By: Rebecca Michelsen, M.Ed., MCHES, Manager of Community Outreach & Family Programs

Books come in all shapes, sizes, colors and…reading levels. With so many to choose from, how can you find the right book for your child? While board books with lots of pictures are great for babies and toddlers, it’s a good idea to consider the reading level of your child when finding books that appeal to little ones learning to read. An easy way to figure out if the book you chose will be a good fit for your budding reader is to use the “Five Finger Rule.” The Five Finger Rule helps determine if a book is too easy or too difficult.

Take a look at the Five Finger Rule to determine which book is just the right fit for your child:

  1. Visit your local library or bookstore with your child and have her pick out a book. Encourage your child to find a subject that interests her. Does she love to learn about astronomy, the deep sea or does she have a favorite TV character that also has a book series? Steer her toward books that she’ll enjoy reading.
  1. Once your child has chosen a book, ask her to open it to any page and read as best she can. From there, tell her to count how many words she does not know.
  1. If she does not know 2-3 words, the book is probably just right for your child as it will challenge her, but won’t be too difficult. If she does not know 5 or more words, the book is too difficult. Hence the Five Finger Rule.

Once you and your child choose a book, find a time that you can both sit down together and read aloud. If your little one is just learning to read, she may need help figuring out the words she doesn’t know. In addition to spending quality time together, this can also be a great learning opportunity for your child. Help her sound out the words she doesn’t know. Look at similar words that she does know and show her which letters are the same and which ones are different. Do they have the same sounds or different? If your child can read the other words in the sentence, ask her to figure out which word would make sense and this might help her figure the word out as well.

If you find that the book you picked is too difficult, don’t fret! Instead of having your child read it, become the storyteller yourself, while allowing your little one to try reading certain pages if she’s interested. Offer encouraging words, such as, “With a little practice, you’ll be reading this book in no time!” or “This looks like a great book for us to save. Let’s choose a different book to work on now and read this book later in the year.”

Reading books that are appropriate for your child’s reading level will help your little one build confidence and expand her vocabulary. It also helps practice what she is learning in school and will set her on a track for success later in life. For more reading tips, check out “The Importance of Early Literacy.”

Have you tried the Five Finger Rule when choosing books for your child?


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