3 Simple Tips for Choosing Age-Appropriate Children’s Books

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Child reading an age appropriate book

When you go to the library with your student, there are hundreds of books to choose from. So how do you find books that are appropriate for your student’s age, reading level, and interests?

You can take a chance and pick a few, or you can ask a teacher or librarian for a recommended reading list. But you can also find age-appropriate books for your student just by using a few simple techniques.

How to Check If a Book Is Age Appropriate

Follow our three tips below to determine the age appropriateness of books, taking into consideration your student’s age, reading level, and interests. 

1. Determine your child’s reading level.

Sometimes finding an age-appropriate book is as easy as matching your child’s age to the reading level printed on the back of a book. For example, if your student is 10 years old, then you can look for books in the 9–12 age bracket.

Another method for finding their reading level is to use a tool called a Lexile reading measure. The Lexile reading measure can help kids of all reading levels find books and other reading resources. 

But before you rely on this method, remember that every child is different. Struggling readers may fall below the average reading level for their age or grade, while advanced readers may be several levels ahead. 

Additionally, levels of difficulty vary within reading levels and Lexile ranges. For example, if a book uses a lot of figurative language, metaphors, idioms, or hyperbole, it will be more challenging to understand than other books in the same Lexile range.

2. Do some research.

Maybe your student can comprehend the book, but what age is the book appropriate for? 

To learn more about the content of a book before your child chooses it, do some research. Read summaries of the book online and ask for advice from teachers, librarians, or other parents and Learning Coaches.

You can also check a resource such as Common Sense Media, which rates books, movies, apps, and games by age and learning value. The site allows you to search for specific works or browse by age, entertainment type, genre, and more. It also offers different lists of “Top Picks” or recommendations.

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3. Teach your student to pick a book with the PICK mnemonic.

Help your child become an independent reader by teaching them the mnemonic device “PICK.” Use PICK as a memory aid to help your student find the right books for them. 

PICK stands for: 

  • Purpose: Why do I want to read this book? Is it for school or just for fun?
  • Interest: Does it interest me? Will I enjoy reading it?
  • Comprehend: Do I understand what I’m reading? Can I summarize what I just read?
  • Know: Do I know most of the words? There may be one or two words I don’t know, but no more than 3–5 words I don’t know. 

Books that fit all of the PICK principles are more likely to engage and educate a child. This means that the book has purpose; your student has an interest in the story, subject matter, or theme of the book; your student can comprehend what they’re reading; and your student will know most of the words on the page.

Reading Comprehension and Age Appropriateness of Books

To help determine a student’s reading comprehension for a book they are interested in, try this simple three-step exercise: 

  1. Have your child randomly open a book to any page, and then have them read that page.
  2. While they’re reading, keep track of unfamiliar words. Note: proper nouns don’t count as unfamiliar words because the reader doesn’t have to know how to say the word; they just need to be able to identify if it’s a person or a place.
  3. After your student has finished reading the page, tally how many words were new or unfamiliar (again, don’t count proper nouns). If the page has three or more unfamiliar words, then the book is likely too difficult for your child to understand. If the page has one or two unfamiliar words, the book is likely appropriate for your child’s reading level. 

More Tips for Finding Age-Appropriate Books

For more tips and strategies to help your student improve their reading skills and become a better reader, see our online Resource Hub, which includes additional resources to find great children’s books.

As a parent or Learning Coach, how do you and your student find books that are appropriate for their age and abilities? What are some of the best children’s books you’ve read lately?

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