How do you help a child to choose an appropriate book to read? Unfortunately many children, especially young or struggling readers, want to read books beyond their ability. A Harry Potter book may be very intriguing, but most young or struggling readers couldn't read it successfully and would just become frustrated if they tried.
The first step in selecting an appropriate book is to have the child look at it, read the title and see if it looks appealing. A book that is simply not appealing is going to be a tough sell, regardless of how well a child can read it.
The next step is to turn to a random page in the book and have the child read it. The child will hold up one finger for every word he struggles with or simply can't decode. If the child holds up 0 to 1 fingers, the book is too easy. If the child holds up 4 or 5 fingers, the book is too difficult and an easier book should be selected. But...if the child holds up 2 to 3 fingers, the book is at just the right level of difficulty!
The final step is to talk with the child about the book. Does the child understand what he just read? Can he read it fluently or is his reading slow and choppy? Is it interesting? If a book has met all of these criteria, congratulations; you have found a "just right" book!
P.S. If a child insists on a book that is too difficult, read it with him. You can read it to him or share reading with each of you reading a page or a paragraph and you helping the child with any difficult words. Our goal is for children to learn to love reading. This can only happen if they are taught how to avoid frustrating books and find ones that they will enjoy.