Finding the right books

Guest post by author Louise Park

Louise has taught primary school children of all ages and is the author of successful resources to help children crack the reading code. Her fiction work includes the best-selling children’s books Harriet Clare, Zac Power Test Drives and Boy vs Beast.

These tips are about choosing books to read for enjoyment. Beginning readers will mostly reading decodable texts for reading practice but once children move beyond that stage we want to encourage them to read a wide range of books.

Louise writes:

So much of reading success is about confidence and enjoyment. If children enjoy reading and feel a sense of success at it then they’ll keep doing it — and when they keep reading, their confidence and reading competency soars.

But, if there are too many hard words, the reader stumbles through the story, continually stopping to tackle tricky words. The attention wanders and before you know it, the book has been put down and the chances of it being picked up again are low.

So, it is absolutely critical that you find the right books for your child – books that will build rather than erode reading confidence. Books that will be enjoyed, not endured. A good book for your child is a book they can read and a book they want to read. But how do you find that?

There are three parts to the perfect-book puzzle: content, readability and the child. If you get these things right, then the rest will follow.

These tips will help you get it right!

Louise Park, author and educator

Content is all about finding a book they want to read

Readability is all about finding a book they can read

Remember to involve your child in the process all the way if you can!

This Quick-Check Book Matrix looks at some of the text features that will help you assess a book for a reluctant, competent or enthusiastic reader.

Beginner and struggling readersMoving to competent and enthusiastic readers
  • One line of text per page and presentation of fewer words to a few lines of text per page.
  • 16-60 pages
  • Moving to full pages of text with paragraphs and large numbers of words
  • 60 pages and beyond
  • Mostly high frequency-words, familiar words
  • Fewer words per sentence
  • Easily solved words with familiar spelling patterns
  • Texts with many topic-related and ‘interest’ words
  • Varied sentence lengths
  • Complex words solved using a variety of reading strategies
  • Larger font size
  • Greater space between words and lines
  • Clear legible font
  • Increasingly smaller font size
  • Spacing between words and lines becoming smaller and standard
  • Illustrations on every page or almost every page
  • Illustrations that support the text and give clues to the meaning of the text
  • Fewer illustrations to no illustrations at all
  • Where illustrations are used they often extend the text rather than support the reading of less familiar words
  • ‘Everyday’ stories and familiar themes
  • Predictable story structure with a simple problem and solution
  • Simple ideas
  • Straight-forward plots
  • Topics that the reader has experience of
  • Moving to more complex ideas, unfamiliar topics and themes
  • More complex structure including flashbacks, time-slips, time shifts, changes in point of view, plot twists, subplots, explicit and implicit ideas

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