How to Choose a Just Right Book: Teaching Tips - Guided Readers

How to Choose a Just Right Book: Teaching Tips

We teachers live for long weekends. In warm weather, we head for sunshine and a sandy beach, but in winter we may choose a cozy cabin near the slopes. Either way, we’re prepared to chill. For the beach trip, we pack sunscreen, flipflops, a pair of cool shades and a fun romance novel. For the winter cabin getaway, it’s boots, gloves, fuzzy socks and a mystery novel. Either way, we strategically choose reading material to serve as a relaxing diversion. As seasoned readers, we don’t have much trouble with how to choose a “Just Right” book.

Whether we read it on the beach or in front of a fire, we all know a good book provides needed distraction and relaxation; and it’s rarely difficult for us to choose books to read and enjoy. For the young readers in our classroom, however, it’s not so easy. Let’s talk briefly about ways to help your kiddos learn how to choose books that are a good fit.

Teaching Your Students How to Choose a Just Right Book

First, remind yourself that your classroom is full of individuals. Yes, it’s important to share rules and guidelines for appropriate text selection; but like you have your own taste in beach reads, your little readers will soon begin to develop their own reading personalities and tastes. It’s fun to see that emerge and blossom! When it does, you can be pretty sure that you have a lifelong book lover on your hands!

There are a number of ways to illustrate the idea of a “Just Right” book. Read the Goldilocks tale, try on a tiny, ill-fitting pair of children’s shoes, or lift various sizes of hand weights. Regardless of the props you use to illustrate it, the point is to remind students that there is such a thing as a good fit, or a “Just Right” book, when it comes to independent reading.

Positivity is Infectious!

Your attitude towards books will influence your students’ attitudes toward reading. If you generate excitement as you model appropriate text selection, your students may just catch the reading bug!

Show students how to handle books carefully, how to store their selections in a bag, box or cubby, and explain how to care for and preserve books for future classes to enjoy. Share guidelines for independent reading time, such as how to whisper read or read silently so as not to disturb other students nearby. Then give them the low-down on book selection.

Book Browsing

Demonstrate how to go to the shelf or book bin and browse through the books. Teach them what to consider when choosing a book.

  • The Front Cover – Does it look interesting? Does the picture capture your interest?
  • The Title – Does it seem like this book will be interesting and fun to read?
  • The Back Cover – If there is a description on the back of the book, read it to see if it sounds like a story you will enjoy.
  • The Author – Have you read any other books by this author? Did you enjoy them?
  • The Contents – Browse through the contents. Does the first page look interesting? Can you tell what the book might be about from looking at the pictures? As you flip through the pages in the beginning and middle of the book, can you read most of the words?
  • Stop and Read a Page – Use the “Five Finger Rule” to decide if this book is a good fit for you.

Five Finger Rule for How to Choose a Just Right Book

We know that appropriate book selection involves more than just pointing a child to book bin has a Guided Reading level. That’s why your mini-lesson should include the “Five Finger” strategy for choosing a just right book. There are a ton of fun Pinterest pins on this topic. You may want to check these out and make your own selection if you want to use one to illustrate it. Just make sure you hold up some books–and fingers–as you model and explain the Five Finger process for your students.

Take it for a test drive!

To demonstrate the “Too Easy” book, use a wordless book, or one with just one or two easy words on the page. Show a longer book with more advanced vocabulary to illustrate the “Too Hard” concept.

Demonstrate the process of opening a book, leafing through it and choosing a page to read. Then talk through the Five Finger rule, and show students the process of reading a page and holding up a finger for each word they cannot read.

The Five Finger Rule

  • One finger (or none) means the book is too easy. Remind students that a “Too Easy” book may be boring, and will not provide new words for them to learn.
  • Two-to-three fingers means there were a few challenging words they encountered. Help your students understand that this is a positive thing–learning new words is fun! Explain that in a “Just Right” book, there may be a few challenging words; however, they’ll still be able to read and enjoy it.
  • Four or five fingers indicates the book is hard. There are too many difficult words, and it would be frustrating to try to read this book (for now). Remind them they’ll become better readers through practice; and as a result, they may LOVE reading that same book later on; but for now, it’s not a good fit.

Be sure to provide this information to the parents of your students, since this will influence the books your students read at home during school breaks. Although we want our students themselves to make appropriate choices in selecting books, parents also need to learn selection guidelines.

Book selection is so important to ensure your kiddos develop a life-long love of reading! Hope this helps you plan a fun mini-lesson to help your students learn all about how to choose a just right book. While students may select their own texts for independent reading, you make the text choices for Guided Reading. Check out my TPT shop for a great selection of Guided Reading curriculum resources.


Click here for my “Engage-Its” freebie! Engage-Its give your students the opportunity to become ENGAGED in reading at home by reading in various places throughout their house, reading in different and sometimes strange ways, and just having some outright FUN while reading! They add fun and excitement into the act of reading, and there’s no filling out a boring old reading log! If you like this one, check out the entire yearlong bundle!


Guided Readers is my brand new comprehensive online Guided Reading program that provides hundreds of leveled Guided Reading texts, rigorous lesson plans, and word work instruction, based on best practices in literacy instruction. The Digital Interactive Reader will also provide your students with oral comprehension, decoding, and fluency practice.

Guided Readers will give you access to amazing lesson plans along with professionally illustrated printable & digital books and instructional materials. All texts are professionally leveled by Fountas & Pinnell and

There are 3 affordable program plans for Guided Readers, and right now they’re at special introductory prices! Click here for a video introduction to Guided Readers!

Thanks for stopping by, and happy teaching!



Scroll to Top