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Thank you to all who submitted suggestions!  I also had an equal number
requesting a hit so here goes.

First, my original request:
"I've been trying to locate a brochure/handout/whatever! that is written
children_ on how to select a book to read.   I thought I remembered a
wonderful colorful poster from a couple of years ago, but I haven't had any
luck tracking it down.   My memory is that the poster was done by Hornbook,
but I may be mistaken. I did search the Hornbook site and I did a general
Google search with no luck.

I have found things written for adults on how to select a good book for a
child, but that's not what I'm looking for.   We are finding that children
often really don't know how to browse the shelves, or look at books to
decide if they might want to read a particular title.   With large classes,
it's often difficult to find the time to help each student individually."

It turns out that what I was remembering was a sheet created by the Boston
Globe in 1989 in honor of the Year of the Young Reader.  Many thanks to
Nancy Kellner who faxed a copy to me.  I have requested permission from the
Boston Globe to use the content in my own handout (haven't heard yet).

Here are the many other suggestions:

 I think that age is still pretty concrete. So they would benefit from some
'real choices' and some hands-on time in the same environment.  I do
essentially the same as you do, five finger, read the blurb, check the
cover, etc.  But I do it in library before checkout. I take some of the
books from the reshelve cart (ones they just returned) so I know I have
books they have read and probably liked. I model with those books, often
picking a classmate / reader to demonstrate. (you need to know the kids for
that to work, to match RL). I have also used 'buddies' so friend is helping
choose and try the 5finger process. Really helps with new kids during the

 Also, not every book needs to be a word recognition problem. A lot of
teachers in my building were doing the ' a 3-4 finger book is just right, 5
finger is too easy'.  However, a 5finger book (no hard words) can challenge
the kids' understanding by deeper study of plot elements, writing style,
exploring new genre, etc. To get good responses it is important that the
kids be able to absorb the material and be able to have some thoughtful
consideration of the story.  How much enjoyment would we get out of a
Grisham or Austen or (insert name of your fav) if we had to stop once every
page or two to work out a word or pick up the dictionary?

 Robert Eiffert,
 Librarian at Image Elementary
 Elementary Librarian BLog

 I have this EXACT handout that I cannot remember where it came from...and
 it is titled:  John Cotton Dana's 12 Rules of Reading.  I've had mine
 laminated and taped to the end of a bookcase for...years!


  1.    Read.

  2.    Read.

  3.    Read some more.

  4.    Read anything.

  5.    Read about everything.

  6.    Read enjoyable things.

  7.    Read things you yourself enjoy.

  8.    Read, and talk about it.

  9.    Read very carefully, some things.

  10.    Read on the run, most things.

  11.    Don't think about reading, but

  12.    Just read.

  Connie Welch, Librarian
  O.L.P.H. School
  Grove City, OH 43123

 Interesting info on John Cotton Dana can be found at:


What I have started doing this year is doing book talks with my students.
When I get a new order of books in (mainly 4th - 6th grades) I gather them
all together and do book talks.  That way the students get an idea of what
the books are about and they have an idea of whether one sounds more
 over another.  I try to order a wide variety of reading/chapter books that
boys and girls will enjoy.  So far this has seemed to help and the teacher
says that the students are actually writing their book reports for class!!


 I recommend booktalking books - LOTS of booktalking.  You can do them very
formally (have them written out) or very of-the-cuff, but it is a terrific
way to tell kids about books they might like that might be at their reading
level.  If you work at developing about 5 a week, you will soon have a
terrific bunch which you can use each year.  I used to jot my ideas down on
cards and keep them in a file box.  Sometimes it is good to have a real item
that you hold up to introduce the book - a plastic indian for the Indian in
the Cupboard, a Hershey bar for Chocolate Fever, etc.  Be enthusiastic, be
intriguing by hinting at what exciting adventures are in the book, be
tantalizing by reading a funny passage, but have fun with it and kids will
clamor for those books!

 I have also had specific displays that children can borrow from and
suggested that if they are having trouble choosing a book they just might
like one of these (the books in the display are usually one of a
series/imprint or author that the children can look for next time)


 The motto in our library is "If you're reading for fun, and it's
not...STOP!"  Keep trying till you find the kind of book you like.  Look at
the cover, read the flap, ask your friends if they've read any good books


 Do you have room to display books somehow?  We put books on top of the
shelves so that they are easy for the kids to see -- maybe a good book that
we think kids would like (usually seasonal or for holidays) but you could
easily pull books that would fit the teacher's criteria.  You wouldn't be
actually choosing the book for the student but guiding a bit more.


I use this site with an lcd projector:

Lois Tabis, Librarian
Sharpsville HS, Sharpsville, PA

I work in a middle school and what I did was create bookmarks of the books I
most recommend for each grade.  I teach 6-8 so I have 6 different bookmarks-
Best Books for 6th Grade Girls, Best Books for 6th Grade Boys, etc.

