Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do I Pick Books?

I told you a few days ago that some friends of mine are going to borrow some of my books for their boys. Two of them are first graders, one is a second grader.

So where did I start pulling books?

First off, I thought about what I knew about their reading levels. Each book I took off the shelf, I re-scanned through to check for vocabulary.

As I scanned, I also thought about the look of the pages. Were there too many words? Illustrations? Too few words? Enough chapter breaks? What size was the font?

Then I thought about content. I chose humorous books first, for motivation, and then I thought about what their moms had told me about them.

I chose some baseball books -- both fiction and nonfiction -- because they all play with my sons on the Pirates. My boys have read the books I chose already, so I thought I would bring them into play too, by talking about the books with the boys. I actually am going to have them tell their friends what parts they liked, and believe me, that will mean more than if I sat there and tried to sell it to them.

I also put in several from the same series. Stink was one of them, and this is why. Sometimes kids will like the characters and the reading level will be perfect, but the content of the episode isn't their thing. I don't want them to get turned off. On the flip side, if they like one of them, more than likely they will pick up another one.

I gave them each at least 10 books a piece. I know that if I give them one or two, there's not enough choice. They need to select.

I thought about their fluency: Do the books have managable Dialogue? How are the sentences written? Are the paragraphs overwhelming or just right?

And comprehension: Will they understand the story? What about the vocabulary? Do they have experience and support enough to enjoy the story?

Yes, it seems like a lot to think about, but once you know your reader, it gets better.

A friend of mine told me something that I thought was key as well. She said, "You know, parents don't know these kids' literature as well as you do. They don't really know what's out there beyond the bestseller lists or what the media touts."


So maybe we all need to take a trip to the bookstore. Not Amazon, not websites that review books. We need to handle the books ourselves, and look at them through the eyes of our child.

Really. That's all I do.

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