How Readers Choose Books

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SWBAT: use text features, strategies, and genres to choose books that appeal to them, and are at an appropriate reading level.

Big Idea

Half the battle is getting students into a book to begin with!

Guiding Question

5 minutes

The Guiding Question asks my students what they are thinking about when they choose books. This is a really crucial step for me to understand them as readers. So many times, as a teacher, I've seen kids choose books for the wrong reasons: maybe the books are popular but not right for them, maybe they are trying to impress friends or family, or maybe they are choosing a reading level that isn't right.

I get frustrated (and I'm sure the kids do, too) when time is invested in a book that isn't a good fit for a kid. By the time the student decided to abandon the book, they could have read a "just right" book. By teaching a lesson directed at the process of choosing a book, many of this angst could be prevented.


15 minutes

Students share their thinking from the Guiding Question with an elbow partner, then may choose to share out. I record their thinking on an anchor chart.

Hint: I used to want to honor each period's thinking with their own anchor chart, and while this was a good intention, I had a gazillion anchor charts in my room by the end of the year! Now, I record each period's thinking on the board. Before each class leaves, I snap a picture with my phone. At the end of the day, I synthesize all of my classes' thinking into one chart. My students love that I think their thinking is important enough to take a picture of, and I get a single, well-rounded anchor chart. Win-win!

One of the things I want my students to understand is that we choose books to fit our needs. I find that when creating this anchor chart, my students are giving good "teacher-pleaser answers." But, like Donalyn Miller's suggests in The Book Whisperer, sometimes readers choose books just because they are short, or long. I tell my students about the book I read over the summer, Beach Music, by Pat Conroy. This 800-page book was perfect for going on vacation. I read it on the 12 hour drive to the beach; I read it on the beach while my kids played; I read it on the 12 hour ride back from the beach. But when it was over, I was wiped out! Looking at my stack of books to read, I grabbed the shortest one.

Once students see that it's okay to choose a book just because it's short, you should be prepared for 6th grade reader confessions.

In order to get kids to choose a book on their reading level, I introduce them to the "5 Finger Strategy." This is taught in most elementary schools in my district, but sometimes 6th graders can be overwhelmed by middle school books.

 Here is the printable for the 5 Finger Test!


Work Time

20 minutes

During work time, I have the students fill out a Reading Survey. I need to understand their past as a reader, and how I can support them in the future!