Best Books for Grade School
By Dr. Carolyn Jaynes
It’s important to start by saying that the best book for your child is the book that gets read. Words trapped between two covers have no power to enlighten, entertain, inform or delight. But, oh, the power these words can wield once a child spends time with them! Studies show that, on average, children who read more than twenty minutes per day scored above the 90th percentile on standardized reading tests, while children who read fewer than ten minutes per day scored below the 75th percentile.
The first priority is choosing a book that feeds your child’s interests and passions. Lists of award-winners or popular picks can be a good starting place, but keep in mind that the book needs to be read and enjoyed by your child. Use these guidelines to help you match your child with books that will get read.
Book Buying Guide
- Passion Topics: Kindergartners are naturally curious, and books with information that children wonder about are inherently motivating to read. As children learn more about topics of interest topics, they often become “knowledge seekers” who generate new questions about their developing passions. Choose information books with realistic images that present facts in a clear, appealing and accurate manner.
- Series: Just like adults, children develop preferences for certain styles and themes and authors. Consult with your local librarian or go online to explore additional titles written by your child’s favorite authors or by authors that share a common approach. Variety is important, but it can be fun to take a deep dive and enjoy a home-based author study.
- Chapter Books: Enjoy chapter books over time. Choose chapter books with plots that will prompt your child to ask questions and make predictions about what will happen next. Discussing books helps children see reading as an active and social experience.
Choosing Books for Independent Readers
At this age, some children may begin reading on their own. When choosing books for independent reading, focus on books with:
- A font that is clear and easy to read
- Illustrations that clearly match the text
- Simple sentence structure
- A combination of words with basic spelling patterns that are easy to sound out along with high-frequency words like the and where
- Familiar settings and plots with plenty of action and dialogue to keep the pages turning
The ultimate goal is to help your child learn to pick out books for herself. Although very easy readers can build a child’s confidence, they will not promote reading growth, and books that are too hard can lead to frustration. To find books that are just right, your child can use the "Five Finger" test: Read one page of the book; if there are more than five unknown words, choose a different book. In general, a book is just right for your child if she likes it, she can read it and she understands it well enough to talk about it.
More on choosing books for kindergartners and independent readers:
As the literacy development expert on LeapFrog’s Learning Team, Carolyn ensures that the curricular design in LeapFrog products is grounded in the latest educational research. Before joining LeapFrog, Carolyn was a reading professor at Sacramento State University, a curriculum developer for the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, and a teacher in the San Francisco bay area. She earned her doctorate in educational psychology at Michigan State University.
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