Train them to love reading from the earliest years!

In educating our children, few things are more important than instilling in them a love of reading, and building reading skills from their earliest years.

Good readers spend time with easy books, “just right” books, and hard books. However, good readers mostly engage with “just right” books. While there is no magic number, experts suggest reading for 15 minutes a night—though more is great—if only as a restorative way to unwind after a long day. When selecting books for your child to read either independently or with you, here are some strategies to help make the process a little easier:

Easy Books: Ask yourselves these questions. If you answer yes, the selected book is probably an EASY book for your child. “Easy books” aid in fluency—reading smoothly and in meaningful phrases—and they are fun to read aloud and silently.

  • Does your child understand the story fully?
  • Is it a favorite book you’ve read together?
  • Can your child read it easily and smoothly?
  • Can your child read every word?

With “easy books” your child will be able to read the words, read smoothly (fluently), have strong comprehension, may have read it before, and can read the book independent of you.

Just Right Books: Ask yourselves these questions. If you answer yes, the selected book is probably a JUST RIGHT book for your child. “Just right” books help children learn the most because they can figure out most of the words using strategies they’ve learned, and they understand what is going on in the text.

  • Can your child discuss what is happening in the story and/or what they’ve learned?
  • Is the book interesting or a book they want to read?
  • Is the child familiar with the content, author, series, genre?
  • Does the child sometimes need to reread a part of the text to understand it?
  • When they read, are most places smooth and some choppy?
  • Are there only a few words per page that the child doesn’t know?

With “just right” books your child can learn things, will enjoy reading the book, can understand most of what he/she is reading, can read almost all the words, and may have read the book before.

Hard Books: Ask yourself these questions. If you answer yes, the selected book is probably a HARD book for your child. Have the child spend a little time with the text to learn what they can—perhaps someone can read the book to them before allowing them to attempt to read the book on their own later. Hard books can cause frustration for your child so encourage them to try again later…and later can mean several months from now once they’ve continued developing as a reader!

  • Is the child interested in reading the book?
  • Is the book too hard to understand [is most of the meaning lost to the child]?
  • Even when it is reread, is the book hard to understand/follow for the child?
  • Does the child need lots of help to read the book?

With “hard books” many or most of the words will be hard to understand for the child, the child’s comprehension may be low as they have insufficient background knowledge to successfully access the content, and they are likely not familiar with the text and/or its content.

Paired reading is an activity to enjoy together while reading easy books and “just right” books. Paired reading is a research-based strategy to support oral reading fluency—during which time you and your child take turns reading aloud to one another. Reading with expression and maintaining word accuracy while you model an appropriate reading rate is invaluable to developing readers. Of course, rereading a book also promotes word automaticity which ultimately enhances a child’s oral reading fluency—but this is a conversation for another time…

Regardless, reading should be a fun activity that ignites children’s imaginations. Be intentional about helping young children select “just right” books to ensure that they are maximizing the reading time.

Happy Reading, Friends!

Chloe Ball, K-3 Reading Specialist