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How Can I Find the Right Books for My Child?

A few months ago, we addressed some questions parents frequently ask about reading aloud with kids. We know that parents also have a lot of questions about supporting their children when they read independently, particularly when it comes to reading levels. Here are two common questions:

Does my scholar need to read at her exact independent reading level all of the time?

No! Scholars should read at their independent reading level MOST of the time. If a book is too easy, a child won’t improve as a reader, and she might get bored. But if a book is too hard, a scholar may get frustrated and give up. That’s why we recommend that kids read at their independent reading level (or “just right” level) most of the time.

However, there are some good reasons for scholars to read one or two levels below their independent reading level. For example, when kids are learning about a brand new topic—like volcanoes or the country of Japan—they will learn a lot, even from a lower level book. (I learn lots of things by reading kids’ books!) Or maybe your child has grown so quickly as a reader that she missed some great books at lower levels—by all means encourage her to read those books. Finally, it can be incredibly comforting for kids to reread old favorites. As long as your child continues to grow as a reader, don’t worry if he or she rereads easier books on occasion. (I read some of my childhood favorites dozens of times!)

In addition, scholars can read a book one or two levels above their level when they are really excited and motivated to read the book, especially if it’s a book about a favorite topic or from a favorite series. This motivation to read a harder book can often help kids become better readers. Younger kids can benefit from looking at pictures in nonfiction books, even if they can’t read all of the text.

When I go to the library or bookstore, they don’t organize the books by level. How can I find the right books for my child?

If you are a Success Academy parent, ask your child’s teacher for a leveled book list for families. This list includes leveled books that are commonly available at bookstores and libraries.

But as I mentioned above, don’t get TOO tied to levels! When kids visit the bookstore or library, they should be able to pick books in a range of levels based on their interest! Kids are much more motivated to read books they’ve picked out themselves. Some tips:

  • Ask to speak to a children’s librarian or bookseller.
  • Come prepared to tell the librarian a few titles of books your child likes that are the right reading level. The more current this information is, the better they’ll be able to help you! You can also tell the librarian books your child doesn’t like—that’s helpful information, too.
  • Give the bookseller examples of books that are too easy or too hard. For example: “My child loves Magic Tree House books, but they are a little simple for her right now. She’s ready for a longer, more challenging book, but she’s tried The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and it was too hard.”
  • Have your child read the first few pages of the book to you, and ask a quick question or two to make sure he or she understands it.


Have another question? Post it in the comments section, and we’ll try to answer it in a future post!


Written by Sara Yu February 20, 2015

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