The Teacher is Talking
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The Teacher is Talking: Choosing “Just Right” Books

By Leslie Lindsay

I haven’t forgotten my new column:  The Teacher is Talking (Tuesday)…just seems life has been a whirlwind of activity these days!  When I mentioned to my husband that I just wanted a day to “slug around and be bored,” he responded with, “Well, you should have thought about that before you decided to become a mom…or a dog owner!”  Sigh…well, he’s right (as usual).  Alas I am back and making up for lost time (I’ll blog twice today to get us up to speed).

If you’ll recall, a few weeks ago, the topic was all about navigating the library with kids in tow.  Today, it’s all about helping your emerging readers choose “the right books at the right time.”  Here are  a few suggestions from

The first tip is called the “Five Finger Test” (not the middle test…sorry, couldn’t resist!).

What you do:  Take your little prodigy to the library (or practice with some of the titles you already own at home).   Pick a page at random.   Each time  your child comes across a tricky word, put one finger up.  Two fingers up means the book is “just right.”  Here’s a break-down of finger strength test:

  • 1 Finger = Easy!
  • 2 Fingers = Just right
  • 3 Fingers = A little hard, but could be a fun one to try
  • 4 Fingers = Difficult to read.  Try reading this with a parent, friend, or older sibling
  • 5 Fingers = Too difficult to read now.  Save it for next year.

For a list on choosing “just right” books at your child’s reading level, look to

Another tip is to read a chapter book to your emerging reader.  As you read, suggest that your child create pictures of the story in her mind.  (This is actually more difficult than it sounds).  As you read, consider pausing and asking your child what image she was making.  You can share yours to get her started.

Take time to pause and assess the story together, “I predict that Ma and Laura will be working on the butter churning together next.  What do you think?”  It’s a really important skill to start teaching this prediction piece of reading, of asking questions, asking oneself “does this make sense?”  Not only does it develop critical thinking skills, but also reading comprehension.

What ideas have you used that work?  Share them here! 



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