Kids need to read, read, and read to become lifelong readers. They need to read in school and out of school. As educators, it’s our job to help them find the books that make them want to read. We encourage our readers to find books they love filled with characters they care about, story lines that engage them and topics that are of high interest.
Why then, do we sometimes discourage kids from reading certain books?
We do this, because as teachers we want our readers to have massive amounts of practice using the strategies they’ve been taught and we want this practice to be in a ‘zone’ the reader can handle on their own. Books that are ‘easy’ for them give them this opportunity.
Teachers define an easy book as one that can be read with minimal errors. The reader is also able to read it with fluency, putting together phrases, using punctuation correctly and reading with appropriate expression. Enjoyment of the book is the outcome.
Ideally in the intermediate grades a child can read a book in a week or two. Over a calendar year that means a child could read as many as 26 or more books. If this is accomplished that child has had innumerable opportunities to problem solve new words, and make connections to life, other books and authors. The child can think about a characters actions, or why an author chose to present information in the style s/ he did. The child can think about new information s/ he learned and how it fits with what was already known. In short, the reader is practicing everything that has been taught and doing so while reading different authors and different genres.
When a child is plodding through a challenging book, s/ he will meet one set of characters and solve one set of problems in several weeks or perhaps even months. S/he encounters the style of one author and reads that one genre. Often with challenging books, a child will only make it through a few pages a day. The child is at a disadvantage: his/her exposure to words, ideas and author’s styles in a variety of text is limited.
Easy books give the child the opportunity to meet many different characters, read many authors and experience a wide variety of informational books in a short period of time. And,the more a child reads the better reader s/he will become.