Shopping for Good-Fit Books


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By Suzanne Rea

When buying books online, I am always intrigued by the follow-up message "If you like this book, then you'll like these books." Although I often follow friends' recommendations, many of the books I read come from the suggestions of online bookstores. It is nice to save time searching so I can read more. Wouldn't it be great if we could do the same for our students?

When our students shop for books in our classroom libraries, they spend time looking for a good-fit book that is just right for them. We increase their motivation to read by providing them with the ability to choose what books they put in their basket, but they may not know how to find books that are similar to what interests them. How can we help them?

In Lisa Avila's class, book shopping definitely parallels being in a bookstore! Lisa takes full advantage of our leveled book room for both the instructional and independent levels of her students. She has a wide range of books grouped by interest, author, or genre in her classroom library. She knows each child's interests and ensures that books for all of those interests are available. Each child has a shopping list in a range of levels from which they may choose.

As they are finding books that look interesting, the students start recommending titles to each other. Comments like "Hey, here's another Joy Cowley book!" or "You like snakes?have you seen this snake book?" are heard throughout the room. It's a pleasant way to find books that they really want to read, and we have the comfort of knowing that we haven't given up total control. Interested in providing suggestions for your students? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Pull up an online bookstore on the computer. When students are looking for similar books, they can simply type the name of their current book in the search engine and see what suggestions pop up. Be sure to model exactly how to do this.
  • Place an index card or a sticky note in the back of each book that says, "This book reminds me of..." When students finish reading a book, they can flip to the index card and write the title of a book they have read that is similar. Soon, a list of books will be available as suggestions when students finish reading a book.
  • When conferencing with students, create a "shopping list" with title suggestions you think they will find interesting.
  • Create a chart with common titles and authors that says "If you like ____ then you should try____." Post the chart near the classroom library for easier access.
  • Once a week, provide 5?10 minutes for students to talk with one another about books they are reading. Recommendations from peers are powerful.

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