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Teaching Tips

Find the Right Book for Your Child with the Five-Finger Rule!

March 18, 2021

by: .

3 minutes


One of the most exciting parts of being a kid is finding a great book to dive into and explore. It’s important to encourage reading for your child at an early age to properly set them up for comprehension as they grow older. From the ages of 5–7, a child’s comprehension levels are ever-changing, so it’s natural to carefully consider which books are most appropriate for the child to spend time reading.

Check-in occasionally to ensure that the reading material isn’t too difficult or too easy. This is key in ensuring that your child is developing the proper reading skills for their age group. Maintaining healthy reading habits during the younger years is crucial to set the child up for success with vocabulary and independent learning ability later on in life. Luckily, there is a very useful trick for deciding which books are best for your little one: The Five-Finger Rule.

What is the Five-Finger Rule?

The Five-Finger Rule for reading is highly recommended by educators and parents alike. It’s an easy and fast trick for measuring if a book is the best choice for the child’s reading level. Have the child choose a book they desire to read and turn to any page. Then ask the child to read a page from the book and for each word they can’t pronounce, have them put one finger up. Using this straightforward indicator, it’s simple to decide whether the book is a good choice for now, or it should be placed back on the shelf for the future.

A general rule of thumb for the fingers is:

  • 0-1 Finger: If the child raises one finger or no fingers at all, this book might be too easy for the child. If you’re looking to help develop reading skills, choose a slightly more advanced book.
  • 2 Fingers: Two fingers is a pretty good place to start when a child is choosing a book. This provides a healthy challenge while also allowing major ideas and plot points to be easily understood.
  • 3 Fingers: Three fingers is a similar indication of the comprehension levels of two fingers, but provides a bit more of a manageable challenge for the reader.
  • 4 Fingers: Four fingers up is an indication that the book is likely too difficult for the child to read alone, but with assistance, they could likely still enjoy the book.
  • 5 Fingers: It’s safe to assume that if all five fingers have popped up during that one page, the rest of the book will contain similar obstacles. It’s best to choose an easier book in this scenario.

Other Considerations When Choosing a Book

The Five-Finger Rule is a great way to measure a child’s comprehension and understanding of the books they read. It’s also worth mentioning that if your child is set on attempting a book that might be too difficult for them, it never hurts to let them make their best attempt with some guidance along the way. At the end of the day, we should nurture all reading interests and help children find books that they’ll enjoy. Regardless of the material, praising children for reading encourages additional book selections and fosters a love for reading. Here are some of the more subtle reading roadblocks and tips for consistency that can be considered before finalizing a book selection for your children.

Will My Child Like the Subject?

One of the most helpful parts of the Five-Finger Rule is that it emphasizes the importance of not only comprehension but also maturity and ability. It’s also important to consider the subject material and if the book is appropriate for their age group. Finding subjects that the child will enjoy reading helps encourage the practice of reading and helps spark curiosity for other more difficult book selections the child may want to work their way into being able to read.

Did Your Child Choose the Book?

It’s pretty easy to choose a book that you think your child will love but that might not be the best decision in the long run. Having some guidance toward which books are appropriate is fine, but letting the child’s curiosity decide their reading choice is a key element of encouraging independent learning and reading. The Five-Finger Rule is great because it’s so simple that your child can perform the test anywhere, from their school library to their personal collection of books.

Is This a Familiar Author?

Children’s book authors have a tendency to create stories that have similar themes and characters. Allowing your child to read multiple books by the same author is a great way to spark curiosity and encourage fostering a relationship with the kind of books we not only learn from but also enjoy. This helps them identify storytelling patterns and also allows the child to have consistent reading options, as these books will likely result in similar outcomes with the Five-Finger Rule.

Encourage Reading with Learning Without Tears!

The Five-Finger Rule is a great tool to reference as a parent, educator or student that needs help determining which books are the best ones to read without too many obstacles. It’s a practical and simple solution that your child can take anywhere, from the classroom to the library. Learning Without Tears believes in encouraging reading for children of all ages and providing the tools and resources to help that be accomplished.

Learning Without Tears seeks to help families, educators, and children get prepared for learning with innovative educational materials and professional resources. We want every child to be set up for success within every step of their learning journey, with engaging and worthwhile materials for children K–5. Regardless of whether the child is learning within a classroom or at home, Learning Without Tears provides access to curricula, industry insight, and innovative products that help make learning fun. Choose Learning Without Tears to feel confident that your child is getting the most out of their early childhood education.

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