I’m spending winter break in New Hampshire at my parents’ house where I grew up. I’m from a small town called Hopkinton, home to 5,000 people, zero stoplights, and a church whose bell was built by Paul Revere. The temperatures have been in the low twenties, with a few mornings hovering around 9 degrees. Consequently, I’ve been eating a lot of cookies, (thanks, mom), and catching up on reading. I finally read Love by Toni Morrison and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I started reading Love this past summer and then books about second grade writing jumped the line. As I picked it up again beside my parents’ fireplace I soon realized that I was struggling to keep track of the characters. Is she his granddaughter? Wait, is this Mr. Cosey’s first wife? Is this a flashback? Who is narrating the italicized sections? I ended up having to stop, go back, and reread sections in order to better understand the story.
This is what we teach our kids to do, too. We want them to stop, self-monitor, and ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” “Do I understand what I’m reading?” Many of our second graders are on the cusp of moving from learning to read to reading to learn. They are eager to grab chapter books that have few pictures, smaller print, and complex plot structures and characters. They excitedly tell us, “I can read this!” And it seems like they can. They decode the words, and sometimes can even do so fluently. But when we stop to check in, they struggle to talk about what they’ve read. Maybe they can retell what has just happened on the most recent pages. Maybe they can tell us the characters’ names. But when we push them to have a conversation about the book–to tell us the order of events or to discuss the main character’s motivations for his or her actions–they are stuck. Sometimes they shyly flip through the pages, trying to quickly skim the text for clues. When this happens, it’s immediately clear: the book is too hard. They don’t understand what they read. We want our kids to read books that are a good fit. Good fit books are books that students can both decode and understand.
Here are some tips for helping your student pick good fit books that he or she can really read.
In class, we use the IPICK strategy to find books that are not in our leveled library bins. Here is each step of the process.
I–I can choose a book.
P–Purpose. Why do I want to read it?
I–Interest. Does this book interest me?
C–Comprehend. Do I understand the text after I read a few pages?
K–Know. Do I know most of the words after I read a few pages?
Scholastic Book Wizard
The Scholastic Book Wizard is a great tool for figuring out the level of a text. If you search any text by “Guided Reading (A-Z)” you can find the level or grade level equivalent of the book that your second grader wants to read.
During read-to-self, students self-monitor and keep track of their thinking with post-it notes. They write connections, questions, new learning, or thoughts about the characters on post-it notes as they read. This helps them remember to stop and think as they read. Scholastic has more ideas for using post-it notes to check in with your reader as he or she reads.