These have been a big success.  I only put on the list the books I most
often recommend to my students and I change them all the time when I read
great new books.  I print them out on card stock so they are similar to
"real" bookmarks.

You could extend the idea: Best Books for Fantasy Lovers, Best Books
forAdventure Lovers, etc.


Train teachers to suggest to students to pre-read one page anywhere in the
book. As they are reading have them evaluate the content for "themselves"
(ie. Independent Reading)  This is for students who are beyond the sight
word level and into chapter books.  This will also work for Non-Fiction
1 If the student finds one word on a page they can not recognize then this
is an Ok book and signal this with a "Thumbs up" sign.

2 If the book has two words that they can not find context clues or meaning
within the page, this is a "Learning Book"  - explain that each page they
read may have one to two words they will have to look up, ask someone for
help with or guess. (They may lose the author's meaning in writing just for
them, if in the whole story they find two words per page they can not read.)
Have students raise their index finger straight up and their thumb out -
forming the letter L for Learning.... But this is still their choice.

3 If the book has three words that they can not recognize, then this is a
"Warning". They may find they must spend a lot of time asking for help or
choose to find a reading partner to join them in "co-reading" to find the
meaning the author is stating in using these words... Have students raise
Three fingers and trace the letter W for Warning, or Working ... reminding
them that it is still their evaluation and their choice.

4 or more - This becomes a point of choice - is the student really reading
the book or finding "discovery" in the works of the author, the illustrator
or just enjoying a passage or two.   Have students "Flash" all 5 fingers
open to demonstrate this is a major warning to them that  4  or more words
will be a tough call when they struggle to read a book... and this is for
Recreational or Independent Reading - Some fun - not "W"ork....

When did we forget that there is a responsibility between the Reader and the
Author in Independent Reading - (or any form of reading). The Author's
intent and context was written to give us meaning, to tell us a story, fact
or use the craft of words and writing to draw our hearts to want more....
(like Mem Fox, Jane Yolen, and so many more) The Reader is responsible for
having the correct learning skills to bring understanding, having empathy
and depth of knowledge to the Act of Reading the Authors Works.     If we
have respect in our talents as teachers -    Then our students can respect
their talents to be responsible Independent Readers - Teach them to make the
correct Choice to Okay their own books !


When I do similar talks I emphasize (mostly for the teacher's benefit) that
choosing a good book needs careful thought. I always relate to my own
experiences as an adult choosing a book - I tell them how when I go to the
library I look for familiar authors, interesting titles and covers, then I
read the blurb to see if it seems I will like it. This is where I explain
the five finger test but say that as an adult I don't need to do it but
instead skim the first page to see if it seems to be written in a style I'll
like.  I explain that sometimes I am lucky and can do it very quickly, other
times I may spend half an hour or even an hour before I find what I like.
Sometimes a great sounding book can turn out not to be so great and even an
experienced reader like me picks up books I don't enjoy - (the reason I want
teachers to hear
 this is so  they hopefully will remember when they are hassling some poor
student "haven't you found anything yet?" that it sometimes is difficult to
find a book that will interest them.)  I don't like giving out lists (like
you I find they restrict rather encourage reading) but I will offer advice
on a one to one situation with kids who are struggling and I will suggest
suitable imprints like Young Puffins, Jets, Tadpoles etc or suitable authors
rather than specific books. I have also had specific displays that children
can borrow from and suggested that if they are having trouble choosing a
book they just might like one of these (the books in the display are usually
one of a series/imprint or author that the children can look for next time)


I had similar experiences with students and I think my semi-solution works
pretty well. You are doing all the right things in helping them be
independent in selecting books. You might want to talk about selecting "just
right" books (instead of reading books). A "just right" book covers all the
bases: using 5-finger the student decides it's not too hard and it's not too
easy; they read the jacket blurb to see if it is interesting; they've
started reading the first page and are intrigued about reading more, etc.
What I add to this exercise is that I have a rolling metal cart with
pre-selected books within the proper range for the students you describe. If
they cannot find a book independently, I tell them to go to the metal cart
and select one from there. Sometimes the children having the most difficulty
find a book are simply overwhelmed by so many choices in the entire library
and breaking it down to something small is more manageable. As they get
comfortable selecting a "just right" book from the cart then I can start
guiding them towards "like" books on the shelf.

Questions for children to ask themselves as they look at a book.   ie "have
I looked at:"(Credit for it goes to Peggy Sharp - she gives workshops-What's
New in Children's Lit - out of Oregon)


Number of pages



First lines/page
Opinion of Press
Reverse of title

My friends' recommendation


Charlotte Lesser, Director of Elementary Library Services
Monadnock Regional School District
585 Old Homestead Hwy.
Swanzey, NH 03446
(603) 352-4797
Fax: (603) 352-1713
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