Choosing books for kindergartners

Not too easy, not too hard. How to choose the right book for your emerging reader.

Learning Stages

By Shelby Moore


Shelby Moore is a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school in Houston and was recently awarded as one of the East Region's Campus Teachers of the Year.

As a parent of an emergent reader, you may be thinking: how can I help my child find books that are not too easy and not too hard but instead “just right”? At my school we like to call just-right books our Goldilocks books.

To find a book that is just right, spend time in the children’s section of your local library or bookstore. Let your child choose books for herself. Just because a book may have been one of your favorites as a child doesn’t mean it will necessarily be right for her. Talk about the books your child likes too see if they are too easy or too hard. If a book is too hard, then reading may quickly feel like a chore rather than an enjoyable activity.

Here are the strategies I teach my kindergartners for finding just-right books for every reading level:

The Goldilocks Rule

  • Too easy: Every word is easy to read. I can read the whole story quickly and easily.
  • Too hard: Many words are hard to read. I need lots of help reading it. I can’t remember important details of the story.
  • Just right: I can read most of the words by myself. I only need a little help reading this book.

The Five-Finger Test

  • Choose a book with a topic or pictures that interests you.
  • Turn to the second or third page and read the page.
  • Put up one finger every time you come to a word you don’t know or are unsure of.
  • If all five fingers are up before you finish the page, then that book is probably too hard for you to read well on your own and you should choose an easier book.

Ask Questions

Before committing to the book, read just a few pages and learn to ask yourself these questions:

  • Will this book be fun book to read?
  • Will the topic interest me?
  • Can I relate to the story or characters?
  • Do I understand what I have read so far?
  • Can I read it smoothly, or am I having to sound out almost all the words and read very slowly?

If your child still wants to read a book that is too difficult do not discourage her; instead, read the book together or have her listen for enjoyment while you read. Her reading skills will improve through hearing you read fluently, pausing at appropriate times and using proper voice inflection.

Remember, early reading should be fun! Keep it enjoyable using these tips.

How do you and your child choose great books?

Share how you keep reading fresh and fun.

Happy Reading!