Tips & Advice

How to Create Age-Appropriate Speed Bumps for Your Voracious Reader

by Melissa Taylor

Photo credit: Florin Prunoiu, Image Source/Getty Images

Some kids want to zoom ahead and read books they may not be ready for — either developmentally or emotionally.

While you don’t want to discourage a child’s enthusiasm for reading, you may want to use a few of these strategies to help them slow down when needed.

1. Teach the Five Finger Test. Check if your child can decode (accurately read) the words on the page. If she misreads more than five words on a page of text, the book is too difficult. (See our article on The Five Finger Test.)

2. Do a comprehension check. “I see lots of kids who can decode the words at a high level, but don’t necessarily comprehend what they’re reading. We want kids to be able to do both, so teach them that if they can read the words, but can’t remember what they’ve read, they need to slow down,” writes Becky Kennedy of This Reading Mama. Help your child by asking basic comprehension questions such as, “What is happening in the story?”

3. Praise self-awareness. Good readers know when a book is too hard and not making sense.  Encourage your child to stop and think about whether or not the book is making a movie in his head. Tell him that it’s okay to stop and pick a different book if he’s not understanding the book he’s reading.

4. Make a “soon” shelf. If your child wants to read a book that is too hard or too mature for her, make a shelf of books she can grow into — a “soon” shelf. She can look forward to reading these books when she’s ready and able.

5. Give your child book choices that are at her reading level. It motivates kids to choose their own reading material. Try giving your child a selection of pre-approved books at his reading level from which he can choose. (Ask his teacher or a librarian for help with this if needed.)

6. Consider the series. If the book is part of a series, consider if the difficulty of the entire series before your child starts the first book. Does the reading difficulty or maturity of concepts stay the same or increase? For example, the first two Harry Potter books are more suited for younger kids both in subject matter and reading level than the books that follow.

7. Suggest alternative books. If your child is dying to read a book that is too hard for her for whatever reason, see if you can find a list of books that would be equally enjoyable. Maybe she isn’t ready to read the romantic elements in The Fault in Our Stars, so suggest other books that would be better suited to her maturity level by searching for similar books that book bloggers or readers have recommended.

8. Advocate at your child’s school. Be aware of the school’s assigned books. Make sure the school isn’t assigning books that are inappropriate for your child’s reading level and maturity. If this does happen, simply request an alternative book choice.

9. Read the book together. When my 10-year-old daughter wanted to read The Hunger Games, despite my concerns, I honored her excitement to read and allowed her to read the trilogy. However, I insisted that I read them with her so that we could discuss the parts that were over her head.

You’ll want to decide how your family will handle advanced books. Talk with your child about your decision. If your kids do go on to read more advanced books, read the book with them so you can offer concept and vocabulary support.