With so many books to choose from, a child may find picking a book to be an overwhelming and difficult task. Selecting books is a valuable and independent skill for kids to learn, instilling an importance of books in their lives. Teaching children to pick books for themselves can be a simple step-by-step process with easy rules and guidelines.

Scholastic’s advice to P.I.C.K. creates an acronym for the process—P stands for Purpose, I for Interest, C for Comprehend and K for Know the Words. Walking children through these steps will help them think independently about books and aid them when they are on their own.
First, the letter P (Purpose) should trigger the children to ask themselves whether they are reading for pleasure, school or just to learn something. They should know why they are reading the book in the first place, which also reinforces the different functions of books. The question of purpose can emphasize the pleasure of books, allowing children to form their own relationships with books outside of school.

Second, the letter I (Interest) indicates to a child to look for books he or she is interested in. This can be done easily, whether by analyzing the front cover, reading the back cover copy, looking at chapter titles or flipping through photos and drawings in the book. By spending time in libraries or at home perusing through different books, children may also discover new interests they didn’t know about before. This can make kids excited about looking through new books!

Third, the letter C (Comprehend) signifies the importance of the child’s understanding of what he or she will read, and whether or not it is appropriate for their abilities. Children can determine this on their own by asking themselves whether they understood and remember what they just read, and whether they were able to read most of the words. A parent can also ask them about what they just read, which shows a child that the parent is interested as well.

Last, the letter K (Know the Words) helps figure out a books appropriateness with the “Five-Finger Rule”: zero or one unknown words means the book is too easy, two or three unknown words means the book is just right, and four or more unknown words means the book is too difficult. Always encourage a child to ask for help with unknown words—this gives them independence while also letting them know others want to help them further their reading skills.

Once they have developed the skills to choose a book, a great way for children to reflect on their readings is to fill out an analysis of their experience, with resources like The International Reading Association (IRA)’s worksheet. Activities like this are a great way for children to keep track of what they have read and learned, and there are many more activities to explore on their website. It is also important to let children know that it is all right if they do not like a particular book—let them know that they will be able to find others they will love. These independent systems are empowering and enable children to pick books for themselves.
The IRA also gives the advice to say “yes” as often as you can, even if the book seems too short, too easy or contains too many pictures—if a child wants to read a book, let them. And if a child wants to read something beyond their ability, parents and teachers can solve the problem by reading aloud together, which is also a great bonding experience!

Did You Know?
According to the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) “describes an essential link between reading, socioeconomic opportunity, and civil involvement.” Furthermore they note that reading for pleasure increases employment opportunities and even mathematical achievement. Reading is often seen as the connection to higher education success—independent from personal development, degree level or work goals. Despite these analyses, the National Center of Educational Statistics (NCES) reports that the national literacy level is declining. Not only that, but the NEA also notes that Americans’ “reading comprehension skills are eroding.” Twenty percent of students in the United States that complete a four-year degree and thirty percent of students that complete a two-year degree only have basic quantitative literacy skills. Even tasks such as calculating the total cost of a purchase order, or estimating the miles left in a tank of gas may not be easy for them. The general hope is that an increase in literacy levels will prevent such inabilities in the future.