Teaching Students How to Pick a Just Right Book

Helping students to find a book that they can confidently read and are interested in can be a challenge. To help students achieve this goal, I like to teach them the 'I Pick a Just Right Book' method.

What is it? Each of the letters in the words 'I PICK' stands for a different strategy students can use in order to successfully locate a book to suit their needs.

I- I choose a just right book- this means a book that is just right for the individual student. I like to highlight here how a book that is just right for one person may not be just right for another (e.g just because you're best friends does not mean you will have the same reading interests and skill level).
Purpose- What is my purpose for reading? Am I looking to be entertained, am I reading for enjoyment,  or am I reading to be informed? I then talk about fiction and non-fiction books and how non-fiction books are more likely to inform us. I tell students that enjoyment can come from both fiction and non-fiction books depending on their interests.

Interest- Does this book interest me? I usually examine a book with the class here. We look at the cover, read the title, examine the author's name- maybe it's an author we know and love! Read the blurb ( a great opportunity to introduce this word if student's aren't familiar with it), flick through the book and look at the pictures. Does this book look interesting? Yes- then move on. No- then put it back and choose another.

Comprehend- Can I comprehend the text? I like to explain to my lower students that this just means 'Can I understand what the words are saying? Can I make a picture in my head of what I am reading?'. If the answer is no, then the book is too hard. Try again and choose another book.

Know- Do I know the words? If I know most of the words then I have found my just right book. If not, then this one is simply too hard. When discussing this I like to refer to the 'Five Finger Rule', which I will discuss next. 

The Five Finger Rule

This is another topic that I spend a lesson on when I am teaching my 'Just Right Book' unit. I break down the poster (above) to my class, telling them it is a good guideline to use when the are searching for their just right book.
They need to choose a book, open to any page. For each word they don't know, put up a finger. If they get to 5 or more words then the book is too hard. We are ideally looking for 1-2 words that they don't know so the book challenges them somewhat.

 It's the cutest thing when I see them searching for a book with their fist up, a little finger popping up for each word they are unfamiliar with.
Before I let them loose on the library I model this skill. I love to get a book and demonstrate to my students what it looks like when a book is 'too hard', 'too easy' and 'just right'. I typically do this by reading a page from the same book aloud three times- once rushing through it as it is 'too easy', once stumbling and tripping over the text, getting many words wrong as it is 'too hard', and once getting 1-2 words wrong but generally doing a good job as it is 'just right'.
Now it's the students turn! For my lower grades (K-1) I pair them up and have them do a 'scavenger hunt' for a just right book. We come back to the carpet after 5 minutes or so and share our 'just right' books with the class.
With 2nd grade and higher I like to give them a mini clipboard, pencil and checklist where they have to assess 3 books to see whether they are 'just right' for them or not.

Resources for Teaching a 'Just Right Book' Unit

When teaching this unit I like to use the following resources:

  • The book 'We're Going on a Book Hunt' by Pat Miller is a favorite of mine to introduce this unit. I always love beginning a unit with a book to engage students and get them thinking.
  • 'Five Finger Rule' and 'I PICK' Posters. I print these in a large size, laminate them and put them on my bulletin board so I can constantly refer to these during my lessons.
  • No Prep Printables that relate to the 'Just Right Book' unit. I use these to reinforce concepts with my mini clipboards (great if you don't have any tables/ desks in your library).
  • Bookmarks- I print out bookmarks on the 'I Pick' strategies and the 'Five Finger Rule' so students can keep and refer to these during their borrowing time.

  • The handouts, posters and printables can be found in my 'Just Right Book Pack' unit.
    You can also grab this unit as part of a bundle HERE.

I hope these tips have helped you. Feel free to leave me any ideas  you use when teaching this unit, I would love to hear them.

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