Help Students Find Just-Right Summer Reads Using the Simple Five-Finger Test


As educators provide students with access, choice, and motivation to read so they can avoid that slippery summer slide that sends reading performance spiraling downward, it’s important to remember a key ingredient for success: identifying right-fit books.

“It’s one thing to learn how to read, but it’s another thing to read. Many students know how to read, but they don’t choose to read,” observes University of Central Florida Reading Professor Dr. Timothy Blair. “One possible explanation is they have not read a lot of books at their level. Children can be like swimmers who are not advanced yet are thrown into the deep end.”

Spotlight Shines on Dr. Blair’s Reading Camps

Dr. Tim Blair’s reading camps, held each fall and summer for the past 13 years in a low-income Orlando neighborhood, have been featured in a Scholastic Literacy Champion Spotlight. Through the program, thousands of children in the historic Parramore neighborhood have become better readers as Tim and his fellow volunteers from the University of Central Florida work with children in small groups and also help parents become reading coaches. For more information about UCF Reading Camps, visit here.
Tim offers a simple Five-Finger Test for helping students identify books at their level so they can be armed with just-right books to keep them reading over the summer. First, open the book to the middle, and ask the student to read a page out loud. Hold up a finger for each unknown or misunderstood word.

1. When the child misses the first word, hold up your thumb, and say, “You know all but one word! I knew this book would be easy for you.”
2. After the second missed word, hold up your thumb and forefinger in an L shape, and say, “‘L’ stands for learning. This book will be a good learning book for you.”
3. After the third missed word, hold up three fingers and say, “‘W’ stands for ‘warning.’ This book may frustrate you, and you may not enjoy it.”
4-5. With the fourth or fifth missed word, represented by the same number of fingers, you can advise the child to stop and explain, “This means ‘stop.’ It’s time to find another book that you’ll be able to enjoy all by yourself.”

Helping students avoid frustration will enhance reading practice, Tim says. “That’s the only way students will become fluent. The more students read, the better readers they will be, the better students they will be, the more words they will learn, and the better their comprehension will be.”

Download a Five-Finger Test bookmark in color or black and white that you can share with teachers and parents to ensure students find right-fit books that will keep them reading all summer
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