By Gail Boushey and Allison Behne
Reading good-fit books is essential if students are to progress as readers. Children must spend the majority of their independent reading time engaged in books which they can decode and comprehend at very high levels.
We need to teach children to choose books that are a good fit for them; books they enjoy. Regie Routman (2003) says, “A just-right book seems custom-made for the child— that is, the student can confidently read and understand a text he finds interesting, with minimal assistance. These are books that make students stretch—but just a little bit—so that they have the opportunity to apply the strategies we’ve been demonstrating (and they’ve been learning), as well as become familiar with new vocabulary, genres, and writing styles” (93).
Allowing student to choose their reading leads students to engage with reading, increase comprehension, and build capacity for encountering complex texts (Guthrie & Klauda, 2014). The real challenge is teaching children how to do this. We teach children the simple method of I PICK when choosing books, so that each time they go to the library, bookstore, or classroom book area they are empowered to overcome that difficult statement, “I can’t find a good book.”
I – I choose a book.
P – Purpose. Why do I want to read this book? (Learn something new, pleasure, try a new genre, explore a specific author . . . )
I – Interest. Does it interest me? One aspect we must not overlook when helping children select good-fit books is their own interest level. The extensive focus on choosing the correct readability level frequently engulfs our thinking and teaching. Often we forget that children, like adults, need to be interested in what they are reading. A high level of interest allows children to engage in reading the volume of material necessary to progress from being a survival reader to becoming a life-long reader.
C – Comprehension. Do I understand what I am reading? The goal of reading is to derive meaning. Without comprehension, readers are just following words on a page without meaning. After reading a small piece of text, the reader should check for understanding to help determine if it is a good fit.
K – Know the words. Do I know most of the words? To gain meaning, readers must be able to read the words. When selecting a book, readers view a sample to check if they can read most, if not all, of the words they come across.
If the answer to any of these questions is no, it is likely not a good-fit book and the reader should select another book and ask the questions again. If the answer to all questions are yes, then it is a good-fit book.
It is crucial that we teach students how to make their own reading choices and empower them to do so. The ability to choose a good-fit book equips readers with the lifelong tool to enjoy, understand, and learn in any environment at any time.
Guthrie, J. T., & Klauda, S. L. (2014). Effects of classroom practices on reading comprehension, engagement, and motivations for adolescents. Reading Research Quarterly, 49(4), 387-416.
Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.