How to Choose a Book That is Just Right for you

Kelly Hobbick, Staff

Many students at Sierra do not like reading, saying they find it too hard or challenging or that they just can’t ‘get into’ that new book. Part of the reason why could be that they are simply choosing books that are not the right level for them. Some students choose books just because their friend finished it and said they should read it. Or because they just saw the movie (or if the book is being turned into a movie) and they want to read it before/after they see the movie. Most people have different reading levels, and the books that they choose for those reasons may be too hard or too easy for them to read.

We’ve all heard of that technique in elementary where you flip open to a random page of a book and read it, counting how many words you don’t know, and if there are no new words, then it is too easy for you. If there are two to four words that you don’t know, it’s a good fit, and if there are five or more words that you don’t know, then it is too hard. That may work when selecting some books, but it is not always the most accurate way. Instead of using the original numbers of unknown words to calculate whether that book is right for you or not, try reading the first chapter of a book first, still counting how many words you don’t know. But instead, if you don’t know more than ten words, then the book might be too hard for you, if you don’t know less than four words, it’s too easy. Anywhere in between that would mean that it is just right for you. You still want to be able to learn new words, but if there are too many, it becomes difficult to read and doesn’t flow well inside (or outside) of our minds.

Choosing books that are right for you isn’t all about your reading level. One of the biggest factors is whether you like the book or not. It’s always hard to get into a book if you don’t like the plot or the way the author writes, or even if you find one of the characters annoying. Try choosing books that interest you, and you will find it easier to read the book. There are literally millions of books to choose from, don’t waste your time reading a book that you don’t like – unless you have to read it for class, that’s a different story.

A good way to determine whether the book is right for you is to read it out loud. If a book is too hard, it won’t sound fluent when you read it out loud. However, if a book is just right for you, then the words will sound more fluent when you read it out loud. Another good way to tell if you have found a ‘just right’ book is to ask yourself if you could explain the plot to a friend or not. When you are reading, you have to make sure that you are understanding what you are reading, so if you can’t explain what is happening in the book to a friend or another person, then that book might be too hard for you.

There are also books that are too easy for you. If you know most, if not all of the words in a chapter or on a page, then it may be too easy. You want the book to feel comfortable, but not too comfortable, or it won’t improve your vocabulary and help you become better at reading.

Books can help us get away from our life for a little bit, and experience what the characters are going through. If you choose books that are right for you, you will soon find that reading is a pleasure and a privilege that everyone should be able to enjoy.