Empowering readers!

Now that we’re back from our series of little vacations, we’re happily settling in and looking towards our final quarter of the year, a time we usually make quite a few goals for ourselves, individually and as a family. Of course, we always have goals (all of us) that have to do with what we’re reading. So here’s a little piece about teaching kids to self-select their reading material. No matter what your children’s learning environment is (home, school, the world) understanding oneself as a reader is a valuable life skill for all levels. Enjoy!

Empowering Readers ~ Teaching Kids to Select Appropriate Independent Reading Material

Self-selection is a powerful motivator for readers of any age. In keeping with an approach of allowing children to choose what they learn, here’s a suggestion to also allow children to choose their own independent reading material.
Know Thyself. Allowing young learners the freedom to learn who they are as readers is key in the self-selection process. Often times, young readers want so badly to be able to read a certain book (usually based on a cover picture) that they experience disappointment (and a blow to their self esteem in the process). Setting goals for themselves as readers (and achieving them) is where we eventually want to be. Continued progress is what we are aiming for. Knowing where one is NOW and being OK with that is where we need to begin.

Finding an EASY Book.
The first step is to help your child find a book that is really too easy. That is, a book in which they can read and understand EVERY word without exception. It is just too easy. For beginning readers, their EASY book may be one that is wordless, or just has one or two words per page. This process is meant to give the child confidence: “Yes! There is something out there that I can read!”

Finding a Learning Book.
The next step to knowing thyself is to find a LEARNING book or what I like to call a “JUST RIGHT” book. That is, a book that one can read and understand most of the words in. Now, this book needs to be one that a child can read independently, yet sometimes may have questions about a word’s meaning, but can still make meaning from the text as a whole. Hence, it is a level of book that they are continuing to LEARN from.

Finding a GOAL book.
Now that your child knows what is too EASY and what is JUST RIGHT, it is important for her to find the book that she wants to be able to read. This process may take more guidance at first, but soon she will become a master at setting goals that are appropriate. Remind your learner that at one time their EASY book was a LEARNING book for her. Maybe that was just 2 months ago. What book does she want to be able read in the next two months? She may need a few gentle reminders at first about not making too much of a leap at first. Remind her that we need to take small steps to achieve our goals. But remember: allow it to come from the learner, not imposed upon her.

Keeping Track.
Make sure that you somehow keep a record of what your child chose as an EASY book, a LEARNING book, and a GOAL book as well as a date by which she wants to achieve her goal. I suggest also always keeping the books in a highly visible place, perhaps in a basket on your family’s project table or in the special spot your child has chosen as her designated work space, or where she keeps her reading work.

Reviewing Your GOAL book and setting new goals.
Always, always, always follow through with this part. Make sure you review your learner’s GOAL book on or near the date she said she wanted to be able to read it. Ask her to try and read it independently on her own, then come back and ask her if there are any words that were once difficult, but now she knows. There will most likely be many. Could she now call this book a LEARNING book? Is it still too difficult? Review your goals together and begin the process again. You’ll find that your learner is gaining in more than just reading skills; she is beginning to know herself as a reader and gaining confidence!