How to Know Whether a Book is Easy or Difficult for Your Child to Read
Reading is all about making meaning from what we read. Readability literally means how easy or difficult a book is for a reader to read and access the meaning.
There are numerous examples of readability formulas and scoring methods that have been developed by literacy researchers around the world and you can read about these on a number of websites but a general rule of thumb you can use at home is as follows:
- EASY – if a child can read 95-100% of a text – ie there are no words, or up to 1 in 20 words, that present a challenge when the child is reading the book. A child can READ THIS BOOK ALONE.
- CHALLENGING – if a child can read 90-94% of a text – ie there are up to 1 in 10 words that present a challenge when the child is reading the book. A child can read this book with support. Read this book WITH the child.
- DIFFICULT – if a child can read 85% or less of a text – ie there 3 or more words in every 20 that present a challenge when the child is reading the book.The book it is too difficult and the child will lose the meaning of the text very quickly. Read this book TO the child.
It is very important that children continue to access books at all three of these levels of difficulty.
Reading easy books ALONE
Easy books and independent reading allow children to:
- decide what they want to read and why they want to read it
- choose books – select stories that match personal interest and ability, favourite types of books and favourite authors
- see themselves as successful readers
- read for pleasure – develop a sense that reading is a pleasurable recreational activity
- build their confidence and self esteem
- revisit favourite stories and topics again and again
- read to other children, often younger siblings
- practise their expression and fluency as they can concentrate on these while they are not struggling trying to decode (work out) difficult words
- experiment with, and evaluate, their reading and learn from their mistakes
- focus on aspects of reading that they still need to practise
Challenging books are best read WITH your child.
Two strategies to help you do this are:
Read Together – parent and child read the whole text together at a steady pace. This enables the child to fall silent when there is a word she does not know and hears it read by the parent. The meaning of the story is not lost and the child can then resume reading with the parent.
Knock and Read – a book is chosen and the child begins to read. When he encounters a difficult word or section he knocks on the table (or an object such as a toy drum) and this is the cue for the parent to take over the reading. When the child feels he wants to resume reading he knocks again and the parent falls silent.
Difficult Books are Best Read TO Your Child
Reading to children is a valuable and worthwhile activity that should be an important part of reading at home. Children of all ages benefit from having books read to them. The children may choose a book in which they are interested but which they know is too difficult for them to access or parents may choose any books that appeal to them which they feel will be of interest to their children. The focus can be reading for pleasure or finding out about topics of interest, but it is not about actively teaching about reading strategies and language structures – these may be noticed incidentally as the parent reads.
Reading to children provides opportunity for:
- access to stimulating literature and informational texts
- introducing children to a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books
- introducing children to a range of authors and their literary styles
- children to lose / immerse themselves in the story without having to worry about trying to read the words for themselves
- modelling good reading practices
- introducing new vocabulary and features of the English language
- stimulation of children’s imagination, which may carry over into writing their own stories later
- above all, it provides pleasure and enjoyment together