The Five Finger Rule Guide for Selecting Children’s Books

The Five Finger Rule Guide for Selecting Children’s Books Banner Photo

Too Easy?  Too Hard?  How do we learn how to navigate our collection to choose "just right" books for our kids?


How many of you parents out there struggle to find the perfect book to fit your child’s reading level?  Or worse yet- how often are they having trouble selecting the right books for themselves?  Sometimes cruising the shelves of our library can prove difficult when titles are overly challenging or too easy for our young readers.  If you pick one which might be above their phonics capabilities, it’s possible to discourage a healthy relationship with literature.  On the flip side, books that are not continuing to  introduce a variety of ambitious vocabulary and overall content within their stories can also hold them back from progressing.  It’s a tough balance that has to be found by both parents and kids which affects lifelong skill sets valuable to their future education and more importantly their love for books in general.

Thankfully, there is a wonderful tool that is both simple and efficient for BOTH parents and kids to follow during their hunt for suitable material.  The concept is entitled “The Five Finger Rule” which has five easy steps to guide you towards the appropriate media.  The first thing you want to do is browse the shelves until you find something that catches your eye.  A cool cover can sometimes be enough to win you over but don’t check it out until you’ve opened it and looked through the pages.  Next, take a minute to scan a paragraph (you can even cheat to the end if you want) and notice how comfortable or (not comfortable) the phrasing is for you to read.  The third step is to put one finger in the air for every vocabulary word that is unfamiliar to you.  If you aren’t holding up any fingers by the time you’re finished with the sample selection, you’re breezing through it too easily.  Zero to one finger will indicate that the selection is below what you should be challenging yourself with, so you’ll need to find something a step higher to motivate your reading skills.  If by the end of the paragraph, you are holding up four to five fingers, than you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and have chosen a book that’s too hard.  Don’t be discouraged by this though because chances are, you’ll be ready for that title in just a short while.  What you are actually shooting for is a two to three finger ratio, where the text is comprehensible but still provokes your learning.  This means it’s the “Just Right for You” book and chances are, you’ll be pleasantly paired with one another. 

For all of us, reading is a continued source of education for both kids and adults which allows us to grow constantly throughout our wholes lives.  Whether our unique pace occurs within small steps, leaps or bounds, books will always remain one of the largest entryways into our own personal discovery.