A question I am often asked by parents is, "How Do I Find A Book That is a Good Fit for My Child?" Well, here are a couple resources that can help you!
In our literacy classrooms at OHA, we complete an informal running record with your child that looks at their fluency, word recognition and decoding, and their comprehension. When we put all of these pieces together, we find an alpha level for your child ranging from A-Z. Almost every book you can pick off the shelf has an alpha level. These levels were originally created by Fountas and Pinnell, who are reading researchers. It is important to note that the level a book is given is not just based off of word difficulty and length (as many of our children assume!). They looked at each book and graded it on multiple factors, such as, plot development, character development, content, vocabulary and layout. Therefore, it is a very complex process, but not an exact science. So, if your child is leveled and level M books are determined to be the best fit for your student, that does not mean they can only read level M books! However, sticking to books around this level are going to best meet the needs of your individual reader. Reading books much higher or lower than your child's level on a frequent basis is not going to benefit them as much. There are cases where we find that a student with a lot of background knowledge on a subject (for example, dinosaurs), can read books at a much higher level, because of their knowledge of the vocabulary and subject matter they will encounter.
Even though many books have an alpha level assigned to them, they are not labeled as such at the library or bookstore! So, you may ask, now what?! Well there are a couple of ways to go about this.
- If you have time to look up a book before you go to the library or bookstore, there is a wonderful website that can help parents and children find a book at their level, Scholastic Book Wizard. Many of these books can be found locally or can be ordered through Scholastic also. This site is great, because it always you to search by level, author, topic and interest. I have included the directions below.
- However, if you don't time beforehand you can use what we call "The Five Finger Rule!" This is great for helping children identify when a book is just right. Many times children think a book is harder because of the number or size of words on a page or by length of book - which is untrue! Please find a graphic below to explain how it is done.