reading!
What tips or questions do you have related to choosing books for children? Be sure to share them in the comments below. Thank you!
Looking for other useful tips on helping your child read and write? Check out the list of topics in the second half of our Tutoring Tips page.