From Striving to Thriving: Book Match Relentlessly!

You've seen those students in your classroom - the ones who roam around looking for the "perfect book" to read. They pick up the ones that everyone else is reading, but you know they can't read them. Then they get frustrated because they just can't seem to find a good fit book. Anger sets in because they know they can't read and do what everyone else is doing. What do you do?
For some readers, we have to work extra hard to find the books they want to read. Book Matching must happen throughout the school year to help those striving readers become thriving readers!
Now that we have gained trust with our students, it's time to teach them how to find and enjoy reading at a whole new level! Though this chapter seemed like a "no-brainer" for me, I realized I had been book matching all wrong. Find out the BEST ways to get the right books in your students' hands!

First and foremost, you MUST have a strong collection of books your students can and will read. I remember in my own classroom that I had a bunch of my old books thinking kids would love the nostalgia of them. NOPE! They wanted new and fun and entertaining books. Here is where variety is key. Have some joke books, comic books, craft books, series books, classics, new books...I think you get the picture.  Multiple copies of some these will be great too. Who wants to wait for one student to finish a book when reading is so important?

Research indicates how important it is for us to get the right books in every student's hands. If you haven't read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, you need to! She puts it into play every day for her students to ensure they have the best books for them, not what society thinks. Other studies have also shown how important this is for striving AND thriving readers!

Now that you have a strong library (or way to acquire good books), it's time to start the book-matching! The three ways to take action are:

Tap the Power of Watershed Books

 There are plenty of names for these types of books, but watershed makes sense. According to my friend Google, a watershed is a turning point in a course of action. Isn't that what it is when a child finds that perfect book match? 

It's not always easy, but when it clicks, it clicks! My son loved to be read to when he was a striving reader. He struggled with words sometimes but loved to listen to stories. When he was in third grade, he longed to read the Harry Potter series. Each night we read some of the books and talked about it. His comprehension was amazing, and he seemed to get the message of the stories, but he wasn't satisfied. He wanted to read them. Halfway through the third book he said, "I want to read from this point on." I cried with both tears of joy AND sadness that I wouldn't get to finish reading it with him. Each day he trudged through the book, and I asked him questions, which he immediately knew the answers to. Though this was "above his level", it led him to a life of reading. Harry Potter was his watershed book series. Though it is a struggle to get him to read (video games), he knows exactly what he wants to read and when!
For some readers, we have to work extra hard to find the books they want to read. Book Matching must happen throughout the school year to help those striving readers become thriving readers!
We don't always know when that watershed book will be found, but when it does, we must celebrate with our students as they find them!

Make and Monitor Individualized Matches

Once our students find those watershed books, we have to make sure they are ready for more books. How many of us have given the reading inventory at any point in the year? {Insert hand raised} Stop! It may work for some, but some kids are reluctant to read or write anything at all. Remember, we have gathered their trust, so our students should open up to us. Here is where we need to sit and TALK with our students in various ways to find out what types of books they want to read. These 5 ways will help our students find those next books and continue reading.

Procure Copies of Next Up Books

Have you ever been shopping around on Amazon? Have you ever scrolled down to see what else you might like? Yes! Do you know how many times I have clicked on those books or items to see if I want to read them? This is what we need to do for our students. Find the next book in a series or one like the book they just read. Buy them before they finish reading the books they are reading! Get them into the hands of our students! Now there is no excuse for not having a next book to read!

Offer Preview Stacks

Donalyn Miller introduced us to Preview Stacks. Find books your students may love and make individual stacks for them with varied book types and lengths. Then talk with them about those books. There are two types of preview stacks:

Gettting-to-Know-You Preview Stacks help you not have to read through a million inventories. These stacks help us understand our students as we watch and converse with them.

Jump-Start Preview Stacks help us guide our students back on track when they veer off. Sometimes we have to do a little more digging to find the perfect next up book for our students.

Here are two examples of preview stacks, one for older students and one for those budding readers.
For some readers, we have to work extra hard to find the books they want to read. Book Matching must happen throughout the school year to help those striving readers become thriving readers!

Provide Book Introductions

For our striving readers, we need to give a little push sometimes. This may mean we have to talk with them about the book and read a little with them. This may take some time with our students as we overcome barriers of books they may not understand and move through them together.

Increase Volume with Reading Ladders

These reading ladders help us guide students in their reading journey. We have to work to find those next books by creating a plan for our striving readers. Each book builds up to the next book with understandings for the next book. These ladders focus on one topic and help readers build interest and knowledge for successful reading.

Create Custom Books

OK, this one is tough for some of us. Time must really be on our side, but this powerful tool will help our striving readers work to become thriving readers. If we can't find a book on a particular topic, work with the students to write the books! Using these with our language learners will help them find a way to crack the reading code and show us a little more about themselves!

Set Kids Up to Read Outside of School

This challenge is for all readers! I remember getting lost in books as a kid, but I didn't have 5 million channels to watch all day with kids' shows on all of them. I didn't have video games to play. Sports were a luxury, not something everyone did. I had books, books, and more books. 

But now it is so hard to get our students to read outside of school. How can we ensure that our students have opportunities to read outside of school, much like we did as children?

Have Kids Make a Reading Plan

Just like goals we have, kids need a plan, something concrete. Once they have a plan in place, they take stock in it and stick with it. Doesn't it feel great to accomplish something? Kids feel the same way when it is something they can attain.

Send Kids Home with Books

Every. Single. Day! Yes, books will get lost and come back a mess, but just imagine how that $2-$5 investment you have made will lead to a lifetime of reading. When parents see their children reading at home, it becomes part of the evening routine. They realize the importance of it, even when they don't have the means to provide books or time for their children. 

The books need to be quality books that our students will enjoy, not the leftovers from an old reading series or books we really don't mind if we lose. Yes, the good ones must be sent home with our students!

And over the breaks, we send them home with lots of books! Enough to read and enjoy over the breaks.

Communicate with Families About Kids' Reading

Communication is key! We hear it all the time, but it is super important for helping our striving readers become thriving readers. When the family knows what is happening with reading, everyone has a better understanding and takes stake in reading. 
For some readers, we have to work extra hard to find the books they want to read. Book Matching must happen throughout the school year to help those striving readers become thriving readers!
This is more than sending letters home or making phone calls. This is showing families the importance of reading. Some easy ways to do that include:
  • sending home a letter with excitement to all families about the importance of reading
  • showing the classroom library to parents on back to school night
  • helping families acquire library cards for the public library
  • make sure families know that reading can happen everywhere, even the bathroom!
  • host a family reading group
  • communicate frequently with families about reading and the progress
Now it's time to think about our own practices.

How do we help or hinder our students' reading?
What do we need to change to make sure our striving readers have the best books for them?
How do we need to change our own ideas to ensure book matching will work?

Come back again next week on July 18 when Bridget of Literacy Without Worksheets guides us through Chapter 6:  Teach Thinking-Intensive Reading!



  1. I've been appreciating these posts! It's nice to have PD in my comfy clothes with a cup of coffee. Thank you!
    Laughter and Consistency

    1. Yes, isn't this the best PD?! Wish it was like this all the time! Enjoy your summer!