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Book Club for Kids is a podcast where middle school readers discuss the books they love with host Kitty Felde. The author answers questions. A celebrity reads from the book.

Tips for Creating Lifelong Readers

Tip #53: The Five Finger Rule: Tip for Younger Readers

Kitty Felde

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is our celebrity reader for “The First Rule of Punk”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is our celebrity reader for “The First Rule of Punk”

We often bring you reading tips for older readers. But what about the newbies - kids picking books for the first time?  It can be a heartbreaking discovery that learning to read doesn't mean that you immediately possess the vocabulary and skills to read everything. At least not yet.

Jill Schechter is the librarian at School Within A School, a public school on Capitol Hill. Jill says she has students who "look at the bright, shiny sparkly cover and go and pick up a book that is much too hard for them."

Jill says she uses the "5 Finger Rule." She opens the book and asks the student to read a page to her. "See how many words on the page you don't know," she tells them. "And if you don't know more than five words, that's not a good book for you."

Here's a Wisconsin teacher's cheat sheet on the "5 Finger Rule."

Some argue that reading is a process of making sense out of the whole paragraph. In a Scholastic article, Dr. Louise Bridges says, "In the grand scheme of a whole text, each individual word that makes up the text is relatively unimportant." But for a brand new reader, a paragraph of unfamiliar words can stomp on that new-found enthusiasm for reading. 

Jill says when faced with the challenge of a page full of new words, students usually decide to try a different book. If they are unwilling to part with the volume, Jill appeals to their sense of fairness. She reminds them that they attend a school with students from grades Pre-K to 5th and says, "If I checked out all the big books to the little kids, the big kids wouldn't have any books to check out."