Teaching Students to Choose "Just Right" Books During Independent Reading

Students need to be reading books that are appropriate for their reading level and personal interests. Check out this post with a FREEBIE to help students learn how to choose “just right” books during readers workshop. #readersworkshop #reading

One of the most important things that your students will do in your classroom each day is read!  (Duh!)

You'll read together as a class, students will read in partners or groups, and of course, students will read independently.

The most challenging of these formats for many students is independent reading.  Students often struggle with choosing books that are a good fit, not just for their reading level, but also for their likes and interests.  The hardest part is that some students aren't even aware that the books they read are not good fits. At the beginning of the school year as my class and I launched Reader's Workshop, we spend a great deal of time talking about and practicing how to select "just right" books.  I teach my students that "just right" books are those texts that are not too hard or too easy to read independently, AND are texts that are of interest to them.

I want to break it down for you just how I teach this concept of choosing "just right" books.



I first begin by creating an anchor slide with my students where I record all the reasons why reader's choose books:  I chart up students responses.   I typically get answers like, "it looks interesting,"  "I've read other books by the author before," or "the illustrations look cool."

After charting up their responses, I launch into a discussion on how it's important to choose books that not only look interesting, but are also a good fit for them - not too hard, or too easy.

Students quickly understand why choosing books that are too hard for them is not a great idea, but they are often surprised when I tell them that reading books that are too easy also hold them back from growing as readers.  Many kids think that if they can read a book fast without any mistakes then they're a star reader.

I explain that reading a book that challenges us just the right amount helps us to grow as readers because we learn new words, new genres, and new topics.  I explain that it's okay if readers don't know every single word in the stories that they read as long as they have strategies for figuring out and learning that new word.  Likewise, I tell students that reading new genres or books about new topics helps them to develop as readers.

The anchor slide below helps students to think about what makes a book "just right."  I display this for my students and we talk through each column.

After our discussion on what makes a book a good fit, I give students a quick checklist of steps for choosing "just right" books.

I also model these steps with several books that I've pre-selected ahead of time.  With each example book, I take the "five finger test," discuss if the topic of the book appeals to me, and practice retelling the events/facts I learned from the first couple of pages.


Now, it's the students' turn.  I let students loose in our classroom library (after going over routines and procedures for checking out books, of course!). 


I provide students with a simple sheet for them to complete as they go through the selection process for the first time.  This sheet helps them to think through each book and gives me a good assessment of how they are choosing their books.

After several minutes of allowing students to select their books, we come back together as a group and share our selections in partners and as a class.  It's always interesting to see why students have chosen their books and it gives you great insight into the types of readers you have, especially as you are just getting to know them.

I send students back to their seats at the end of our reader's workshop time together with a bookmark that they can use during the first few weeks of school as a constant reminder to choose "just right" books.

I send students back to their seats at the end of our reader's workshop time together with a bookmark that they can use during the first few weeks of school as a constant reminder to choose "just right" books.

I'd be happy to share this bookmark with you for FREE to use in your own classroom!  I’ve placed it in our Member’s Resource Library

If you’re already a member, head there now and find this resource under: “READING RESOURCES” inside the library.

Not a member yet? It’s FREE to join and you’ll have instant access to an ever-growing library of teacher resources and classroom printables INCLUDING this “Just Right” bookmark! Fill out the form below and I’ll send you all the details on how to become a member!

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    Completely New to readers workshop?

    I've gotcha covered, teacher friend!  Teaching book selection is just one small piece of teaching reading in your classroom.  For an entire post on launching reader's workshop, check this post out!

    I've also  designed an entire unit on how to get started with reader's workshop from day one in your classroom for success all year long!  You can check it out here.