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Homeschooling: Special Needs
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January 2016 Newsletter

Too Easy, Too Hard…Now that is Just Right!

About the Author

Faith Berens

Faith Berens

by Faith Berens
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

One question that I am frequently asked by parents is, “How do I select and locate books that are the right level for my child?”

I’m glad they ask, because this is an important thing to get right. Choosing books for your child that are at the proper instructional level (with support and coaching) can help your child improve his reading skills, boost his confidence, and learn to enjoy reading.

However, books that are too challenging can frustrate and discourage him. Additionally, books that are too easy can’t provide enough opportunity for practice, problem-solving, and growth.

So how do you find books that are not too hard and not too easy, but rather, just right? Follow these five basic steps to find books that fit your student’s ability.

1. Use the Five Finger Rule

Ask your child to hold up five fingers and read one page of a book. When she doesn’t know a word, or if you have to help her with a word, she puts one finger down. If she puts all five fingers down, the book is too hard for her to read on her own. It may, however, make a wonderful text for a parent to read aloud or to provide in audio format. Check out Learning Ally, Open LORE, and Librivox for audio books.

2. Assess Your Child’s Reading Level

Parents can get a pretty accurate idea of reading level by using the San Diego Quick Assessment of Reading Ability or the Quick Word Assesment. (insert link to the Quick Word Assessment)
Work with a private reading diagnostician or evaluator to determine your child’s literacy skills and levels. HSLDA members may access our Find a Professional, searchable database of private, homeschool-friendly professionals.

Purchase an informal reading assessment kit to utilize at home with your child in order to determine functioning levels and/or to monitor gains made in reading. Be sure to check out the resources available.

3. Pick Books that Match Your Child’s Reading Level

Many children’s books have the reading level printed on the back or the spine. Programs like Scholastic’s Book Wizard can help you search for books at your child’s reading level.

Libraries often list a Lexile level on books. Utilize the Lexile website to learn about Lexile levels and how Lexile levels correlate to grade reading levels. Ask the children’s librarian to help you select appropriate, leveled books.

Level It Books provides an app that allows users to scan the ISBN number on the back of a book and then determine the level of it based on Lexile, guided reading level, or grade level equivalent

Contact one of the HSLDA special needs consultants to get help with assessment, matching appropriate curricula and levels of material with your child’s functioning level, as well as for teaching tips.

4. Do a Quick Check of Your Child’s Comprehension

After your child has read a few pages, ask him to pause and tell you about what he has read. Make sure he really is understanding the book by having him do a simple retelling or oral narration of the text. If it is nonfiction, have your child tell you a couple of new things he learned, two new interesting facts, or something that he thought was interesting but did not know before reading the book.

5. Offer Text Accommodations or Modifications to Make the Book Accessible for Your Child

If you can’t find a book at your child’s reading level on a certain topic or subject, and the only text available is too difficult, there are ways for you to make the book fit for your student through modifications or accommodations. For instance, perhaps your child wants to read the classic children’s book Heidi, but it is too difficult for her to read on her own. You may be able to find an adaptation of that book, such as through the “Bring the Classics to Life” series available through Rainbow Resource, your local library, or you may locate an audio version of the book.

Better than simply audio, check out the Open Lore software program. It not only allows you to read books aloud, but also highlights the text on a computer screen as it is read, so your child can follow along.

Additionally, some textbook or homeschool curriculum providers, such as Apologia, offer their text books on audio file format.

Another way to help a book match your child’s reading ability is to front-load instruction or reading by pre-teaching and introducing the tricky words he will encounter upon reading. Before reading, scan the text and pull out the harder words. Write them on cards and practice reading them ahead of reading the text. Discuss what the words mean and perhaps have your child make pictures to go along with the words. Your student can also make predictions about what vocabulary may be encountered while reading the text or events that may happen in the story.

I hope that these suggestions will help you to find books that will be just right for your child!

Happy reading…

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