Get Ready to Read: Finding Books for Your Beginning Reader

When you’re learning to read and deciding what book to pick, you might feel a lot like Goldilocks. Some books might be too hard, some books might be too easy, but there are lots of books that will be just right! 

Whether you and your child are reading books together or your child is beginning to read on their own, there are lots of ways you can help children choose the right book. 

The most important things to remember when choosing the right book are that your child should be interested in the book and excited to read it! It’s fine to read the same books over and over again, especially if your child is excited to read them. Try for at least 20 minutes of reading time every day, either together or independently.

These tips and booklists can help you find the right book for your child at the right time.

If your child is getting ready to read on their own, help them become comfortable and confident with books. Practice recognizing letters, their sounds and simple words. Choose books that have:

  • Pictures that give clues to meaning
  • Large type
  • Lots of white space
  • Rhyming
  • Words that repeat

If your child is reading with a grown up, help them pick out familiar words or use the pictures in the book to identify words or the storyline. Perfect books to read together include:

  • Sight words
  • Large type
  • Lots of white space
  • Phrases that repeat
  • Simple sentences with a few words per sentence
  • Pictures that support the words in the book.

When your child is beginning to read on their own, help them choose books that are familiar and predictable, but also a little more complex. Kids will begin to be more comfortable with unfamiliar words and rely less on picture support. Look for books that have:

  • Smaller print with less white space
  • Several lines of text per page
  • Less repetition and rhyming
  • Varied sentence structure, punctuation and verb tense
  • More complex stories
  • Less pictures

When your child is reading on their own, they may not be able to finish a book in one sitting like earlier, but they’ll be ready for books that have:

  • Chapters
  • Less pictures
  • Rich vocabulary
  • Detailed phrases and sentences
  • More complex plots and themes

Once your child is comfortable reading on their own, they may be interested in transitioning to chapter books with popular series books.

Here are other great strategies to use when choosing books.

Five Finger Rule

This strategy is great for older readers. Turn to a page in the book and ask your child to read it. For every word they don’t know, hold up one finger:

  • 0 or 1 fingers: This book is too easy.
  • 2 fingers: This book is a good fit. 
  • 3 fingers: Your child might need some help, but still a good choice.
  • 4 fingers: This book may be too difficult for your child to read on their own.
  • 5 fingers: This book is probably too advanced, try a different book.


Use the I-Pick strategy to pick perfect books at any age.  Check off each step below:

I:   I select a book and look it over, inside & out.

P:  Purpose: Why do I want to read it? (to learn, to build schema, to be entertained)

I:   Interest: Does it interest me?

C: Comprehend: Do I understand what I am reading?

K: Know: Do I know most of the words?

Ask your librarian for more help finding your Goldilocks book that's just right!